Lost, scared, but not alone

The Rural Housing Network is dealing with a huge rise in domestic violence. Picture: TARA GOONAN
The Rural Housing Network is dealing with a huge rise in domestic violence. Picture: TARA GOONAN

AMELIA felt “helpless, trapped and scared” when she fled with her children from a violent relationship.

She is not alone — the number of women escaping domestic violence and seeking help from the Rural Housing Network, which covers the North East and Goulburn, has already risen 50 per cent this financial year.

In contrast, the number of people seeking housing had fallen 32.45 per cent.

Amelia, not her real name, said her partner had become increasingly emotionally abusive and controlling, fuelled by his addiction to the drug ice.

“He told me he would burn the house down and kill my animals,” she said.

He tracked where she went, who she was with, how much money she spent and when she left him, things got worse.

The threats escalated and he began stalking her, not accepting her right to leave the relationship.

The court order she took directing him not to come near or contact her had no effect.

Amelia applied for 15 private rental properties while staying with friends, but was rejected every time.

“I felt lost, because I didn’t have a home, and scared because of him,” she said.

Amelia finally went to a Wodonga refuge which connected her with the housing network.

She was included in the Place to Call Home program, which helps eligible people find accommodation and provides them with on-going support.

After they have lived in a network house for a year, that house is transferred to public housing so the person doesn’t have to move again.

Amelia said she now felt 100 per cent safer and her children were happier in a stable routine.

“I don’t know where I’d be without the network,” she said.

The service yesterday welcomed the $124.4 million Victoria set aside over four years in the state budget to help with homelessness.

Network chief Celia Adams said the “significant contribution” to the joint state and federal initiative meant this program and others would continue.

“It’s been quite horrifying the number of women and children fleeing family violence,” she said.

Wodonga team leader Catherine Jefferies said the huge lift in demand meant the area’s refuges were full.

“We need somewhere safe for the women to go, otherwise they will be forced to stay in the same situation,” she said.

24hr statewide domestic violence service: Vic 1800 015 188, NSW 1800 656 463 Gateway Community Health family violence service: 1800 015 188, men’s referral service (support to change violent and controlling behaviours): 1800 065 973