Safe Houses

In theory a fine idea and one of the many that sprang forth from the NTER. There are now 12 remote communities with safe houses that are to serve as either a shelter for women or a “cooling off” space for men. This ABC News report makes clear the kind of uncertainty surrounding what appears to be a fairly straight-forward plan,

Malcolm Wall, the chief executive of the Yuendumu community, says he does not think men will choose to go to the safe house voluntarily.

“I think that’s probably where there’s going to be an issue because night patrol isn’t going to be able to grab these people and restrain them, maybe police will be able to use these facilities, I really don’t know,” he said.

Not that the idea is anything new. And if past lessons were learned, a good deal more thought may have gone into it, than just throwing down a bunch of shipping containers.

Once upon a time, in a remote community of Arnhem Land there was a domestic violence problem (and still is). Surely a ‘safe house’ would be just the trick, just like they have down south? Safe House was made. Safe House was very safe – no one ever went in it.

Some bright spark thought that they should talk to the locals and find out why, despite a real domestic violence problem, no one ever used the safe house. What they found, was that people viewed their social and family contacts, supports and networks as an indicator of competence in daily life. If you had a problem, it was these networks that you leant on, making use of the obligations that others owe you. The only reason that someone would go to the safe house would be if they lacked these networks of ties and obligations. In would be an admission of social and familial destitution.


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