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.

View all our Annual Reports

Our CEO

Annabelle Daniel

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As CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, Annabelle Daniel has worked with local communities around NSW to establish and open three shelters in as many years at Hornsby, Forster and Castle Hill.  She has worked 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.

Annabelle is continuing this work to establish further shelters throughout NSW and is already working with half a dozen communities to expand the WCS model to every community.

Annabelle Daniel has been a family support and operations professional for 20 years, working in private enterprise, Federal government and the community sector.  Prior to joining WCS as Chief Executive Officer, she held a leadership position in the Department of Human Services, overseeing the Child Support programme.  A key role in Annabelle’s career was the 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.  She investigated and resolved complex complaints and conducted “own motion’ investigations for the Commonwealth Ombudsman.  Annabelle has also held a number of board positions in charitable and not-for-profit organisations in diverse fields including community development, fundraising and the arts.

Our Board

Kris Neill (Chair)
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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. Kris is Chair of Women’s Community Shelters and a member of The Big Issue Sydney Advisory Group.

PETER HUNT AM
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Peter is Chairman and one of the original founders of Greenhill Australia (www.greenhill.com), a leading Australian corporate advisory firm which is now part of the global Greenhill advisory group. Peter has been advising local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for over 30 years.

Peter is also Chairman of Cambooya Services Pty Ltd which runs the Family Office for the Vincent Fairfax Family.

Peter chaired the Securities Institute’s Taskforce responsible for the Mergers and Acquisitions graduate diploma course between 1993 and 2000 and was a member of the ASIC Advisory Panel between 2009 and 2012.

In the not for profit sector, Peter is Chairman of Grameen Foundation Australia and So They Can (both involved in overseas poverty alleviation work), a Trustee of the Anindilyakwa Indigenous Mining Trust, founder and director of Women’s Community Shelters and a director of the St James Ethics Centre. Peter is also a member of the Advisory Councils of Mission Australia and the Centre for Social Impact. Previous roles in the sector have included Chairman of the AMP Foundation, Chairman of the Australian String Quartet, Trustee of St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation and a director of Odyssey House.

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.

CHRISTINE PARKER
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Christine was appointed Westpac Group Executive, Human Resources & Corporate Affairs on 1 October 2011, with responsibility for human resources strategy and management, including reward and recognition, safety, learning and development, careers and talent, employee relations and employment policy. She is also responsible for Corporate Affairs & Sustainability.

Prior to this appointment, she was Group General Manager, Human Resources, from March 2010, with responsibilities across the entire Westpac Group. Prior to that, Christine was General Manager, Human Resources, Westpac New Zealand Limited, when she joined Westpac in 2007.

Prior to joining Westpac, Christine was Group HR Director, Carter Holt Harvey, and from 1999 to 2004, she was Director of HR with Restaurant Brands New Zealand.

JULIE WHITE
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Julie White has over 30 years experience in both not-for-profit and corporate sectors. She is currently Independent Chair of the Coca Cola Foundation; Chair of Reach Out.Com; Founding board member of Social Enterprise Finance Australia; Founding Board Member of HealthIndustries SA and Member of the Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Advisory Board, the Centre for Social Impact Advisory Council and the Australian Scholarships Foundation Advisory board. Alongside her non-executive roles Julie is a strategic adviser to business and not for profits on social investment and staff community engagement; strategic planning and corporate governance, She also provides professional mentoring to Boards and CEO’s of not for profits.

From September 2012 through to April 2014, Julie was inaugural CEO of Chief Executive Women.

Prior to this role, Julie was global head of the Macquarie Group Foundation for just under 12years, where she oversaw the growth of the Foundation to become one of Australia’s leading corporate foundations, whilst building its international presence.

Julie was named as one of the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine’s True Leaders in 2008 and was named in January 2009, by ABC Limelight magazine, as one of the top smart arts 09 executives. Julie was also named as a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards for 2009.

Julie is a member of the AICD and Chief Executive Women.

PAUL SAY
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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 Kelly
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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.

OUR PARTNERS

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:

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DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
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NEILSON FOUNDATION
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VINCENT FAIRFAX FAMILY FOUNDATION
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MACQUARIE GROUP FOUNDATION
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BAXTER CHARITABLE TRUST AND THE DEWHURST SIMS ENDOWMENT VIA PERPETUAL
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THE BIG ISSUE
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THE FUNDING NETWORK
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THE SNOW FOUNDATION
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EQUILIBRIUM DESIGN
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AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
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THE GRAY FOUNDATION
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LENITY AUSTRALIA

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.