Uncertain future for sex assault service

Doubt still clouds the future of the South Coast’s only sexual assault counselling service for children, despite a funding reprieve until June next year.

Moruya’s Cassie’s Place has an extensive waiting list and this week funding was confirmed until the end of the financial year, pending a Department of Family and Community Service review.   

Anglicare runs the child and adolescent service, and southern area director Simon Bennett said its role was under discussion with the NSW Government.

“It is critical that Cassie’s Place continues because these kids are the most vulnerable and traumatised in the community,” Mr Bennett said. 

“We hope the Department of Community Services comes to understand the importance of this unique and vital service and recurrent funding can be obtained.

“Anglicare welcomes the extension of funding and the option to discuss the service specifications of this service. It is the only service of its kind on the NSW South Coast.” 

Cassie’s Place was “constantly” full and was one of only 11 such services in NSW.

“Some child sexual assault victims travel up to 200km as they are unable to find suitable services in their own region,” Mr Bennett said.

Since 2010, 108 children had been referred with their families. About 80 per cent were girls. Two counsellors were at any time responsible for up to 20 families.

Anglicare said many children at Cassie’s Place had suffered multiple traumas, including family violence.

Children usually knew or were related to offenders and counsellor Jenny Le Breton said some needed years of support.

“With a supportive and caring family, one visit to Cassie’s Place can make all the difference, but often it can be a long road,” she said.

“There is work that needs to happen with the parents, siblings and wider family. Mothers may feel overwhelmed by the behaviour of the child who is traumatised.

“Their stories can be horrendous and yet every day we see children who are courageous and brave and, despite everything, embrace the world. This is inspiring.”

Psychologist Janine Zideluns said each child responded in their own way.

“Sometimes we see a significant reduction in anxiety, they become engaged in school again, or the family can take them to the movies. That may seem small, but for these children it is huge,” she said.

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