Domestic violence group ‘‘homeless’’: Shakti NSW chairperson Vira Venkatesh and community development coordinator Vi Yeak hope to find a new headquarters in Parramatta. Picture: Natalie Roberts.A previously Parramatta-based organisation that supports migrant women who are victims of domestic violence, dowry abuse and forced marriage is ‘‘homeless’’ and seeking council support.
ShaktiMigrant and Refugee Women’s Support Group NSW chairperson and Blacktown resident Vira Venkatesh spoke during a December 15 Parramatta Council meeting public forum to call for support for a request for reduced rent on council-owned premises.
‘‘We are a not-for-profit run by volunteers, can’t afford commercial rent,’’ Ms Venkatesh said.
‘‘The demand for our services has been increasing within the vulnerable sections of Parramatta’s Asian, African and Middle Eastern communities. However, being currently homeless, with no office space, we are severely constrained in delivering our projects and services.’’
Ms Venkatesh said Shakti NSW was shown properties in Darcy Street, Hunter Street, Horwood Place and Macquarie Street and had narrowed its preference down to the Hunter Street property.
‘‘We have now been advised that it cannot be leased to Shakti.’’
In November, the organisation was asked to vacate its previous headquarters inside the Unions NSW building at Gough Whitlam Plaza on Wentworth Street, which it had occupied for about six months.
During the council meeting, Labor councillor James Shaw called on lord mayor Scott Lloyd to grant the request of the group, ‘‘which supports victims of domestic violence’’.
‘‘Who booted these people out of their accommodation?’’ Cr Lloyd replied. ‘‘I don’t declare it urgent.’’
Later in the meeting, councillors suspendedStanding Orders with an ”urgent motion” seeking furtherinvestigationofthematter after the lord mayorruledthe matter ”was one of urgency”, and thecouncilresolved to liaise with Shaktiwith a view to finding a place for theorganisation’s use.
Delegated authority was given to Cr Lloyd and the council’sCEO to further thematter ”should a suitable property be located”.
Ms Venkateshsaid the organisation’s 10 volunteers are currently working out of their homes and at public libraries, primarily on ‘‘capacity building’’ and fielding up to five calls a week through its support hotline.
In June 2014, Parramatta Council presented $10,000 to Shakti for the implementation of an advocates’ professional development scheme as part of $348,249 in council grants to local non-profit community groups.
The organisation was one of 40 groups to receive funds out of 118 applications.
Ms Venkatesh said Shakti, which also has branches in Victoria and New Zealand, receives subsidied rent for its Victorian officesfrom two Melbourne councils.
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