75 women have been murdered in Australia this year - so why are DV crisis centres closing?

No matter where you live in Australia, domestic violence is pervasive and one of the biggest threats to women's safety.

Just in the past week, six Australian women have allegedly died in family violence-related circumstances. 

Currently, the world is marking the annual human rights campaign The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which was founded by UN Women. 

And amid this campaign has come the news that a women's crisis centre in Perth is closing down. 

Safe Night Space has been keeping vulnerable women off the streets and out of violent homes for more than two years, providing these women with the necessities when there aren't any other options.  

Watch women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

Elsie Blay is the Executive Manager at Ruah Community Services, which provides support in the areas of housing and homelessness and family and domestic violence. One of their main services is Safe Night Space.

"At Safe Night Space, women can come in at any time throughout the night. This is the only service which doesn't need referrals or eligibility criteria or even ID. It's a zero threshold service," Elsie tells Mamamia


It's been running for two and a half years now, helping women who don't have a safe place to sleep for the night.

Elsie still has a palpable reaction when reflecting on the moment she found out the service would be closing.

Initially a pilot program, the Safe Night Space initiative was scheduled to come to an end earlier this year. 

They were given an extension, and during this time, Elsie and the team have been working tirelessly to secure an approved building site for the service to operate from in Perth's metropolitan area.

Sadly Elsie says no landlord has been willing to work with them, nor has the City of Perth Council approved it. 

"The Council's primary reason is they say their electorate and the voting community members do not want this service in their city. But we find that difficult to believe, because we have had very few complaints and the community as a whole is really supportive of this service."

The Safe Night Space has been a haven for many women in various forms of crisis. Image: Supplied.


Mamamia reached out to City of Perth Council for a statement, specifically to hear from Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas about his reasoning.

They pointed us to their most recent Council meeting held last week. It was confirmed that City of Perth asked the State Government to "consider taking over the funding of the operation" regarding Safe Night Space. 

During the Council meeting, Mayor Zempilas said: "It was never a long-term solution to homelessness. But it provided a critical interim service for women to find basic shelter and safety."

What domestic violence advocates are saying though – nationwide and Perth included – is that interim services aren't enough. Permanent solutions are.  


And from the Ruah Community Service team's perspective, Safe Night Space can and should be permanent. 

"There is no greater need for the community at this time, with a 90 per cent increase in demand. We have all the hospitals in support of this service too. There is nowhere else in Perth for a woman to go at night when in crisis or trying to leave domestic violence," Elsie explains to Mamamia.

The State Government has given a commitment to provide two years funding for this service to continue. So, the only thing that needs to happen is for City of Perth to provide a building. The building is "out for consultation" for community use, so it does not have a firm purpose at this stage. 

"To put women on the street prior to Christmas is unconscionable," says Elsie. 

"Even if we found a space today, it would take many months to renovate to an appropriate standard, with the facilities required, and then it also requires Council approval, which may not be easy to obtain given the City of Perth's view on this service."

A portion of the community has banded together though. Over 17,000 people have signed the petition urging City of Perth to allow the service to operate from the current Rod Evans Community Centre.

And many came out to protest the news on the Council's steps.

As for what will happen to the space (Rod Evans Community Centre) currently being used to help women in all kinds of need, it is being "returned to the community".


Mayor Zempilas said: "We made our commitment to our community to return the facility to the community centre that they told us they wanted. It is in line with the wishes of our community."

Right now, Elsie is focusing on the women they have helped over the years. 

"We've managed to get hundreds of women into secure housing and employment, rehab if relevant, and some getting to reunify with their children," she says.


"This is a service for women that have no other options. Last night we had three nurses who were sleeping at Safe Night Space. I've seen women come to us in their work uniform, roll out a Lululemon yoga mat, sleep in our crisis centre, and then go to work the next morning."

It's a confronting scene to imagine, and a heartbreaking one too.

But it speaks to the reality of violence against women - it can impact anyone. 

It's this overarching message that Elsie wants people to hear, especially those who perhaps wish these sorts of services weren't located in their areas.

"These women are just like you and me. Anyone can find themselves in crisis. And when they do, it's everyone's job to solve it. We all have a part to play, and yes, in our own backyards too."

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature Image: Supplied/Ruah Community Services/Shelter WA.