In response to the growing need to create safe havens for abused women and children the Christchurch Women’s Refuge Centre opened in 1973; the Auckland Halfway House in 1975 and in 1976 Dunedin Women’s Refuge emerged. All these Refuges were developed from the work of feminist groups.
However in Hastings the Refuge was begun by a group of married couples who belonged to organisations such as Barnado’s who saw a need for services for women and children who were experiencing Domestic Violence. It is not clear how many years of preparation and planning took place first but in 1978 Hastings Women’s Refuge Inc was established under the name Women’s Emergency Centre (Hastings) Inc and was the sixth Refuge in the country.
“The Women’s Emergency Centre Hastings (INC) has now been working for a year and during that time has survived only by the valiant efforts of a wonderful group of volunteers and the Grace of God. It is now firmly established and known, and proved to be providing an essential service in the relief of misery, the preservation of families, and the welfare of children.”
Women’s Emergency Centre (Hastings) Inc. Annual Report 1979
The report goes on to say that it is a strain to find the $84 per week to keep the house going and that no one is employed but that all are volunteers.
Something to highlight in the archives is that the 1979 report outlines that “If a woman requires the use of the Centre the decision must be entirely her own and we therefore stipulate that she personally contact us.” – a stipulation that remains to this very day. The report also mentions that a woman could, at first, only stay a maximum of one week. The President of the day was Jim Whittaker and the Equipment coordinator was Bill Dorward. Bill continued his association with the Refuge up until he retired in 1999 aged (lets just say) well into his twilight years. The crisisline was covered by two rostered persons staying the night at the office and having to supply their own milk if they wanted a cuppa.
In 1984 the issue of appropriate services for Maori women emerged as an important issue for Refuge and at the AGM 1986 the principles of Parallel Development were adopted by the Movement. And so it followed that in 1991 the Maori caucus of HWR branched out creating Tangata Piringa Maori Women’s Refuge (opened in 1992) to provide services by and for Tangata Whenua. Today, that service has been replaced by Te Whare Oranga Wairua ki Heretaunga and we continue to have close working relationship with both them and Napier Women’s Refuge.
The late 1980’s saw an increase in political recognition of the work of Refuge and, carried out by the then Department of Social Welfare, a review of Refuge services was conducted. The review recognised the need for increased government funding and endorsed the quality of work being done by Refuges.
In 1995 Hastings Women’s Refuge began the work of addressing the needs of women who came to the attention of the Police. We would receive copies of the police report and make contact with the women to offer support and advice as necessary. Today this role is more intense with the new collaborative approach. We meet weekly with Police, Child Youth and Family, DOVE Hawkes Bay, Te Whare Oranga Wairua ki Heretaunga and Community Probations to look at how best we can assist the families.
In 2003 HWR piloted the Tamariki Program, a program gifted to the movement by Dunedin Refuge, which proved to be an immediate success and we continue to deliver two programmes per term to children aged 5-8 and 9-12. See Sponsor a Place
The crisisline has been in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week since its inception in 1979. Thanks to the development of smartphones we can now monitor it from anywhere cellphone coverage is available. The focus of all services has always been to empower women to make positive changes in their lives with an aim to live lives free from violence and abuse.
Many of the myths around Women’s Refuge have been hard to shift. Where once men were not usually part of our organisation times have changed. The membership is inclusive of men and welcome them to become Board members or volunteers for certain aspects of our work. As we move forward and develop our work with men we require and value the input of other males to walk alongside them. Traditionally Refuge has focused on working with the woman and her children but when we do this we miss the most vital component, the one who is required to make change to bring safety to the lives of the whole family. For more details see Get Involved
Crisis and Support Line Volunteers remain female based and are trained to a degree that they can provide sound advice over the phone and will arrange follow-up from staff the next business day. The crisis and support line also allows 24/7 access to our Safe House services.