What we do
WHAT DO WE DO?
Existing services cannot meet the demand for crisis accommodation for women who are homeless. More than one in two women across Australia who seek a bed in a crisis shelter are turned away every night, mostly due to a lack of space. And these are just the ones who find out they can ask for a safe place to go.
Women’s Community Shelters works with communities to establish new shelters, which provide short term emergency accommodation and support in a safe environment that enables homeless women to rebuild self-esteem and achieve control and fulfilment of their lives.
For a woman to get out of the situation she faces, she needs a range of support services, not just help finding affordable housing. These include access to counselling, health care, assistance to navigate government bureaucracy, legal help, further education and employment to reestablish control over her life.
At a time of reduced government spending, Women’s Community Shelters offers a new and ground-breaking ‘tri-partite’ funding model in which Government, philanthropy/business and community all work to provide funding to establish and operate shelters.
In addition, WCS brings expertise in governance, intellectual property, professional development and project management support to communities looking to establish new shelters. With a strong and experienced Board and a highly professional team, WCS is focused on supporting each shelter to develop best practice and achieve positive individual outcomes for the women staying at the shelters, while remaining cost efficient.
As CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, Annabelle Daniel has worked with local communities around NSW to establish and open five shelters in as many years at Hornsby, Forster, Castle Hill, Penrith and Bayside. She has collaborated with a range of organisations, individuals and stakeholders, from the community and all levels of government to achieve change in the field of homelessness for women and children.
Annabelle is continuing this work to establish further shelters throughout NSW and is already working with a further four communities towards new shelters.
Annabelle has been a leader in the social sector for 20 years, working in private enterprise, the Australian government and the community sector. Prior to joining WCS as Chief Executive Officer, she was a Senior Leader in the Department of Human Services, overseeing the Child Support programme.
A key role in Annabelle’s career was as Manager of Elsie, Australia’s longest-established women’s shelter, providing services and support to women and children experiencing homelessness and escaping domestic violence.
Annabelle trained as a lawyer with specific expertise in discrimination and family law. She has extensive experience in administrative decision making for the Australian Government, including conducting complex investigations for the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Annabelle has also significant board positions in charitable and not-for-profit organisations in diverse fields including community development, fundraising and the arts.
Significant Awards and Recognition:
2018 – Harvard Club of Australia – Scholarship2017 – CEO of the Year -Runner Up – Third Sector Awards.
2016 – Emerging NFP Leader – Women’s Agenda Awards
2015 – Woman of the Year (Hornsby) – Establishment of the Hornsby Kuring-gai Women’s Shelter
KRIS NEILL (CHAIR)
Kris Neill is the Managing Director of Kris Neill Consulting. She is a leading corporate brand and reputation strategist with global experience. Kris is a former Macquarie Group Executive Director and for more than a decade led Macquarie Group’s global communication team. In this role, Kris managed teams in Sydney, London, New York, Seoul and Hong Kong covering functions including media and government relations, brand and marketing, digital and internal communications.
Before joining Macquarie Group in 2003, Kris was Director of Corporate Affairs at News Limited, Chief of Staff to the former Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Bob Carr and advisor to the former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Brian Howe. Kris started her career as a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald.
Kris remains Director at Macquarie Group Foundation and continues to chair the Macquarie Group Collection Committee.
PETER HUNT AM
As an investment banker Peter advised local and multi‐national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years. Major assignments included the Westpac takeover of St George Bank, the AMP demerger and recapitalisation, the Government’s privatisation of Telstra and the establishment of long term funding arrangements by James Hardie for people suffering from asbestos related diseases.
Over his long career Peter advised companies operating in most sectors of the Australian economy and both Federal and State Governments.
Peter established one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership, in 1999 and was Executive Chairman of the Firm until its sale to Greenhill Inc (an American investment bank listed on the New York Stock Exchange) in 2009. After the sale Peter continued as Chairman of Greenhill Australia before resigning from the Firm in 2018 to concentrate on his philanthropic activities.
Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission between 2009 and 2012 and was a founding panel member of Adara Partners.
Peter chaired Cambooya Services Pty Ltd which runs the Family Office for the Vincent Fairfax Family from 2010 to 2017.
Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to empower disadvantaged people and create a better and fairer world.
Peter established Women’s Community Shelters to increase shelter capacity in Australia for homeless and at risk women and to reduce domestic violence.
Peter is Chairman of So They Can which is involved in using education to alleviate poverty in East Africa.
Peter is Chairman of Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines, which use social business as a means of alleviating poverty in Cambodia and the Philippines. Both organisations are associated with Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammed Yunus.
Peter is also a director of Project Rozana,which supports community health initiatives in Israel and Gaza to promote mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians and is an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute.
Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.
Paul is a Non Executive Director of listed public groups GPT Metro Fund and ALE Property Trust. He has over 35 years of experience in commercial and residential real estate with major multinational groups JLL, Lend Lease and DEXUS. Paul is a Fellow of both the Australian Institute of Valuers and The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and holds Graduate Diplomas in Finance & Investment and Financial Planning as well as an Associate Diploma of Real Estate Valuation.
Paul is the CEO of The Channel Group, who has more than 30 years experience as a communications adviser, facilitator and personal coach to senior executives and Directors. He has worked with a number of major Australian and International corporations and professional services firms, facilitating strategic planning as well as developing and coaching senior executives in essential management communication. Paul is widely regarded as one of Asia-Pacific’s foremost facilitators and business communication advisers.
Paul has previously held senior executive roles in general management, business development and account management in the IT & Business Communications Sector. He is qualified as a Chartered Accountant and holds an MBA from Macquarie University.
Paul is a Director of Channel Ventures, which provides advice to and invests in disruptive technology businesses.
Paul is a Director of Women’s Community Shelters and is past Director of Special Olympics Australia, The Australian String Quartet and the Benevolent Society of NSW.
Paul represented Australia in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Chicago in 2015 and in Cozumel in 2016 as well as at the World Masters Games in Auckland in 2017.
For the last 5 years, Emily Hodgson has been Chief Financial Officer at Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator.
Emily plays a key role in a number of boards and committees across the organisation (including Technology, Audit and Risk Committees and Commission meetings).
Emily has a strong interest in corporate governance and the regulatory environment. She has completed the Graduate program at the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a member of the Audit Committee at the Inner West Council.
As a member of the Ashfield Council and Inner West Council Audit and Risk Committee, Emily has oversight of the Councils governance, internal controls, financial reporting and internal and external audit.
Emily’s goal is to apply her finance, regulatory, compliance, governance and government skills to organisations at the strategic level as a member of Board and Audit Committees.
Shenaz Khan is a Human Resources executive with one of Australia’s largest financial institutions, Westpac Group.
Shenaz is currently Group General Manager for Enterprise HR Strategy & Services. In this role, she is responsible for driving the enterprise-wide people strategy and has accountability for a variety of portfolios including culture, leadership, inclusion & diversity, talent management and learning and development.
Shenaz has over 25 years of experience in Banking and Financial Services in a variety of leadership roles, both leading large business teams and for the past 15 years leading HR teams.
Shenaz has also served on the Boards of various wealth management entities and not-for-profit organisations, including the Women’s Housing Commission which strove to provide affordable housing solutions for disadvantaged women.
Shenaz’s interest in Women’s Community Shelters is driven by her experiences of growing up in South Africa during the apartheid era. Her formative years were shaped by seeing first-hand the impact of discrimination and inequality on society, especially women.
SISTER MARY LOUISE PETRO
Sister Mary-Louise Petro is a Sister of Mercy, of the Parramatta Congregation, which she entered in 1973.
Before entry Mary-Louise graduated from the Catholic Teachers’ College and following her religious profession in 1975, taught and was Deputy Principal at both Our Lady of Mercy College (OLMC), Parramatta and Epping.
Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta, is a private, Roman Catholic, day school for girls, located in Parramatta.
In 1983, she obtained a qualification in Youth work and led the Mercy Youth Team in the parishes of St Clair and St Marys in Sydney’s West.
From this ministry, local parents requested ways to assist young people who were unemployed in a time of extremely high youth unemployment.
In response Mary-Louise, with the support of the Sisters of Mercy, founded The Mamre Project at St Marys, in 1985. This ministry was a sponsored work of the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy and assisted the unemployed, people with a disability, youth at risk and refugees.
Roles within the Sisters of Mercy have included formation of younger sisters and three terms on the Leadership Team. Mary-Louise is currently the Congregation Leader for her order.
Sister Mary Louise brings with her a wealth of community knowledge and expertise.
The board and Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) would like to express our sincere thanks for the generous on-going support of:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) is an Australian charity set up on a social franchise model to provide emergency accommodation for homeless women in NSW, in partnership with local communities. WCS operates under an innovative groundbreaking funding model involving collaboration between business people, philanthropic foundations, local communities and the NSW and Commonwealth Governments.
Aren’t women’s refuges an ‘old’ model that was ideologically based and is now outdated?
Women’s Community Shelters model is not the same as the ‘old’ model of service delivery. Our shelter model is characterised by:
- Innovation and continuous improvement
- Industry best practice
- Community participation
- Effective use of technology
- Professionalism and expertise
- Sustainable outcomes and measurable progress
Our shelters provide crisis accommodation and active, client-centred case management where each resident receives the culturally appropriate care they require. Operationally, residents are supported by all-female staff, however our local Boards and subcommittees are welcoming and inclusive of men and women with expertise.
Our shelters offer communal living environments to leverage economies of scale in staffing, volunteer support, community fundraising capacity and available local properties. Local property represents vital, additional assets brought to the table by our model.
Our model also reaches outward through community engagement. We welcome the participation of the local community through fundraising and volunteering. Our volunteer program ensures a good match between volunteers’ skills, capacity and the needs of the shelter.
How do we know your policies, procedures and operations measure up to what the funded sector is providing?
The WCS CEO (a former Shelter Manager and senior Federal government executive) developed the WCS Policy & Procedure Manual in consultation with sector experts, including consultants who have worked for NSW FaCS. Our Manual incorporates the Going Home, Staying Home practice standards and the ‘It Stops Here’ and ‘Safer Pathways’ responses to domestic violence. We utilise the DV SAT tool in assessing risk for clients identified as leaving domestic violence and work with the sector’s intake and assessment tool through Link2Home and our funded sector partners. Our Policies and Procedures are continuously improved across our shelter network to ensure best practice, quality assurance and learning. As a pre-qualified organisation under the NSW Going Home, Staying Home tender process, we took steps to put ourselves on the front foot with our operational model and guiding documents.
Our Shelter Managers are professionals with qualifications in psychology and mental health as well as significant experience in the management of services supporting women who are homeless or leaving domestic violence. Our extensive connections across the sector allow for robust reference checks for all staff. WCS supports the governance and oversight of day-to-day shelter operations, including professional debriefing. We also recently announced a landmark partnership with Westpac which provides a first-class Employee Assistance Program for all staff and Board members.
Shouldn’t we be concentrating our efforts on homelessness and domestic violence on preventative measures?
We agree that preventative measures should be pursued. However, we also know that preventative measures and behavioural change take a long time to make a real difference. In the interim we need to do both: undertake preventative measures and provide crisis accommodation. We cannot leave women unsupported who need help right now while we wait for the social change to take root.
Our model of community engagement and capacity building translates the larger social issues of women’s homelessness, disadvantage and domestic violence down to impacts at the local level, and therefore provides tangible opportunities for community members to do something meaningful to support vulnerable women (and children). This approach translates to useful skills community members can apply other local projects, and develops networks on the ground which can be activated for those in need.
Some of the other ‘intangibles’ and ‘hard to measure’ things that WCS is doing in local communities involve encouraging conversations, raising awareness, and freeing women from shame and silence in admitting domestic violence happens everywhere. As communities take ownership of this problem, the actions they are taking are fulfilling the educational need for early intervention and prevention of domestic violence and women’s homelessness, with the local shelter as a focus.
Shouldn’t we focus on the perpetrators of domestic violence so women don’t need to be the ones to leave?
Focusing on perpetrators of violence through a justice and policing response is an excellent step but it is only one part of the response. We cannot do that at the expense of providing support for the women who ask for a safe place to stay.
Most women who are homeless or experiencing domestic violence don’t currently report to the police. Over 55% of women killed in domestic homicides have never come to the attention of police prior to the incident. The new ‘It Stops Here’ Safer Pathways trial is bringing to light staggering numbers of women exposed to domestic violence, with a key deficit noted by these areas as a lack of safe places for women to go (Trial site – Orange 2015).
Only around 20% of women through our shelters who have left domestic violence report to the police, but still identify that they are unsafe to remain in the home.
Why can’t women stay in their own homes, and make the perpetrator leave, so we don’t need as many shelters?
Without question, if it is sustainable, women should be supported to stay in their own homes. However there are often significant barriers to this:
- A perpetrator of domestic violence knows exactly where to find their partner and/or children, and unless a 24/7 police response can be guaranteed, they remain at risk.
- Family members of the removed perpetrator can pose a risk to a woman remaining at home
- Remaining in the home may be sustainable in the short-term, however it may be challenging for a woman to afford the rent or mortgage on the property on her own, particularly if she is the primary carer of young children or has few employable skills
- Providing government funding towards significant security upgrading may not be sustainable if the woman cannot afford to keep the property
- Many women who have experienced traumatic incidents at home cannot stay in the location due to the potential for the exacerbation of mental health conditions such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
For the foreseeable future, there will be a growing need for safe, well run crisis accommodation for women.
Women should have a choice about options if they are homeless or leaving domestic violence.
The sector currently provides a range of options for women, including non-residential case management support, Staying Home, Leaving Violence, and other early intervention and prevention programs. However, there is simply not enough crisis accommodation to cope with the level of demand, which is increasing. The peak bodies, DV NSW and Homelessness NSW have identified that the number one issue with the Going Home Staying Home tender reforms is an insufficient focus on crisis accommodation services.
More than 50% of women requesting a crisis bed are turned away, mostly due to a lack of space, and this figure has not moved in decades. Women are making the choice to ask for a safe place to go, and do so in increasing numbers. At our Hornsby Kuring-gai Women’s Shelter, we receive 5 requests for every bed that becomes available.
Don’t NSW figures show ‘turnaways’ from services are going down?
No, they aren’t. A change in the way these numbers are measured under the Going Home, Staying Home reforms is the cause of the change. The ‘No Wrong Door’ approach to measurement pushes the responsibility on to services to find another service for a client if they can’t provide one. If they make a referral of any sort, this translates in the system as a ‘service provided’ when there is insufficient quality assurance that there is actually an outcome for a client. A ‘service provided’ does not equate to obtaining a crisis bed when you need one.
Women’s homelessness and domestic violence require a separation of service delivery.
Our shelter model accommodates women who are homeless, and women who are leaving domestic violence. Our Sanctuary and Great Lakes women’s shelters also accommodate women with dependent children. Some sector advocates believe that service provision for homelessness issues, mental health and domestic violence must be ‘quarantined’ or separated.
Our model relies on the expertise and experience of an excellent, professional Shelter Manager based on-site at each shelter, supported by a 24/7 team of case workers. We undertake a risk assessment for all residents and the Shelter Manager has the ultimate decision on who can safely be accommodated. We believe that the use of the Shelter Manager’s professional expertise, knowledge of the premises, and understanding of staff capacity is the best way to make a judgement as to which clients can be supported in a communal living environment.
Our experience has shown that there is frequent co-existence of domestic violence, mental health and homelessness issues and that in providing services, it makes no sense to ‘stream’ women according to their identified primary presenting cause. Each resident is provided with a client-centric case management approach, which may include elements of response drawn from domestic violence, homelessness, mental health and culturally specific practices.
Your model won’t work in areas of disadvantage where shelters are really needed.
We acknowledge that there are areas in NSW which have insufficient social capital to fundraise half the set-up costs and 1/3 to ½ of the operational costs of a shelter. Our shelter model works where there is a local need identified, and a willing group of people to form the Board of each shelter.
Each shelter prioritises local women, however we also connect up with Link2Home and the Domestic violence line to take referrals. Our Hornsby shelter takes around 75% of referrals from Link2Home and our Manly shelter takes around 50%. These shelters relieve pressure on the state-wide system by providing extra crisis beds in a high-demand environment.
WCS offers connections to professional development, EAP support and training for our Boards and shelter staff. We would consider an expansion of our shelter network into areas where the NSW State Government would fully fund a service under WCS management.