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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2009

Senator CROWLEY —I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I have received many requests and submissions from women involved in the running of women's shelters. The questions seek clarification about the guidelines for continued funding of shelters and in particular for salaries of the staff in shelters. Is the Minister aware of the confusion and disquiet amongst shelter workers, both within the States and between States? Can the Minister say whether the Government accepts the claim by the women from the shelter movement that there is a great need for national discussion and consultation about shelters and, if so, can he say whether the Government is prepared to assist such a national consultation and to what extent?

Senator GRIMES —I am aware of the concern that has existed for some time amongst those who run and work in women's refuges about the future of their funding. I note that recently, with the distribution of money under the women's emergency services program, we have improved the salaries of staff and, in some cases, the staffing of the various refuges. However, I do not think that the situation is at all satisfactory at the moment.

Earlier this year the Government funded a national conference which was attended by representatives of refuges from all over the country. As a result, for the first time-I think it is very welcome-the national refuge group formed a much smaller group of some 10 representatives from the various States and Territories. This will be a more manageable, more sensible and more rational way for them to go about their discussion. It is my understanding that that group has put in a request for assistance, particularly with air fares, to conduct the first meeting of that organisation. I referred that request to my colleague Senator Ryan, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. It was her Department which funded the last conference. At the moment discussions are being held between my Department and Senator Ryan's Department. I dare say that, very soon, discussions will be held between Senator Ryan and me as to how, if possible, we can assist this group.