Illawarra Mercury – Natalie Croxon
The Illawarra Women’s Health Centre and the federal government on Monday signed a grant agreement for $25 million over five years for the centre’s operational costs, guaranteeing the delivery of the funds that were allocated to the centre in last year’s budget.
“It means we can start to get things moving, we can start to put on more staff and move towards establishing [the centre],” IWHC chairwoman Jessica Koot said.
Ms Koot said the $25 million was a “sensible amount” given the gravity of the issues the centre would handle.
“We know that there’s a huge demand here in the Illawarra, we know the pressure that the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre is under currently, the amazing work that our staff are doing, the extreme backlog when it comes to wait lists,” she said.
“We have women here in the Illawarra that really need it – we actually have women Australia-wide who need the support, the demand is huge.”
The centre will be for women in the Illawarra but it is hoped the model will one day be replicated across the country.
It will take a holistic approach to helping women recover from violence through health, legal and social support, with its design and services informed by the input and experiences of victim-survivors.
Ms Koot said about 30 staff were wanted to get the centre started.
“There are some workforce issues locally, however given the gravity of the centre and the buzz around the creation of the centre, we’re hoping that we’ll be able to draw experienced women in from across Australia,” she said.
Ms Koot said discussions continued with NSW Health Minister Ryan Park to secure a location for the centre, but they were close to locking in an interim site to begin delivering services in the meantime.
The Port Kembla Hospital site has been flagged as a possible home for the centre.
The state government will also provide $2 million, an election promise from Labor in the lead-up to March’s election.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson, who has long advocated for the project, has requested a meeting with her colleague Mr Park to discuss a site for the centre.
“I won’t rest until it’s done and I want work underway as soon as possible,” Ms Watson said.
Whitlam MP and federal Assistant Treasurer and Financial Services Minister, Stephen Jones, paid tribute to “the trailblazing women who’ve been involved in this and put their shoulder to the wheel over many, many years”.
He said part of the $25 million federal funding would go towards reviewing the service, to gather evidence and show how it could be provided elsewhere in Australia.
Mr Jones called on the NSW government to ensure there was enough money for capital works to build the centre.
Mr Park has been contacted for comment.