This history is written with special acknowledgement to the Founding Management Committee Members of the Eastern Region Women’s Refuge Group whose tireless contribution, dedication and commitment to the development of Koolkuna Women’s Refuge are valued and appreciated by all women and children who have found “a safe place” within its walls.
In April 1989 the Eastern Region Community Development Council (ERCDC) held a community forum to identify regional and community needs. In attendance was local groups, agencies and individuals, who expressed a concern that support for social issues was not in sync with the rapid growth of suburbs in the Eastern Region. It was concluded that there was a need for a safe shelter for women and children in crisis. The Eastern Region includes the Shires of Swan, Bassendean, Kalamunda and Mundaring.
In 1990 the ERCDC submitted a proposal to the Department for Community Development under the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program (SAAP). The objective for the service was stated as “crisis accommodation for women and children who were escaping domestic violence and/or who were homeless”. This submission was unsuccessful. It was not until 1992 when a product of the ERCDC, the Eastern Region Women’s Refuge Group Inc was established, that a similar submission was successful. They were granted $150,000 of SAAP funding to operate the Koolkuna Women’s Refuge. A subsequent submission to the Lotteries Commission was successful in obtaining $66,396 to equip and furnish the refuge.
Shortly after funding was granted, in March of 1992, temporary accommodation was sought and a four bedroom house in Midvale was found and rented for one year with the option of extending the lease. “Koolkuna” was officially opened in July of the same year by the Minister for Community Services at the time, Eric Ripper. Within two weeks of the refuge opening, it was full.
In 1993 $500,000 funding for the new purpose built refuge was granted by Crisis Assisted Programme. A public meeting was called by the Executive Committee of Jopie Peetoom, Margaret Hollands, Virginia McSporran and other Committee members. The purpose of which was to consult with local residents and neighbours who were able to voice their concerns, and also to placate public fears of “men running around the streets with knives and guns”. Despite such objections at the meeting Mr Ron Dullard, the West Swan Shire President, ruled that such protests were not sufficient to stop the project from going ahead on the chosen site. After much tribulation the purpose built refuge was opened in June 1995, where it is still in use today. The refuge can accommodate up to four families with a maximum of 24 people. The families have their own bedrooms and bathrooms but share the kitchen, lounge, dining room and outside areas.
In February 1997 it was found there was a need for medium term housing to assist those who had previously been in a refuge move on to independent living, free from family and domestic violence. By August 1998 a Crisis Accommodation Program Lease was entered into with Homeswest for three medium term supported houses, to allow women and children to leave the refuge whilst still providing them with outreach support. With the success of the medium term supported housing an additional two houses were acquired for the same purpose in April and June 2004.
In December 1998 the Eastern Region Women’s Refuge Group changed its name to Eastern Region Domestic Violence Services Network Inc (ERDVDN). Two years later ERDVSN were successful in their application for Preferred Service Provider status for the Domestic Violence Support and Advocacy Service. This service provides support and advocacy to assist individuals and communities work through the effects of family and domestic violence, as well as educate the community to raise awareness of family and domestic violence issues and the support that is available. This service was originally operated from Koolkuna Women’s Refuge but relocated to Midland Junction Lotteries House in 2001, where it remains today.
Between the years of 2002 and 2007 a number of grants and funding were allocated to Koolkuna to assist with the running and expansion of their essential services. These include but are not limited to funding to provide support and advocacy to assist women and children establish themselves safely in the community after leaving the refuge and the Lotterywest Active Participation Grant.
In August of 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the East Metropolitan District Police and the ERDVSN to provide an advocate for the Eastern Metropolitan District. The Advocate works alongside police officers to address situations of family and domestic violence and provide support, information and referral services to victims of family and domestic violence.
The Koolkuna Women’s Refuge has many distinctions, including a high commendation by the SAAP Standards Committee inquiry held at Koolkuna in 1998. This was accompanied by the request by the Committee that aspects of Koolkuna’s Policies and Procedures be given mentor status in its recommendations on standards to other SAAP bodies. Overall Koolkuna is a vibrant, comfortable and well designed ‘safe place’, providing room for communal living but also room for privacy and reflection.
Over the last 20 years Koolkuna has helped thousands of women and children re-establish themselves in the community and hopefully will continue to do so for many more years to come.