Victims of domestic and family violence in Mackay have very few options when it comes securing to low-income housing in the region.
Victims of domestic and family violence in Mackay have very few options when it comes securing to low-income housing in the region.

Victims of violence left with nowhere to turn

VICTIMS of domestic and family violence are sleeping in their vehicles and on local beaches due to a severe lack of crisis accommodation in the Mackay region.

Mackay Women's Services executive director Dr Anne Butcher said many women escaping domestic violence situations were being forced to make unorthodox choices when it came to seeking refuge because the situation had reached crisis point.

Connect Housing Mackay Group chief Jennifer Emmett confirmed the housing shortage problem in the region. The organisation provides long-term social housing to 'highly complex' families who are not able to access the private rental market.

"We've seen a significant need for affordable housing since late 2017," Ms Emmett said.

"That trend has continued and it was part way through 2018 when we noticed things were getting serious."

Ms Emmett said her organisation was regularly turning away women who presented as quite organised - doing everything they could to secure emergency housing.

"They come through the door with their wad of documents, they've thought about their budget and they're quite succinct in their needs.




"But they can't afford to rent and availability is so low. We refer them to housing services and Rent Connect - which most of them have already been to and turned away from.

"I honestly don't know what happens to these women.

"Quite often they have exhausted all their options and it's heartbreaking having to tell them you have no availability," Ms Emmett said.

Dr Butcher said Mackay Integrated Services Team had recently reached out to State Housing Minister Mick de Brenni and had called on him to take urgent action to alleviate the current crisis in Mackay.

Mr de Brenni said low wage growth and the fluctuation of the resources sector had led to a tightening of affordable accommodation in regional places such as Mackay.

"We have a comprehensive plan to provide support to Queenslanders to bridge some of the financial gaps to make private rentals affordable, as well as building social housing to increase the amount of affordable supply," he said.

"Women who approach us fleeing domestic and family violence, are provided safe accommodation immediately."

Dr Butcher also confirmed the issue had been raised with both Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert and Dawson MP George Christensen during several meetings since June.

MIST had yet to receive any tangible assistance from either State or Federal governments.

A spokeswoman for Mr Christensen said he had attended at least nine meetings and penned that many letters seeking support but federally he was very limited in 'what he could do in this space'.

The spokeswoman said Mr Christensen, on prior occasion, had highlighted one avenue which could potentially provide some federal funding - the Safe Places Package.

The Safe Places Package comprises $60 million to create up to 450 safe places to assist up to 6500 victims of domestic and family violence each year; and $18 million for continued support through the Keeping Women Safe in Their Homes program.

Dr Butcher said securing safe refuge housing was the number one priority for MIST and they had been lobbying that message for several months now.

"It's time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it," she said.

"I'm going to keep beating the drum on this - I'm not going away."

The Daily Mercury contacted Mrs Gilbert for comment but she had yet to respond at time of publication.