From tin shanty to national praise: The remote service driving down domestic violence


An East Kimberley facility which has helped reduce rates of domestic violence in the community by as much as 35 per cent is now in line for a prestigious national award.

The Ngnowar Aerwah Community Centre started as a humble tin-shanty more than 20 years ago, but now caters for thousands of people who occupy townships, settlements and indigenous communities throughout the vast East Kimberley region.

It employs more than 60 people and offers a range of services including a 30-bed rehabilitation facility, a women's refuge and several family support programs.

Johnny Campbell is one of the centre’s success stories, telling SBS that without the facility’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, his life would be very different

“I was a really bad substance user," he said.

“To be honest with you, I get emotional talking about it because I know the ins and outs. I know what I went through, what hardships I went through."

A key component of the centre is an afternoon and night patrol, which drives people under the influence of drugs and alcohol either to their home or to the sobering-up centre where they’re offered shelter and food.

Chief Executive Ken Riddiford says the service is often a starting point for treatment.

Mr Riddiford cites a close relationship with police as a major factor in helping reduce domestic violence in the town, now down by an estimated 35 per cent, while local police officers such as Brad Warburton praise the centre as a pillar of the community.

“It employs local people, it delivers localised services and it has true accountability and demonstrates good leadership within the community and a pillar of the society,” Mr Warburton said.

The centre has been nominated in the 2014 National Indigenous Governance Awards, to be announced next month.

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