This year celebrates to the 40th anniversary of the Elsie Women’s Refuge.

Elsie Women's Refuge in 1974 (image courtesy Druisilla Modjeska, National Library of Australia,
Elsie Women’s Refuge in 1974 (image courtesy Drusilla Modjeska, National Library of Australia,

Today there are hundreds of women’s refuges across Australia, which provide women and children with an environment safe from abusive and violent partners.

In 1974 there were none, until Anne Summers and a cohort of 14 women (including the indomitable Bessie Guthrie, then in her 70s) broke into and squatted two terrace houses on Westmoreland Street in Glebe. Within six weeks, the shelter had provided short term accommodation for just over 40 women and their children.

Within two years, Elsie had helped 3000 women – two thirds had been provided with accommodation, while the other third received advice from counsellors and staff about their ‘grim marriage situations’.

A laneway nearby was named Elsie Walk in honour of the refuge in 2012.

But Elsie is in threat due to the recent NSW government shake up funding of homelessness under the ‘Going Home, Staying Home’ reforms.

There is a rally today (29 August 2014) at 12pm at Minogue Reserve in Glebe, opposite the school, to help save Elsie and the other women’s refuges across Sydney. More here. And more here from Anne Summers on the fight to save women only refuges.