Rainbow Women’s Centre sees surge in domestic violence cases amid WA’s worst year on record

Campbell WilliamsonNarrogin Observer
Narrogin’s Rainbow Women’s Centre has experienced a surge in women seeking support.
Camera IconNarrogin’s Rainbow Women’s Centre has experienced a surge in women seeking support. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA, Dominic Lipinski

Narrogin’s Rainbow Women’s Centre has experienced a surge in women seeking crisis accommodation and outreach services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

WA had its worst year on record for family violence in 2020-21, with reported assaults jumping to 23,792 — an 11 per increase on 2019-20 and more than double the figures from a decade ago.

That rise in family violence has translated to increased demand on outreach and refuge services across the State, including in the Wheatbelt and Great Southern.

“Refuge accommodation services and outreach Services are crucial in providing women with safe, confidential support when planning or leaving abusive relationships,” Rainbow Women’s Centre programs manager Tara Lanciano said. “Over the past 12 months there has been an increase in demand for refuge accommodation and outreach services.

“The current rental crisis has resulted in families remaining in safe accommodation for longer periods due to difficulties accessing public and private rentals.

“There has been an increased demand of accommodation requests from the metro area, as other refuges are at capacity and not able to bring in new women and children in crisis.”

The Rainbow Women’s Centre relies heavily on community donations to provide a safe haven for women and children escaping domestic violence.

But the centre is coming under growing pressure.

Over the past 12 months, the service has supported about 200 victims of domestic violence including more than 30 accompanying children.

The number of client contacts for combined outreach services has increased 27 per cent compared with the same period the previous year. The number of accommodated clients has risen 10 per cent over that period.

There has also been a jump in the number of people requesting food hampers and fuel vouchers.

Ms Lanciano said donations and grants at the centre, which is run by Share and Care Community Services Group, had made a crucial difference.

“Rainbow Women’s Centre is reliant on donations and additional funding to help meet the demand for emergency relief for our clients,” she said. “The demand for emergency relief is ever increasing and this puts a strain on local charities to meet this demand.

“The centre was very fortunate to have received additional government funding in July 2020 for services to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and some separate corporate funding from Newmont Mine in Boddington

“This has made a tremendous difference to our capacity to help people in a practical and meaningful way. Prior to these additional funds being received, the amount of government funding had remained stagnant despite the increasing demand for services.

“We have also very recently received donations from the Betty Cares Foundation in the form of clothing and underwear bags to give to clients who arrive with no belongings after fleeing violent situations.”

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