Maningrida Women’s Safe House takes out Chief Minister’s Award

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A women’s safe house at Maningrida has won the Excellence in Human Services Delivery category of the Chief Minister’s Awards for its innovative, community-based operating model.

The safe house provides accommodation for women and children escaping domestic and family violence; however, it is also providing a valuable space for local women to share, grow and develop.

Senior Family Safety Worker at the safe house, Elizabeth Yirrawala, had a vision of opening up the house to all women in the community, not only in a time of need or crisis, but to see the safe house as a space to come together to tell stories and participate in cultural activities.

Tuaka Brown, Remote Services Team Leader at Territory Families, Housing and Communities (TFHC), based in Maningrida, was elated by the win.

She said Elizabeth’s vision had led to a space for women to build strong positive relationships and to support the preservation of cultural traditions by reconnecting to country, language and culture.

“By opening up the safe house to the broader community it has been reinvigorated as a place where women can gather to support each other and connect with other service providers,” Ms Brown said.

“The project is helping to break down the stigma of domestic violence and accessing formal and informal supports to work through problems in relationships.

“The benefit of this is that we have seen more women coming into the safe house across all generations, and men are coming in with their partners too. The community is talking about these elephants in the room and having these conversations at home. It’s not secret women’s business anymore, it is community business.”

The safe house has worked closely with Njameraya cultural leaders and a justice group, as well as the Men’s Shed and TeamHealth Psychosocial Support Program as part of the project.

The house opens for activities such as storytelling, dancing, singing, weaving and cooking traditional foods on an open fire. Weekly activities are held at the safehouse and on country to focus on reconnecting the younger generation to cultural practices such as gathering pandanas and natural materials for dyeing, supporting activities that contribute to positive spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing and improving outcomes for women.

The interaction between the senior women and the young women assist to maintain and strengthen relationships between the generations, with two-way learning and imparting of cultural knowledge occurring naturally.

“These partnerships have led to an opening up of the conversation about domestic violence in the community with several men contacting the women’s safe house to discuss what spaces are available for them to meet with their partner to talk about their relationship,” Ms Brown said.

“This has led to a promising third stage where the community is talking about communal spaces for men and women to work alongside the traditionally separate men’s and women’s spaces.”

TFHC Chief Executive Officer Ken Davies said this award was a credit to the team’s work and collaboration with the community, and a resourceful way to make use of an important space to further build on the sense of community.

“This program is a credit to Elizabeth’s vision and the team at Maningrida and shows that when people feel passionately about something, anything can be achieved,” Mr Davies said.

“The initiative demonstrates the ability for government agencies to share resources and infrastructure to support local communities in achieving good outcomes for future generations.”

The team received the award at a special ceremony held at the Darwin Convention Centre on Friday.

TFHC also won in two joint agency initiatives – the Advancing Aboriginal and Community Development category for the Groote Archipelago Local Decision Making Agreement; and in the Outstanding Achievement of the Year category for the Centre for National Resilience Expansion and Repatriation.

TFHC was also a finalist in the categories of Making the Northern Territory a Better Place to Live for its Expansion of NT Seniors Recognition Scheme; and Excellence in Building a Strong Economy for Remote Housing Program – Headworks as a joint agency initiative.

Staff members Leon Spurling and Peter Fletcher also received a Chief Minister’s Award.

Senior Family Safety Worker Elizabeth Yirrawala (left) and TFHC Remote Services Team Leader, Tuaka Brown, accepted the Chief Minister’s Award at a ceremony held at the Darwin Convention Centre on Friday.

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