No funds for abuse survivors

FUNDING applications by Heartfelt House, an Alstonville organisation that helps adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, have been knocked back by the NSW Department of Community Services.

Executive director of Heartfelt House, Vicki Dobrunz, said this week: "As the state Minister for Community Services, one would think Pru Goward would accept responsibility for children who weren't given the help they needed and who have now grown into adults emotionally and physically traumatised by the abuse inflicted on them as children."

It costs about $120,000 for Heartfelt House to offer its three 18-week workshops and seminar programs for a year. About one- to two-thirds of this is funded by the Federal Government. The shortfall has to be raised in the community.

"These days my job seems to be lobbying the government for funds," Mrs Dobrunz told The Echo.

"I'd rather be spending that time helping survivors.

"Minister Goward endorsed the second three-year Action Plan for Protecting Australia's Children, of which supporting survivors of abuse is an integral part. They should put their money where their mouth is.

"When I've contacted the minister, the reply has been that ours is a Department of Health matter. It seems unbelievable to me they can't find $120,000 to protect future generations of children, and those that society has never protected.

"And when I contact the Department of Health, they say they don't have any money."

Mrs Dobrunz said about 200 people a year attend her programs. There are 30 people on a two-year waiting list for the workshops, which are limited to six participants.

"We're unique in Australia," she said. "There's a program in Newcastle but it's residential. Our seminars cater for up to 40 people, and raise awareness about the tactics perpetrators use to gain access to children.

"People travel here from miles around. One woman even moved up here from Melbourne so she could attend.

"If we don't fight for those whose abuse has silenced them, my fear is that the rate of child abuse can only escalate."

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