For an increasing number of Australian women and children, the desperate hunt for decent, safe accommodation has become a constant, grinding part of their lives.

To mark International Women’s Day 2019, Habitat for Humanity Australia has mobilised more than 400 volunteers from 15 companies around Australia for its Homes for Hope Campaign to renovate six women’s refuges and transitional accommodation.

“Homes of Hope is critical to helping turn around these women’s lives, and those of their children,” says Tracey Phillips, Executive Officer at Bonnie’s Support Service, NSW. “It means that when women leave our crisis services and into transitional accommodation they are moving into a lovely fresh home, a critical first step in turning their lives around.

“It’s more than just fresh paint. It feels like a fresh start for them. It’s a positive and enhancing environment for them to live in, and give them a sense of their own home. Even though they are only with us for 12 months in this house, it gives them the opportunity to live somewhere clean and nice while they get on their feet. ” 

Women who most frequently face homelessness are those escaping domestic and family violence – with one in four Australian women reporting they have experienced physical and/or emotional abuse at the hands of their partners – and those who are single parents, struggling to bring up their families alone.

The increased cost of rental properties means that existing services don’t come close to meeting the demand for crisis accommodation. And even when it is available it usually needs extensive refurbishment. 

“Access to decent housing is a fundamental requirement for all families, yet it is getting harder and harder to find,” says Habitat for Humanity Australia’s CEO Nicole Stanmore. “Our relationship with our corporate partners is critical to our work and shows how business, from the CEO down, is increasingly recognising the importance of hands-on philanthropy. At the end of taking part on a Habitat house build overseas or renovation project everyone can literally see the powerful positive impact they have had on a family’s life.”

Peter Chamley, Arup, Chair, Australasia Region, says he is proud of Arup’s ongoing relationship work with Habitat for Humanity Australia:  “People from six of our offices across Australasia put their hands up this year- it’s our largest Habitat project to date. I think that says something about the strength of compassion within people at Arup and their feelings towards domestic violence and gender inequality. We have to remember that this issue impacts on individuals, our communities and the workplace too - people do not switch off from their personal lives just because they are at work.”

Kate Rimer, Executive Human Resources at CoreLogic, which is sending 65 volunteers to the IWD project, says that helping people access homes is in the company’s DNA.

“The Homes for Hope Program is wonderfully aligned with who we are as a business and how we want to contribute in the communities in which we operate,” she says “It is great to see International Women’s Day 2019 marked by actions, not just words.”.

To interview Nicole Stanmore or Tracey Phillips, or for further information about the International Women’s Day Project and any other parts of Habitat’s work please contact Zoe Nelson Carey on 0413 614 688 or email [email protected] or Lara Warren on 0459 248 898, email [email protected]