Great Lakes Womens Shelter (GLWS) is in a tri-partite partnership with the community, Sydney-based organisation Women’s Community Shelters (WCS), and the State Government. 

WCS is a private philanthropic organisation providing funding, systems and operational expertise. 

WCS have also developed a model to demonstrate the social, economic and community benefits of assisting families and individuals dealing with domestic violence and homelessness. 

As the very first regional shelter to be established under this model, the skills and experience we are building at GLWS can be replicated in other parts of regional Australia.

Great Lakes Womens Shelter Bubooshka doll logo joined with Women's Community Shelter logo
Paper cutout of a home and a small paper family

Why do we need shelters for women and children in the Great Lakes?

Research tells us that in Australia, every night, there are around 56,000 homeless women. 

Women primarily become homeless due to domestic violence. 

Women’s homelessness is often ‘less visible’, as women tend to self-manage with sub-standard conditions.

BOCSAR statistics in 2014 showed that the Great Lakes area was the fourth highest hot spot for domestic and family violence in NSW, with a DV rate of 569 assaults per 100,000 of population.

On average 2 women per week are killed due to Domestic or Family Violence in Australia. 

These numbers need to change!!! 


Who have we supported since 2016

Since opening our doors in January 2016 and up to January 14 2020, we have provided supported accommodation to: 

142 children 


105 women

Of these women and children:

75% came to us because of domestic and/or family violence. 

25% came to us for homelessness unrelated to violence.

Women's Community Shelters logo

What we Do

Great Lakes Womens Shelter provides temporary supported accommodation for women and their children in times of crisis for up to a period of 3 months.

Since opening in January 2016, we have been providing a safe and nurturing environment for short term emergency accommodation and case support, that enables women experiencing homelessness to rebuild self-esteem and achieve control and fulfilment of their lives while living in a home like environment. 

We work alongside the women to access the services required such as legal, housing, financial and family support as well as advocating on behalf of the women and children. 


A few of the many services provided include:

· Supported shelter accommodation

· Advocacy and referrals to housing, legal, financial and medical services

· Support and advocacy to obtain rentals, transitional accommodation and other sustainable housing options

· Promoting good health and wellbeing, including self-care, meal planning and self-esteem

· Referrals to other family support services

We support mothers to obtain housing and to re-establish routines that provide a strong and secure foundation for their children. 

At the heart of our work is a dedication to maternal health and the health and well-being of women, who may not have children or who may not have their children in their care at this time.

History of how we came about

For many years Great Lakes Neighbourhood Services, (then) Mayor Jan McWilliams, (then) GL Council and various community services organisations campaigned for a shelter in the Great Lakes area for women and children experiencing domestic violence. 

Repeated attempts to obtain funding were unsuccessful. During 2015, the Housing First Sub-Committee of Great Lakes Neighbourhood Services ramped up a campaign to vigorously pursue funds for a shelter.

In February 2015 Trish Wallace, the Manager of Great Lakes Neighbourhood Services, received an offer from Sydney-based private philanthropic organisation Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) who, having heard about these local efforts, decided that the Great Lakes could well be the site of their first regional “joint venture” shelter.

WCS proposed that, if the Great Lakes community could raise $20k by Xmas 2015, they would match that with $20K, thus providing start-up funding. The second part of their offer was to fund 2/3 of the operating costs for the first two years, and 50% thereafter. The third part of their offer was access to the many benefits of their sector-specific operational expertise and proprietary operating systems.

April/May 2015: 

On 9 April 2015 a public meeting hosted by Club Forster in response to community concerns was attended by over 120 people and addressed by Annabelle Daniel, the CEO of Women’s Community Shelters Inc., who outlined their offer. Inspired by this, a huge community momentum built immediately, resulting in amazing donations of cash and kind and many offers of help, including the donation of the use of a residence for one shelter. A Steering Committee was set up and quickly developed an implementation plan to bring GLWS into being.

Within 4 weeks, the community had exceeded the target of $20K and by December 2015 over $90K had been raised locally. 

May to October 2015:The Set-up Phase

Obtained not one but two rental premises:

In September 2015, the Member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead, announced that the State Government would give “bridging funds” of $15K direct to GLWS. He also announced that the State Government would give another $15K to WCS in Sydney, making a total of $30K.

November to December 2015: preparing to open the doors

A Shelter Manager was appointed in mid-December and Case Workers recruited to start in January 2016.

2 January 2016: the doors open in two premises

As of week 2 GLWS has had 2 full properties at almost any given time, always holding a lengthy wait list of women and children waiting for a room in the shelter. While the women are waiting for a room, staff will work to refer women to other specialist services in the area to access supports until a room becomes available. 

2 women in high heels holding large puzzle pieces together as if to be working together

 We acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Worimi people, and pay our respects to their Elders, both past and present. GLWS is committed to reconciliation between all Australians.