Royal Wolf Business Development Manager (Tasmania) is proud to be part of the project helping to house those who need it most. Photo: Alastair Bett
By Geoff Shearer
Everyone has a part to play. Every sector – public, private, business, government – has a part to play.
To make any sort of headway in tackling the issue of domestic violence, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein is not about to let anyone off the hook.
"Investing and resourcing programs to prevent family violence is the single most effective way to deliver the outcomes needed to change attitudes, support people in our community, combat homelessness. And everyone has a part to play," he urges.
"By increasing knowledge, awareness and understanding of the nature and causes of family and sexual violence, and influencing attitudes to bring about behavioural change, we can make a positive impact."
Mr Gutwein’s portfolio includes the Prevention of Family Violence ministry.
He says the Tasmanian Government put in place the state’s first comprehensive, whole-of-government family violence action plan in 2015, with a second plan in 2019, and that more than $50 million has been invested since 2015 in those plans.
"The previous Premier, Will Hodgman, was Tasmania’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, and I have continued in this role,” Mr Gutwein says, “acknowledging this is a complex issue that requires a whole-of-government approach to short, medium and long-term solutions to effect change."
Domestic violence accounts for a significant proportion of clients seen by Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in Tasmania, as it does across much of Australia. The SHS annual report 2018-19 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says of the nearly 300,000 people seen by SHS across the country in that period, about 33% reported family and domestic violence as their main reason for seeking support. According to Homelessness Australia, the comparable figure for Tasmania was about 26%.
Underreporting of the issue to authorities and not wanting to be counted on the Census means the Australian Bureau of Statistics is having to investigate new ways of establishing more accurate figures on domestic violence for the August 2021 Census. But what is reported to authorities is significant. In 2017-18 there were 5630 family violence incidents and arguments reported to Tasmania Police.
"The Tasmanian Government recognises family violence is a major reason for homelessness in Australia," Mr Gutwein says.
"As part of the Government’s recent $5 million investment in emergency homeless accommodation, 17 new units will be made available through the Hobart Women’s Shelter specifically for use as crisis accommodation."
Ten of those units are modified 40-foot shipping containers made at Royal Wolf’s Brisbane factory then shipped to the company’s Tasmania depot, outside of Hobart, to be fitted out before being made available for the shelter to relocate.
The two-bedroom, self-contained "pods" will be used by women and children fleeing domestic violence.
The 40-ft shelters have two bedrooms, a kitchenette and bathroom. Photo: Alastair Bett
Royal Wolf’s Business Development Manager (Tasmania), Michael Nicholson, says being part of “the solution” was personally and professionally satisfying.
"It’s not every day you get to work on a project that brings benefits for the whole community," he says. "And working with such a wonderful team – not only in Royal Wolf but also in the government – has certainly made this project so much easier to get across the line and to be a part of.
"It means vulnerable people, who would otherwise find themselves short of accommodation, that they’ve got a place to call home. It means that they know they have a roof over their head; they’ve got somewhere safe and secure to be; knowing they are going to have a warm bed at night time … it’s fantastic from my viewpoint that we can supply that, and also from the business and community viewpoints.
"The feedback from the team has been most positive. From the CEO right down; through to those (managers) in other states who have the same role I have – they’ve certainly wanted to know what we’re doing and how they can replicate it in their regions. Nothing but positive from the people above."
As well as the crisis accommodation unit rollout, the State Government also runs the rapid rehousing program which provides people affected by family violence with transitional accommodation in the private rental market at subsidised rent.
The 40-ft shelters were constructed in partnership with the Tasmanian Government and Hobart Women’s Shelter. Photo: Alastair Bett
Another eight units were delivered last year in partnership with CatholicCare in the south and later this year, the government will commence its $4 million expansion of Magnolia Place (women’s shelter) in Launceston.
"We’re also delivering the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program. (As of February 7 this year) 272 security upgrades have been completed since the program began in 2016,” says Mr Gutwein.
Mr Nicholson hopes Royal Wolf’s involvement will inspire other companies and state governments to consider how they also can offer solutions to a complex problem.
"Certainly, being the first is always something pretty special," he says of the company’s innovative approach. "We’re obviously certainly hoping that we’re just not the first, but we’re the start of something greater. We’re hoping the rest of the country almost catches up with Tasmania, to offer a similar initiative to their people in need."
As the Premier says, everyone has a part to play.