Elsie Walk Launch

(4pm 28 May 2012, Elsie Walk, Glebe)

Hello, everyone, welcome. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of the 200 nationalities who live in our city.

I also acknowledge Jamie Parker MP, Member for Balmain and Councillors Bergmann, Doutney and McInerney. It's also a pleasure to acknowledge our former City Councillor, Robyn Kemmis, a great champion of this project; Anne Summers, one of the founders of Elsie Women's Refuge; a current staff member, Hazel Cowen; Vicki Pogulis, Peter Parkes, Shirley Fitzgerald and the Glebe Community Action Group who proposed naming this laneway "Elsie Walk".

It was a good suggestion and one we gladly adopted. It is a small tribute to an important moment in our history - one where a group of women took action to help other women and set up Australia's first refuge for women victims of domestic violence.

Anne will probably speak about that in more detail, but what impresses me is how far we have come since that action which - in 1974 - seemed so outrageous to certain sections of our society.

But those two buildings on Westmoreland Street marked the start of a movement which has built to a point where there are now more than 300 refuges around Australia where women and children can escape violence and enjoy safety and security.

It is tragic that they are still necessary, it's tragic that one in three Australian women over the age of 15 have reported physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives. And it is tragic that family violence is the major cause of homelessness for women and children.

But it is encouraging that the issue is no longer kept indoors, it is in the open and police now take it seriously. And Elsie Women's Refuge continues to provide a safe haven, now in a new location in Glebe.

I thank those original activists who brought the shameful secret into the open, who saw a need and generously worked to meet it. I thank those keeping the refuge running all these years later.

And I also congratulate the Glebe Community Action Group in finding a way to permanently honour the work that Elsie does. I'm pleased to officially name this laneway Elsie Walk.