Design of refuges are crucial to the healing journey

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Design of refuges are crucial to the healing journey

November 26, 2021

The ‘core and cluster’ design of safe homes such as Emerge’s new 24/7 refuge has been singled out by New South Wales as best practice.

The state is about to roll out 75 extra women’s refuges which will be designed on a model focused on self-contained accommodation to support women and children escaping domestic and family violence.

“Their approach is to emulate Victoria’s latest refuge design which include self-contained accommodation located next to services like counselling, legal assistance, education, and employment support,” Paula Westhead, Executive Officer said.

“This is like the design of our refuge which also contains meeting rooms, communal kitchens, and playgrounds,” she added.

Emerge’s multi-purpose refuge is one of the safest places to be in Victoria for any woman facing family violence right now. There is no street access, six feet high fences and three gates to negotiate before they even reach the front door.

The refuge, designed by award-winning architectural practice Harrison and White, has a generous mix of personal and communal space which allows women and children to recover from the impact of family violence and homelessness.

Each family is assigned one of the state of the art units, each with their own spacious bathroom and kitchen. There is also a communal kitchen and living room – which have been out of bounds during the various lockdowns over the past two years.

“For many of the women we are supporting, this is the first chance they have had to have time to themselves, including their own room,” Jess, Manager Integrated Family Services,  said. “That little bit of personal space is contributing to a sense of healing the minute they arrive.”

For children, too, the refuge is proving to be a winner. They have their own cubby house, sandpit, room to ride their bikes and the chance to be outside and to be noisy without feeling fear.

The refuge has been full since it opened in May 2020.

According to many of the stories that women have shared with the Emerge team, the refuge opening has not come a moment too soon. Many of them had been living in hotels or temporary housing waiting for the high-risk secure refuge to open.

“The time they leave their own home until they arrive at somewhere like our refuge is very unsafe. There is nowhere for children to play, nowhere for women to cook, and emotions are running high,” Jess said.

“By the time, the families arrive they are more stressed than ever but within a day, we can see the tension easing from their faces.”


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