At Refuge Victoria it’s been a year of building, literally and figuratively, with construction work on one of our core and cluster refuges and most of our refuge accommodation properties, new leadership, improvements to care, and a profile in a national newspaper.
Building and renovations
When your core business is providing specialist crisis accommodation and support services for people escaping family violence, the quality of that accommodation and the facilities where those services are provided must be a priority.
This year, Refuge Victoria undertook significant renovations and construction work on our original Eastern Refuge and 12 of our individual refuge accommodation properties.
It was a massive undertaking. In addition to the normal renovation headaches, there were pandemic-related construction hurdles to overcome such as building delays and shortages of materials.
Most of our refuge accommodation properties have had major renovations, including being painted throughout, the installation of new lighting, and the laying of new flooring. We also built seven new bathrooms and seven new kitchens.
Over at our Eastern Refuge, major renovations were undertaken and included a new kitchen and bathroom, a larger office space, and new storerooms, with the objective of providing better security, offering increased support, and importantly, transforming the refuge into a 24-hour facility.
Refuge Victoria in the news
The inner workings of domestic violence refuges have long been a mystery to all but those who work in them and their clients. And for good reason – the secrecy of refuge locations and the privacy of their clients is essential for keeping the women and their children safe from their violent partners.
In May, the wider community were provided a glimpse into life in refuge, when The Age newspaper ran an in-depth feature on Refuge Victoria, shining a light on the obstacles facing women and children in refuge and highlighting the work we do.
In July this year, Janet Jukes took over the role of CEO, following in the footsteps of former CEO Paula Piccinini, and Interim CEO Ellen Matusko.
Janet brings to the position considerable experience in the human services sector, including work in child, youth and family services, relationship and counselling services, homelessness, family violence, community legal sectors, AIDS Councils and universities.
In 2021, Janet was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (General Division) – for services to the community through LGBTIQ advocacy and social welfare organisations.
A recurrent theme in Janet’s professional and voluntary work is a desire to see an improvement in the human dignity of those who are made vulnerable within our communities.
Technological threats and opportunities
One of the many ways our work is different to other human services organisations is our specialist knowledge and understanding of how technologies can be used to perpetrate violence, but we also know how technology can be used to improve safety and security.
An example of this was this year when we installed improved CCTV to protect our clients, and strong and fast internet connections so that our clients can support their children in education, and they can work remotely where possible.
Support from colleagues and allies
The work of Refuge Victoria is only possible thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic and corporate supporters, individual donors, sector partners, and of course our key funding agency the Victorian Government Department of Families, Fairness and Housing / Family Safety Victoria.
Yet throughout the year, the gifts that put the biggest smiles on the faces of kids in refuge were the ones donated by small community groups, families and individuals.
Knitting for the Needy donated adorable animal-themed beanies for the kids, blankets, and 180 tiny knitted chickens, each holding a chocolate Easter egg; and BJ Quilters donated some stunning, handmade quilts, printed with animals and toys, to bring some fun and happiness to children.
Refuge Victoria has expertise in working with diverse family groupings to respond to the crisis of family violence including LGBTIQ+ families, families without permanent residency, families with a member who has a disability, and sibling groups escaping violence.
It’s not in our DNA at Refuge Victoria to stand still. Now is the time to focus our resources and redouble our efforts to help people escaping family violence to safety.
“There’s a lot of work still to do,” said Refuge Victoria CEO Janet Jukes. “But perhaps the most encouraging thing I have learned since commencing my role at Refuge Victoria, is that together, we are more than equal to the task.”