Member Profile: South West Refuge Inc

This May marks the first Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month since the amended Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2018 came into effect in Western Australia.

The biggest change to the law is the tenancy termination period.

If a tenant or their dependants are impacted by family and domestic violence, they can end a lease with as little as seven days' notice even if the perpetrator is not named on the lease. The process is faster and doesn't involve courts, a Consumer Protection form is used as evidence when accompanied with a termination notice.

With the changes now in operation and in recognition of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month we asked Julie-ann Lorca, Co-Chief Executive Officer of South West Refuge Inc to outline how the laws better support her clients.

Julie-ann is well placed to speak on the changes. Since 1991 South West Refuge Inc has been changing lives for women and children throughout South West WA. Its beginnings go back to 1986 when a group of concerned women envisaged a place that could provide support at a time when a person is most vulnerable.

Today, the Refuge has a support area encompassing 24,000 square kilometres and provides emergency accommodation to women and any children accompanying them who are in danger and have nowhere else to go. Support is tailored to each individual situation. If accommodation isn't immediately available the Refuge works with an individual on her safety plan, looks for immediate options to gain access to other safe accommodation or links an individual with services that can assist. The Refuge also offers transitional housing options, which can, in some circumstances, provide midterm housing until the emergency has passed and long-term housing has been secured.

L-R South West Refuge Inc Co-Chief Executive Officers Julie-ann Lorca and Doreen Ferretti

For Julie-ann the tenancy law changes are life-saving.

"The amendments to the Act will mean better support for victims of family domestic violence, particularly at a time when they are most vulnerable, and at significant risk of being homeless," said Ms Lorca.

"The change will support women and children to remain in their homes where it is safe to do so and negate some of the disadvantage women and children who suffer when trying to sustain housing after family and domestic violence has occurred. We congratulate all those involved in bringing this life-saving legislative change to fruition."

While the changes are welcome and are positive the "insidious issue" of Domestic and Family violence has a long way to go. The impact of family and domestic violence on housing stability for victims and children is well documented. The figures are staggering. Across Australia 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought help for homelessness due to family violence in 2016/2017.1

"It affects victims, communities and the perpetrators of violence," explained Julie-ann. "The impact of the violence is often underrated, however it's after effects are felt not only in this time but by future generations. We need to be working hard now to get the message across; family and domestic violence will not be tolerated in our communities.”

"Education continues to be of vital importance and a whole of community approach to ending family and domestic violence is required if we are to make real inroads in keeping victims safe and perpetrators accountable."

Affordable housing also plays an important role in keeping victims of domestic violence safe.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing significant pressure on housing stock and on affordable housing across Australia," explains Julie-ann. "We are pleased that both State and Commonwealth governments are investing in social housing and are hopeful that we will see further investment in affordable housing and commitment to policies and actions that address housing issues impacting victims of family and domestic violence. With a significant shortfall in affordable housing across state and the rest of the nation we are keen to see the State and Commonwealth continue to work together with other stakeholders to make a real difference in safe housing access and affordability."

South West Refuge Inc welcomes both monetary and material donations and keeps a list of needed goods. If you are willing to donate please visit our website or contact us on (08) 9721 9746 for details. They welcome your donation to help support women and children escaping or at risk of family and domestic violence.

Find out more about our services at:

Shelter WA provides South West Refuge Inc with information on the housing issues that relate to our clients and is on way to keep up-to-date with happenings in the sector. In addition to their advocacy work, we are able to access policy and research work undertaken by Shelter WA to inform our decision making when reviewing the services we offer. There are also other opportunities to attend events relevant to our service, and to access training and development which can be very useful.

- Julie-ann Lorca, Co-Chief Executive Officer of South West Refuge Inc.

1   Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018.

Call 000 for police and ambulance help in immediate danger. Crisis Care 1800 199 008 and the Women’s DV Helpline 1800 007 339. Also people at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Perth and regional WA can call Entry Point 180 124 684. 1800RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service.







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