Australia's first domestic violence shelter for Indian-origin women given funding boost

The team behind Sahara House in Brisbane says a $200,000 government grant will allow them to double their intake in the next two years and provide culturally specific support for women at risk.

Jatinder Kaur with her team.

Sahara House manager Jatinder Kaur with her team. Source: Supplied

A refuge specifically for South Asian woman predominately from India is among one of 40 projects to receive a share of $60 million of federal government funding to help survivors of family and domestic violence.

Sahara House in Brisbane will receive more than $200,000 in the funding announced this week which forms part of the Safe Places package and comes under the government's $340 million investment plan to reduce violence against women and their children. 

Jatinder Kaur, the manager of Sahara House, said she cried “tears of joy” when she found out about the funding. It is the first time the service has received federal government support since it opened in 2017. 

The shelter, which can currently house up to five women and children, will now be able to build another three-bedroom house, renovate a garage into a studio room, and finish a partially-donated tiny house on the site. 

The funding boost will allow Sahara House to complete this tiny home.
Source: Supplied

"It might not sound like a lot to some but for us, this is huge," Ms Kaur told SBS News. 

"It means we can double capacity, it means we don’t have to turn away the most vulnerable of women who have come to us. We have been at capacity in the last six months." 

Sahara House is run by a handful of volunteer social workers in an undisclosed location in Brisbane and caters specifically for women of South Asian background. 

"We provide culturally specific services because many of the women that get referred to us are newly arrived migrants on temporary visas," Ms Kaur said. 

"They often can't speak English and for them to be able to live with other women from a similar cultural background, there is a sense of comfort and familiarity." 

Ms Kaur, who is researching family violence among Indian migrants in Australia as part of her PhD at the University of Melbourne, said while the funding will go a long way, more needs to be done to protect women at risk. 

She hopes the federal government will adopt the recommendation from the Senate inquiry in dowry abuse handed down in early 2019 to provide a "woman at risk in Australia visa" that would allow survivors temporary protection, irrespective of their visa status. 

"It's absolutely critical that vulnerable women be given temporary protection for a period of time during these vulnerable times while they manage their trauma, figure out where else they want to go to or what their future prospects are going to be," she said.  

"Some sort of emergency relief via Centrelink also needs to be available to women on temporary visas who have suffered proven family violence." 

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services told a parliamentary inquiry last month calls to Australia's domestic violence helpline 1800 RESPECT have risen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 40 projects to receive Safe Places funding will support about 6,000 women and children each year.

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said in a statement on Monday: “The first priority of the Morrison Government is to keep Australians safe and secure but, sadly, we know that home is not safe for many women and children.”

“When women make the decision to leave it is vital that they have somewhere safe to go. This increase in emergency accommodation will support thousands of women and children as they rebuild their lives free of violence.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.


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Published 1 October 2020 at 10:24am
By Lin Evlin