7 June 2023

Nation's first Women's Trauma Recovery Centre one step closer to reality in Illawarra

| Jen White
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Celebrating the contract signing at Illawarra Women’s Health Centre with Federal Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones were (from left) Federal Member for Cunningham Alison Byrnes, and the centre’s Jessica Koot, Judy Daunt, Dr Patricia Cullen and Executive Director Sally Stevenson (seated). Image: Jen White.

Australia’s first dedicated Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre is a step closer to reality in the Illawarra, with the Federal Government signing off on its $25 million commitment.

Federal Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones and Illawarra Women’s Health Centre General Manager Sally Stevenson put pen to paper on the funding contract this week.

The first instalment of funding over five years will allow the centre to start recruiting for the 30 staff members it will need for the service.

Illawarra Women’s Health Centre Chairwoman Jessica Koot said the demand was “huge” for services to help women and children deal with the effects of domestic violence.

“We know the pressure that the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre is under currently, the amazing work that our staff are doing, the extreme backlog when it comes to wait lists. We have women here who really need it and we have women Australia-wide who need that support – the demand is huge,” she said.

“The focus of the centre will be a holistic approach, with a broad range of services. A lot of the services that are provided in the Illawarra are shorter term services, but we’re looking at what’s required for women in the longer term because we understand their trauma and recovery from trauma is a long-term issue.”

The centre will provide medical, mental health, social and legal support, with programs co-designed by women with lived experience. Services are expected to start late this year.

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Mr Jones acknowledged that more resources and services were needed across the country to help women and children escape family violence.

“But the trauma recovery post crisis area is absolutely critical,” he said.

“The benefit of this centre is that it will create the evidence base for what works and that was a deliberate part of the design of this project, to ensure that as a part of that $25 million, there was money set aside for review and analysis … about how the service that will be uniquely based in the Illawarra might be replicated around the country.”

Mr Jones paid tribute to the “trailblazing women who have been involved in this, who’ve put the shoulder to the wheel over many, many years”.

“After years and years and years of research, of dealing with people recovering from domestic violence and talking to all the experts, we’re now going to have Australia’s first Trauma Recovery Centre up and running here in the Illawarra,” he said.

“The contract’s signed, the money’s going to hit the bank account today and that will ensure they can do the important things, like designing and planning for the workforce, hiring staff so that we can get this important thing up and running this year.”

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The Women’s Health Centre is now waiting on the NSW Government to confirm funding for the location of an interim site for the new service, and ultimately for its permanent home.

“We do need it to happen sooner rather than later,” Ms Koot said.

“We know that there is a huge pressure on our services, particularly here at the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, but all other local services as well.

“For women who have experienced trauma we know that they need the help and we know that they need the help now rather than delays so yes, there is a lot of pressure and haste – we need to get this moving as soon as possible.”

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