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Women's refuges as a feminist alternative success or failure? A case study of refuge provision in western Australia: Its origins, development and outcomes

Reiner, Carol (1980) Women's refuges as a feminist alternative success or failure? A case study of refuge provision in western Australia: Its origins, development and outcomes. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Traditional welfare services have developed over the past 150 years and reflect the ideology of the social system in which they exist. Amongst the most active critics of the traditional welfare system have been many feminists. The feminist critique of this system is based on the ideology of the Women’s Liberation Movement, a movement which began in the late 1960’s and continues to be a significant influence in most countries of the Western world. One product of this movement has been the establishment of women's refuges as an alternative to traditional institutions which care for homeless and abused women.

In 1974 and 1975 women's refuges were established by feminist groups in all Australian capital cities; considerable pressure on the Australian Government led to government financial support for refuges. Australia now has, per capita, the largest number of refuges of any country in the world (95 are currently funded under the refuge program).

This thesis traces the history of Nardine, Perth's first feminist refuge, and examines the current state of refuge provision in Western Australia. It is found that Nardine, while successful in providing an alternative service for women, has not been able to maintain its commitment to many of the more radical elements of feminist ideology. The proliferation of non-feminist refuges has been an important development. Attention is focused on the role of government funding in the development of refuges and the manner in which they have been incorporated into the welfare bureaucracy. Refuges provide an important new' service for homeless and abused women; they do not challenge the patriarchal social system identified by feminists as a cause of homelessness and abuse.

Similar experiences of refuges elsewhere in Australia and in other parts of the world are noted; these suggest that the Western Australian experience is typical, a product of social structure rather than of isolated local conditions.

The conclusion is reached that radical alternatives to traditional welfare services face structural obstacles which negate their more radical elements while integrating the more acceptable and useful ones into the existing system.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Baldock, Cora
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