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Before you arrive

There are several ways that you might be connected to specialist family violence services depending on where you live and who you have contacted for help. Organisations such as 1800RESPECT, Safe Steps and The Orange Door provide free services to adults, young people and children who are experiencing or have experienced family violence by providing 24/7 telephone, email and/or web chat support. Staff at these information, support and referral services are trained to listen to you, help you understand family violence and assist you to make decisions about what to do next. Importantly, they will support you to stay safe.

Most of the referrals to us at Refuge Victoria come directly from our partner, Safe Steps.

For this reason, it is important that you speak to Safe Steps before contacting us. Safe Steps will start completing a risk and safety assessment and then determine, with you, what to do next. For women and children at very high risk, Safe Steps will recommend accommodation be provided in a secure women’s refuge.

There are numerous refuges across Victoria that provide high security accommodation at locations that are not disclosed to the general public, advertised on websites or given out to anyone other than the staff who work there, or the families who stay there. When you stay with us, we will ask that you don’t share the location of where you are staying as it helps us to keep you and your family, and future families, as safe as possible.

Safe Steps, with your permission, will contact us about arranging your stay. It’s likely that you will stay in a location away from your usual suburb, and to protect your safety, there may be a need to accommodate you at more than one location. We do try to avoid moving families as much as possible, however your safety will always come first. Safe Steps will check we have everything ready before you arrive and advise us if we need to arrange any aids or equipment in our accessible facilities, plan for your pets or support you with transport.

We will always contact you to talk about our accommodation and services and answer any questions you might have. We want to ensure you are happy to stay with us and consent to our services and support.

Welcoming you

When you arrive, our team will greet you, show you around, help you settle in and make you feel as comfortable as possible. We understand that you are likely to be feeling scared, physically and emotionally exhausted, heartbroken and worried.

This might not be the first time that you have stayed in a refuge, and you may have brought everything you need, but we will always check if there is any medication, food, clothing, or other items you require like toys for your children. The fridge and pantry in your unit will be stocked with some essential items like bread, milk and fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit, things to make easy meals or provide snacks for your children.

During your 6-8 week refuge stay, we will work with you to receive assistance from organisations and services, including those listed below, as quickly as possible:

  • Centrelink and payments
  • Banks and card access
  • Legal support – including police statements and orders to help protect you (e.g. intervention orders)
  • Short-medium and long-term housing
  • Medical support – including making and attending appointments
  • NDIS services – coordination
  • Education providers to link you and your children
  • Migration needs and visas – support and referrals  
  • Child Protection services to work with you

We will work with you

Refuge Victoria is a values driven organisation. We seek to keep our clients safe and to treat them equally.

We are compassionate  

We will empower you

We are collaborative  

We act with integrity 

We are committed  

Whether it is the first time or the fifth time that you have been supported by us, we understand that you might feel stressed and uncertain about how we can help you. For some of our clients it is even more stressful when services don’t communicate in the same way or in the same language, or don’t have similar cultural practices and beliefs.

Our team is trained in cultural safety and awareness and practice in a culturally inclusive way. This means that we will work with you by communicating verbally using language or Auslan interpreters, in written format using translated, plain English or Braille documents and by connecting you with our partners and other services who will link you to your community or culture to make you feel safe.

LGBTIQAP+ Communities

Refuge Victoria is genuinely inclusive, and we work hard to create safe spaces for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual or pansexual (LGBTIQAP+). We understand the unique challenges and barriers that are faced by the LGBTIQAP+ community so we will support you equally within our service and advocate for you outside of our service to help minimise or overcome any barriers you may face. All Refuge Victoria sites have gender non-specific bathroom signage, clothing and toiletries. If you would like to be referred to a specialist LGBTIQAP+ service during your stay, we have some great relationships with services and can link you in.

Aboriginal Communities

We acknowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waterways on which we work and depend. We acknowledge Victoria’s Aboriginal communities and culture, founded on strong social, cultural and spiritual heritage and history, which has sustained more than 60,000 years of existence. Our practice is informed on fundamental principles of self-determination, safety, acknowledgment that the past impacts the present and the need for culture, country and community to be embedded in healing; healing which is trauma informed.

If your goal is to stay connected to your community we will support you to remain connected to Kinship networks and communities, and staff will work alongside you to develop a cultural plan to ensure you receive holistic, self-determined support. Refuge Victoria works in partnership with specialist Aboriginal services and will always consult with them to ensure services delivered are culturally appropriate. Staff will empower you to lead your support and will be led by you around your cultural and spiritual needs.

Planning while you are with us

During your stay we will talk to you about case plans, safety plans and exit plans. That might sound like a lot of planning at a time where things feel out of control and unstable. As a specialist service, we have learned that it is important for us to help you create your own goals so that you have control and choice about the things you want to focus on the most. You might make plans that help lead you safely out of refuge into sustainable housing in the community. You might make plans that help you to get your driver’s licence, purchase your own car, do further study or learn how to meditate and practice mindfulness and connect to land. Your case manager will work with you to develop a plan inclusive of your needs.

Returning to Refuge Victoria

You can always come back if you have accessed our services before. We understand that it can take an average of seven times to leave a violent relationship. We also understand leaving refuge can be hard and that life can change over time. You will always be welcomed back if you require our support again and will be offered the same, quality support you received previously.