It’s with a heavy heart that I rise for a third time to draw attention to the desperate plight of Newcastle's Jenny's Place Domestic Violence Resource Centre which provides information, advice, referrals and direct support to vulnerable women and children fleeing violence.
The centre has survived on corporate and community support for more than a decade but that is about to end. If more funding isn't found it will have to close its doors.
I have written to the Minister for Family and Social Services, Senator Ruston, about the urgency of this situation three times.
Regretfully, the minister's response couldn't have been more demoralising. First she directed me to two grants which should have been promising, but on further investigation I found the service wasn't eligible for either.
The fact that the minister would suggest funding that the service isn't eligible to access is not only concerning but profoundly disheartening.
Jenny's Place needs a very modest $300,000 a year to potentially save the lives of women and children in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter region.
But the minister seems completely unwilling even to look at options. Indeed, she said dismissively that frontline domestic violence services aren't in the federal jurisdiction.
Well, I expect this will be a surprise to the Prime Minister who, when he was social services minister in 2015 announced $15.7 million towards:
… the delivery of 27 specialist family violence services and eight family early intervention alcohol and drug services.
Clearly, it's possible to fund frontline services if there is the political will.
I have also requested that the minister meet me face-to-face to find a pathway forward, not once but twice now.
And twice the minister has been unable to find 15 minutes to talk about this diabolical situation.
To say this is frustrating doesn't even come close.
I know this government has said it is committed to fighting this terrible scourge and to supporting women and children fleeing violence.
I also note that there is funding there, and I reached out to the minister in good faith.
But, frankly, the misinformation and unwillingness to meet or lift a finger to save such a critical community service is profoundly distressing.
The minister has everything before her to make the right decision. She knows about the unmet need in our region. She has a comprehensive, fully costed proposal for a proven service. I'm sure she has the ministerial discretion, but still she chooses to do nothing.
How can this government expect people to trust them when they say that addressing family and domestic violence is a first-order priority and yet they're willing to stand by and let a critical service close?