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Magnolia Place - Launceston Women's Shelter Inc.

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I am speaking today about an organisation which for decades has been a champion for supporting women and children in Launceston. Launceston Women's Shelter Inc, trading as Magnolia Place LWS, is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services as a specialist homeless service for women and children. Most of the families accessing the shelter do so because of domestic violence and are experiencing homelessness because home is not a safe place to be. Magnolia Place marked its 40th anniversary at a civic reception at the Launceston Town Hall in October last year.

The support given to women and children to heal, rebuild and find strength after incredible pain is inspirational, and we are incredibly grateful to the magnificent staff who go to work each day and turn lives around.

The Launceston Women's Shelter, as the service was originally known - officially opened on the ground floor of a two-story house at 21 Brisbane Street, Launceston in October 1975. It housed 23 women and 41 children during its first three months. At the end of the first nine months, it had accommodated 106 women and 150 children. The shelter had three-and-a-half bedrooms, a small lounge room and one bathroom, but for the grateful women and children who stayed there, it was home and it was safe.

Included in a brief history of the shelter is information from the team minutes at the time where the shelter's first supervisor, the late Liz Curran, recalled being inundated with calls from desperate women when the facility first opened. In a report about her work in October 1975 she said -

The shelter had to call police several times to remove men creating trouble. One would not stop hammering on the door. The police were called and they arrived in force within a few minutes.

This has done much to give a stronger feeling of security within these four walls. This is important as at least 90 per cent of the women here are escaping from violence and some of it is quite brutal.

Years later the shelter moved to a bigger two-story house in High Street, then in 1999 to its current site. The address remains confidential to protect the privacy and safety of the women and their children. There are 13 self-contained units, all equipped with necessary appliances. All units have alarms and security cameras are installed at the properties, to ensure the utmost safety for the shelter residents. There is even a pet shelter for use of residents who are escaping violence.

Four decades on demand remains strong for this vital community service. Between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016, the shelter cared for 87 women and 153 children. During the same period, 422 individual families' requests for accommodation were unmet. The shelter team works closely with the Housing Connect team that finds alternative accommodation when Magnolia Place is at capacity.

The Family Support Worker report in the 2016 annual report states -

Our support role varies greatly per family. However, we provide assistance, discussing parenting issues such as biting, anger management, healthy eating, child sexual abuse, calming routines, support services, legal information and other behavioural issues and strategies.

Staff training in the past year has covered topics including sexual assault, methamphetamine addiction, domestic violence and trauma, crisis counseling, autism, ADHD, play therapy and psychodrama.

Magnolia Place is fortunate to receive strong community support. In the past year, examples include the Cape Hope Foundation raising $15 000 for a new car and the Gordon Henry Day Trust gave $15 000 for therapy programs for residents. Numerous community organisations and individuals donate money and goods to support the shelter residents. The manager, Jenny, is very grateful for strong government and community support for the shelter. Demand for this vital service remains as strong as ever and additional support is always appreciated.

Jenny says, 'Monetary donations are the most useful at present, as they can allocate the funds to meet the most pressing needs at the time and because storage is limited at the shelter'.

I pay tribute to the incredible work by Jenny, her staff, and the board of the Launceston Women's Shelter - Magnolia Place. I also give thanks to the management, staff and volunteers from previous years for their magnificent contributions. Our society is truly in their debt.

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