St George’s safe haven for those in need

Community stories: 23 June 2020

Content warning: this article deals with sensitive themes including domestic violence that might be disturbing for some audiences.

The St George branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) was established in 1946 and sixteen active members work to support the community and participate in and host a range of local events.

The members embarked on an ambitious project – upgrading a small disused unit attached to their meeting room to become a low cost, short-term accommodation unit which could be used for a variety of purposes. This includes supporting victims of domestic violence, providing a place to stay for isolated parents or families of locally hospitalised children, or for families coming into town for the likes of parent / teacher interviews. While they were fundraising locally, a local cotton grower realised they could do with more support to fund the renovations and furnishings, as the unit was empty and had fallen into disrepair.

The grower nominated them, and the received an Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grant for $5,000. This enabled them to start refurbishment of the unit to convert it into a safe haven for those in need.

Paula Hetherington, President of the St George QCWA, said that it was a steep learning curve for their small group to achieve a project of this magnitude with a miniscule bank account. “Before commencing the project, we knew there was considerable funding required to achieve the outcome of having an affordable, comfortable, self-contained unit for residents of the Balonne Shire.

“The largest cost item was building renovations, which we knew when the Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grants were open. Getting the grant enabled us to provide some much needed comfort items, such as air conditioning and window blinds for our hot summer days, comfortable bedding and a table to sit at for meals.”

The QCWA St George Branch has since been raising funds for linen, utensils, crockery, cutlery et cetera through catering for local events, and have successfully raised the necessary funds to finish the broader refit project. The renovations were completed in February, and the unit is now ready to be used for its intended purpose.