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Shakti Refuge Wellington is petitioning for adequate funding from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) after three requests for funding have been declined since their formation in 2014.
The refuge provides culturally appropriate support and advocacy services for African, Middle Eastern, and Asian women who may feel alienated by Women’s Refuge.
The service includes a 24/7 crisis line, accommodation and transport for those whose safety is compromised, and a range of support services including legal assistance, Housing NZ assistance, WINZ support, counselling support, and immigration support.
While MSD has provided funding to the national organisation, Shakti Asian Women’s Safe House Inc., over the last four years, the Shakti Refuge Wellington was set up without funding from the ministry.
A needs-analysis survey in 2016, for which Shakti was contracted by MSD to conduct, highlighted a need for specialist refuge services for migrant and refugee women requiring intervention and support from family violence.
However MSD conveyed to Salient that a 2015 Refuge Services Project report “concluded that mainstream refuge services are able to meet the needs of refugee and migrant women.”
Wendy Vyas, a spokesperson for Shakti, told Salient, “merely putting services in place through mainstream refuge providers does not translate to cultural competence. The Government’s one size fits all approach is highly discriminatory and disadvantages African, Middle Eastern, and Asian women.”
Shakti Wellington serviced more than 350 women in 2016, with over 200 referrals coming in from the police.
Without funding, Vyas said she felt Shakti’s hands were tied. “It would be morally and unethically inappropriate to close the refuge, but we are already stretched to the max and our backs are broken. This decision not to fund alludes to the notion that the government are indifferent to, and perhaps don’t care about, migrant and refugee women in Wellington.”
MSD told Salient that women in need “should contact the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges.”
“They have a range of refuges in the Wellington area and are an independent, bicultural community organisation.”