ST GEORGE WOMEN'S HOUSING
Ms CHERIE BURTON
(Kogarah) [7.25 p.m.]: Tonight I draw the attention of the House to St George Women's Housing, which operates in my electorate of Kogarah. St George Women's Housing provides essential coordinated services to support victims of domestic violence. During this 12-month tenancy women are encouraged to develop support networks and attend regular counselling sessions to help them recover from the long-term fear, physical and/or psychological harm they have suffered. Living with domestic violence also has a profound effect on children, and St George Women's Housing supports their recovery.
Twelve months is not enough time to overcome years of abuse but it definitely helps to start the healing process and it encourages women victims of domestic violence to no longer feel like victims. After experiencing a year of nurturing they are on the road to recovery and they do not want to move away from all the support networks they have established or uproot their children's lives in the name of affordability. St George Women's Housing endeavours to place all its clients in the best possible position to find alternative permanent accommodation. However, Housing NSW waiting lists are long and availability is low. Therefore, the majority need to seek private rental accommodation. These rental market costs are very high and most of the applicants are on low fixed incomes.
An added disadvantage is that landlords are hesitant to lease to single mothers. There is also the other anomaly of mothers with one child being able to afford only a one-bedroom unit—a situation made all the more difficult when the child is a male and entering teenage years. St George Women's Housing informs me that this is a growing problem. Seventy-four per cent of women come from a non-Australian background, so they are at a constant disadvantage when visiting properties and dealing with real estate agents. St George Women's Housing provides support during this process but ultimately it does not decide who will be successful in leasing the properties. These abused women have experienced a 12-month haven and suddenly, because of affordability, are plunged once again into a living nightmare.
For 12 months they have been told they will be all right, that they are safe and can go forward and establish a life without violence. Instead they again face more financial and emotional stress that becomes unbearable, and in some cases they even return to the perpetrator of the domestic violence. It has been suggested by St George Women's Housing that a system of zoning could alleviate the affordability issue faced by many of these abused women. In fact, the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
published a story about women in my electorate who were forced back into homes of abuse because they have been unable to access affordable housing in their local area where their doctors, schools and other family networks are located. St George Women's Housing has suggested that all States should have zones that reflect the different rental market rates.
Women at risk who desperately need to stay close to their established support services would be provided with higher rental subsidies as a result of the higher private rental costs of the metropolitan zone in which they live. Twelve months has been invested into securing a future for these abused women and their children, and ultimately our community will greatly benefit by assisting to establish domestic harmony for all those who have suffered domestic violence. I ask the Minister to support St George Women's Housing by supporting this initiative. I will contact the Minister and ask for her support in helping women who are victims of domestic violence in my local area to access affordable housing in the St George area.
Private members' statements concluded.