The Womens Centre Cairns is a proudly feminist not-for-profit organisation that provides services to women and children at risk of domestic violence and homelessness. Drawing funding from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and Department of Housing and Public Works the organisation has offices in both Cairns and Atherton Tablelands. Their case management framework is client-centred, culturally-responsive and collaborative providing support to transition clients away from homelessness and violence and the child safety system.
The Cairns office provides a specialist homelessness service that rapidly re-houses or stabilises housing. There is also a highly individualised and intensive outreach support program for families with children at risk. One worker works specifically with young mothers under 25, who are more vulnerable to domestic violence and homelessness.
In addition to the main office in Cairns the organisation runs a homelessness and domestic violence service in Atherton. There are eight units of independent living available, case workers, a domestic violence court support worker and a Safe at home program for women who choose to remain in their own homes.
Of course a single organisation can only do so much, and the organisation works in collaboration with other women’s and homeless services. Due to this, the organisation has established some very close links in the sector: rather than empire-building the focus is on doing the work they do well and providing the best service possible to their clients. The collaborations of the Womens Centre Cairns have been successful due to the high quality of workers who are very dedicated to their cause, managers working on the ground level that can make changes very quickly, the strong management committee surrounding them that supports their decisions, and of course the high levels of goodwill between organisation, particularly small non-governments.
The most essential aspect of the industry is about maintaining good relationships, whether it’s the relationship with clients or the relationships with colleagues. The people who have been in the sector a long time have built up genuine relationships with each other. Having goals and values aligned makes achieving results easier. The biggest issue with collaborations revolve around competitive tenders. The shape of the sector is mostly big players and collaboration between them and small players can be challenging. Thankfully, in the women’s sector there has always been a positive collaboration environment.
Unfortunately, there are some challenges that the Centre is facing, the first and largest is the lack of government funding available for services, and a lack of opportunities for small non-governments to branch out. Sometimes the only way to experience growth is to do a small sub-contracted part of a larger organisation's work. The housing situation in Cairns is challenging with a lack of housing availability and a lack of money for crisis services. With the increased awareness towards Domestic Violence in the news there has been an increase in clients seeking assistance, however the services in Cairns and Atherton are both nearly always at capacity.
For more information surrounding the Centre and any question that you may have, please feel free to visit the Womens Centre Cairns website