For over 40 years we have provided support and accommodation to women, with and without children, whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence or family violence.
DV West’s (formerly known as West Connect Domestic Violence Services) roots come from the Penrith Community Cottage (late 1970s), which in 1981 became Penrith Women’s Refuge. The refuge was originally run by volunteers. In 1989 the refuge had a complete restructure under the supervision of the Department of Community Services (now DCJ), which included the creation and implementation of operational policies and procedures, and the employment of a manager and skilled staff. As a result of the new practices, which were shaped by the feminist philosophy, the refuge became a member of the Women’s Refuge Movement in 1994 and started taking on an active role within the Movement’s activities. This included attending rallies, campaigns, lobbying activities, and hosting State conferences.
In the following years the refuge saw continuous growth and expansion:
- The creation of a Resource Centre
- Domestic violence groups
- Involvement in a Transitional Housing Project in partnership with Wentworth Community Housing
- Support services in women’s prisons in partnership with Jessie Street Domestic Violence Services
- The operation and management of an Aboriginal women and children’s refuge (Wirrawee Gunya)
In 2013 the NSW Government
under the Going Home Staying Home reforms put all homelessness services out to tender. Penrith Women’s Refuge partnered with Jessie Street Domestic Violence Services for the tender. The services included Jessie Street, Penrith Women’s Refuge, Wirrawee Gunya, Wimlah Refuge in the Blue Mountains and Nurreen in the Hawkesbury area. The submission was successful, and we became West Connect Domestic Violence Services (WCDVS). Our services expanded to include the Nepean, Blue Mountains, Blacktown/Hills and Hawkesbury districts.
In 2016, WCDVS was funded by Family and Community Services (now DCJ) to provide the Domestic Violence Response Enhancement (DVRE) program, known as our DV After Hours Service.
Anne Sillett, who led the organisation for many years, retired in 2018. Anne navigated the organisation through an incredible period of growth and expansion and created a strong foundation for the organisation’s future. WCDVS welcomed Catherine Gander as the new CEO in 2018.
The organisation has continued to grow and consolidate:
- The Aboriginal Service has grown under a highly skilled Manager
- The implementation of the Children’s Framework , shifting the way that we centralise children in our work
- The development of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)
- Expansion of pet accommodation to include the Blue Mountains service
- In 2018 WCDVS received financial support from the Petre Foundation, which allowed us to employ an in-house counsellor and run a holiday program for the women and children in our service
In 2020 WCDVS
Changed from an Association Incorporated to a Company Limited by Guarantee, which coincided with a change in name. WCDVS became DV West, and the services changed to DV West Nepean (formerly Penrith), DV West Blacktown/Hills (formerly Jessie Street), DV West Blue Mountains (formerly Wimlah), DV West Wirrawee Gunya (formerly Wirrawee Gunya), and DV West After Hours (formerly DVRE).