A women’s safe house in Ngukurr and feelings of inadequacy

Guest Hoyden: Chally blogs at Zero At the Bone, from which this is a crosspost.

So, I was watching ABC News and I saw this story:

The first safe house for women has been opened in the Northern Territory as part of the federal intervention and the ongoing fight against the high rates of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities.
Although it has been welcomed, the safe house has also been criticised for looking like a detention centre.

Okay, there are some really good things about this. But before I get to that, it’s made from 4 shipping containers. Which struck me as a bit suss. I know that shipping containers are sometimes used in buildings but I Googled ’shipping container building’ and this was on the first site that came up: ‘Be aware that containers are not a perfect building material, since they tend to corrode, but they have been used effectively in some cases, especially in areas near saltwater. ‘ And there would be temperature concerns, surely? More on Wikipedia. I’m probably missing something, but I can’t shake the feeling that a safe house wouldn’t be built using such materials in more populous areas or if white people were going to be the ones using it.

But I like that they’ve trained local women to run the safe house. It’s a step back towards the ’successful women-run community-based child safety programmes’ described in a post of Lauredhel’s in 2007. It’s progress. It looks like a move towards safety for women and children in NT. The ALP site has more.

While I was looking up information about the safe house – there’s not much online – I found this 2006 article in the Herald about safe houses in NSW:

The refuges – in Wilcannia, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge – service the women and children of the Murdi Paaki’s 58,000-strong population, of which 14 per cent are indigenous.
The region is among the most disadvantaged in the state, characterised by isolation, high unemployment, low incomes, chronic housing shortages and over-crowding.
But while domestic violence is increasing, its refuges for women and children receive about one-third of the average funding for other similar services in NSW, the Orana Far West Women’s Safe Houses Project report says.

I feel pretty uninformed, to be honest. I’m a first generation Aussie and my knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is largely the product of an education system with what is at best a half-hearted attitude towards educating students about our Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures. I’m trying to learn more and I don’t as yet feel equipped to comment more than I have. So, particularly with regard to violence, the intervention and safe houses, what am I missing here and what would you like to add?



Categories: gender & feminism, indigenous, social justice, violence

Tags: , , , ,

5 replies

  1. The shipping container method is fairly commonly used to house miners, “intervention” staff, temporary builders & other tradies, seasonal farm workers and temporary medical staff in rural areas, so it doesn’t strike me as odd. Certainly not the best housing, but a great way to get housing in place quickly and cheaply.

  2. I’d agree with lilacsigal on that one. Shipping containers are used as quick and cheap housing all over the world. Indeed, there’s many ‘designer’ buildings that have been made out of them too, although that’s more a green-chic thing, I think, then anything actually very practical.
    All in all, it sounds as though it’s a step forward for the area. The NT intervention has been so bad on so many levels, I think we tend to see “NT intervention” and expect bad news, so it’s nice to see something positive come out of it,even if it does seem a little hard to believe.
    L
    Loquacity’s last blog post..This is for all the luvvers in da house

  3. In many remote communities buildings are constructed from shipping containers. I’ve seen health services housed in them, and while they’re not perfect, they are adequate and mean a service can be provided. A proper building would be ideal (and equitable with other locations), however funders always seem to shy away from that on cost grounds.
    I’ve been to Ngukurr and know that a safe house is something the women have been fighting for for years – I was last there in 1999 and they were still fighting for one. It’s good to see their effort finally prevail.

  4. Thanks, all. I’m glad to hear that, Rachel.

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