By Peter Douglas

Minister for Women Michaelia Cash says an integrated, ‘wraparound’ service aimed at supporting victims of family violence is making a significant difference throughout the Yarra Ranges.
As part of her visit to the Eastern Community Legal Centre in Healesville on Friday 8 September, Ms Cash, Casey MP Tony Smith and Evelyn candidate Bridget Vallence met with much of the team behind the SAGE initiative, which seeks to overcome barriers to services for women experiencing family violence.
The model – an acronym for Support Advice Guidance Empowerment – was implemented just over two years ago and is a key component to the Turnbull Government’s multi-million dollar Women’s Safety Package.
Ms Cash said it particularly helped those who were at risk of slipping through the cracks.
“So many will pull out because (they say) ‘It’s a bad experience in court, I can’t go back’,” the Western Australia-based minister said.
“But when you have a wraparound service and an advocate who is there to support you, it’s a very different outcome.
“Because of this integrated service (and) because of the support of the wraparound services they are given, they will actually continue with the process.”
Ms Cash said not only was she delighted to visit the centre, “but more than that, to hear the positive feedback on SAGE as part of the Women’s Safety Package”.
Eastern Community Legal Centre chief executive officer, Michael Smith, agreed SAGE had assisted those at risk of becoming disenfranchised with the system.
“The legal system is really hard for lots of people, but particularly for women going through family violence situations,” he said.
“In some cases, it might be a good outcome legally, but might be really traumatic, so women going through that need a lot of support.
“I’m really pleased to show the minister what we’re doing on the ground, both with our SAGE team and also our other work here in the Yarra Ranges.”
Mr Smith said the recently opened outreach centre at the Monbulk Living and Learning Centre had received incredible support from the community and was providing an important service.
Though the meeting’s upbeat tone was a far cry from only two years ago, when the centre was under threat of closure.
Millions of dollars of government funding was in doubt, with the centre’s future in jeopardy.
But, along with the support of Yarra Ranges Council, Mr Smith and fellow Liberal MP Jason Wood led the charge to secure funding, ending months of concern and uncertainty.
The centre operates from Healesville, with outreach centres at Yarra Junction and Monbulk, with many of its clients often escaping family violence situations while trying to navigate the legal system.
Mr Smith said it was fantastic Ms Cash could interact directly with those who are making a significant difference at the coalface.
“I’m really pleased I’ve been able to bring the minister back here, so she can see first-hand the great work they’re doing,” Mr Smith said.
“She’s been here before and I think it’s wonderful for her to hear about the wonderful work here in Healesville and for her to build the relationship, so we can provide the very best service we possibly can, with the funding that’s been made available.”

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