Opening a refuge for the female victims of domestic violence on the Gold Coast has been the focus for Masters of Social Work students Stephanie Cooper and Tracy Wilde.
Believed to be the first of its kind in Queensland, My Friendâ€™s Place offers women safety and support with studying and finding work, as well as companionship through cooking, keeping fit and gardening.
Set up in May this year, the location is secret and was established in response to the critical shortage of accommodation for abused women statewide.
â€œWe knew that domestic violence is a growing issue in Queensland, as in the rest of Australia and worldwide,â€ says Stephanie. â€œWe also knew there were very few refuges and a drastic shortage of emergency and affordable short-term accommodation options on the Gold Coast. We had to act.â€
Over a ten month period and knowing that government funding was not available, the students came up with the concept of running an affordable shared accommodation house for women who want to leave abusive relationships and need a safe place to go.
They decided that the focus would be on housing rather than domestic violence services as there are already very good domestic violence services on the Gold Coast.
After several discussions, Stephanie got the ball rolling, finding a third partner who was in a position to buy a house for the students to use.
Over the next few months, My Friendsâ€™ Place, a non-profit organisation was created, with Stephanie and Tracy establishing an incorporated association with a board including four of their classmates, Robyn Lynch, Michala Stenzel, and Liz Fitzsimmons, along with a partner who provided the house.
Stephanie says domestic violence is a community problem that needs a community solution.
â€œWomen affected by abuse need stable accommodation so they can move forward. We provide this, with women at the refuge encouraged to provide companionship and support.
â€œWe hope that with the amazing support we have received with the local community, that this will be the first of many safe houses for women.â€
My Friendsâ€™ Place has been supported by the School of Human Services at Griffith University, AssistASista, DV Connect, Northern Gold Coast Community Facebook page as well as the local community.