UOW Feminist Society announces Take Care Festival

UOW’s very own Feminist Society has announced a live music festival this week. The ‘Take Care’ festival will take place on May 9th and aims to raise funds for Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven and Illawarra (SAHSSI). After many state and federal funding cuts SAHSSI remains as the last women-only accommodation service in the South Coast and Illawarra region. The festival will be held at Jane’s Café in North Wollongong and features a line-up of women- and queer-identified artists and musicians.

According to Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence and 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault during their lifetime. The event aims to work collectively to support women-only services facing drastic funding cuts.

“I’m really proud to be working to support SAHSSI,” said Liv Todhunter, facilitator of the UOW Feminist Society. “The Going Home, Staying Home reforms dramatically cut funding to pre-existing women’s and children’s domestic violence refuges… essential services that provide legal advice, crisis accommodation and transition housing to those that are escaping domestic violence or are at risk of homelessness have been dramatically cut.”

In October 2014, the Wollongong Women’s Refuge and the Warilla Women’s Refuge merged to create SAHSSI. SAHSSI is currently the only organisation in the Illawarra and South Coast region able to provide crisis accommodation, as well as transitional housing. The merge allowed both organisations to continue to support women in the Illawarra and South Coast regions, despite the fact that the Going Home, Staying Home reforms ultimately forced women’s services into a competitive tender processes. These tender processes effectively create a competitive price bargaining system for tenders and contracts. As a result the history of collaboration and solidarity that exists between women’s services in Wollongong, and in Australia more broadly, is undermined.

Event organisers Jessie Hunt and Belinda Quinn aim for the Take Care Festival to be a safe space for all women and queer-identifying peoples. They implemented a Safer Spaces policy, designed to protect women and queer people from sexual harassment and violence. The event will also have volunteers specifically to address sexual harassment, as well as a buddy system for patrons getting home.

“We’re sending a message that sexism has no place in Wollongong’s music scene; it’s a lazy, out-dated way of thinking…we need to provide safe and inclusive spaces for queer and women-identifying people to go out and enjoy music without worrying about harassment, sexism, queerphobia or violence,” says Quinn.

One of the seven bands on the line-up, Glory Hole, believe Take Care Festival’s aims are vital. “The defunding of women’s services as a result of the ‘Going Home, Staying Home’ reforms is something that needs to be absolutely opposed… it’s important for secular services such as this one, to remain open, so that trans and queer women can access the required services without fear of discrimination. We feel privileged to be a part of a show that supports such an important cause.”

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