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Women's services put at risk by closure of centre

Liberal Giulia Jones.

Liberal Giulia Jones. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The Women's Information and Referral Centre in Civic provides a unique level of support that would not be replicated by other providers, clients say.

And opposition spokeswoman on women Giulia Jones said she was concerned about how women's services in Canberra would be delivered after the centre was closed, branding the transition process ''chaotic and disorganised''.

The ACT government plans to shut down the centre in December, devolving responsibility for service delivery to other community and government-run agencies and saving about $400,000 a year.

The 35-year-old centre has the equivalent of 3.45 full-time staff and last financial year staff interacted with clients on 12,300 occasions, 70 per cent of which were over the telephone or via email.

It publishes the twice-yearly What's on for Women guide, runs support groups for victims of domestic violence, provides personal development courses for women and offers clients free computer use, photocopying and printing.

Christine* said she first contacted the centre about two years ago while in the midst of an acrimonious family breakdown.

She was living in a refuge with looming court proceedings and said she used the centre's free printing and photocopying facilities because it was the only place she could do so confidentially. It was a peaceful and safe place where she could go to be debriefed after court appearances, Christine said, and after she had been visiting the centre for some time a staff member suggested she join a support group for survivors of domestic violence.

''There is nowhere else I could have built a relationship and gone for practical help and been debriefed after court,'' she said.

Women's Centre for Health Matters executive director Marcia Williams said women's sector organisations were being consulted about how existing services would be delivered after the centre closed.

She said there was scope to improve women's access to information and not everyone wanted to visit a shopfront in Civic.

But Ms Williams was concerned that a one-size-fits-all model may be adopted to replace the centre, which would not suit all women.

''Because it was a budgetary decision as well as a policy decision, so I guess there's still a sense of not [knowing] how much will be in that kitty to do the new model with,'' she said.

The opposition spokeswoman on women, Ms Jones, said she was concerned by the closure and said there should be a clear plan in place for how services would be delivered.

''I want to ensure that women are able to access the services and get the help they need,'' Ms Jones said.

* Name has been changed

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