Take Care Festival to Raise Funds for Women in Crisis

With demand for Illawarra’s women’s shelters outstripping supply, the University of Wollongong’s Feminist Society has announced the “Take Care Festival” to raise desperately needed funds for women in crisis.

Supported Accommodation and Homeless Services Shoalhaven and the Illawarra (SAHSSI) faced a cash crisis last year after funds for Wollongong’s and Warilla’s women’s refuges were cut under NSW reforms.

After merging the two refuges into SAHSSI, it was able to claw back state and federal funding.

However, more requests for help have swamped the service’s resources, according to staff member Kathy Colyer.

“We’re very busy and we’re not being able to meet demand which seems to have increased,” she said. “We do the best we can with what we have.”

As well as being a safe refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, it provides short and medium-term accommodation for homeless women.

Recent wild weather created a larger demand than normal.

“We had a young woman living in a tent who came to us after she lost everything,” Ms Colyer said.

“We were able to find her accommodation and give her toiletries and clothes which are what the funds raised from the [Take Care Festival] will go towards.”

Event organisers Jessie Hunt and Belinda Quinn, along with the Feminist Society, have been supplying toiletry packs to the refuges but decided to create the event after realising it could address a secondary problem women in the Illawarra faced – sexism at live music venues.

A night out at a gig left Ms Hunt with concussion when a male attendee stage-dived onto a crowd
of mostly women.

“I’ve been going to these venues since high school and I’ve always noticed an intense macho culture,” she said.

“There are a lot of issues with representation and feeling safe, it can be really difficult finding gigs that are even close to being 50/50 in terms of female acts.”

The Take Care Festival has a “Women and queer to the front” policy meaning heterosexual men are asked to leave the front row free for these minorities.

The policy created some backlash but the organisers have defended the choice.

“We’re really hoping to make a safe and fun space for those who are denied that experience,” Miss Hunt said.

The Take Care Festival will be held on May 9 at Jane’s Cafe, North Wollongong, from 2pm. It will feature Scabz and Glory Hole with entry donations to SAHSSI.

(Story from the Illawarra Mercury September 2015)