On October 16, Kara FVS celebrated 45 years of providing support to women and children impacted by family violence. From our beginnings in the Carlton Italian community in 1978, through the receipt of ongoing funding from the Victorian government and the acquisition of the original Kara House in 1988 when we finally commenced offering refuge to multiple women and children. In the present day we have expanded the provision of outreach throughout the Eastern metropolitan region and with our new Core and Cluster development we continue to provide the best possible service to victim-survivors. None of this would be possible without our amazing team and the support and commitment of our donors, industry partners and community.
A short history of Kara House to Kara Family Violence Service
Like many refuges in Australia, Kara House found its beginnings in the 70’s, a period of significant change domestically and internationally. On the back of the Vietnam war the Women’s Liberation Movement began and there was a greater interest in the equality of social and financial outcomes for women. This also translated into a focus on the plight of women living with abusive partners and the limited opportunities for them to leave. The first refuge in Victoria was opened in Kew and was followed by 9 more over the next 3 years.
In inner city Melbourne suburbs, there was a strong influx of migrants from Europe and in particular many Italians settled in the Carlton area. They quickly established themselves and in 1968 an organisation; CO.AS.IT. (Comitato Assistenza Italiana) was set up to respond to the needs of Italian migrants in the Australia community. Like all communities, domestic violence was prevalent and CO.AS.IT. made the decision to set up their own refuge in 1975 to respond specifically to the needs of migrant women. It was self-funded and controversially the board included men.
In Victoria Sir Rupert Hammer was in power and he was known as a socially progressive Liberal. In 1978 the Women’s refuge program was established as part of Family and Community Services and nine refuges across Victoria including CO.AS.IT were finally funded by the Victoria government.
In 1978 after lengthy discussion the Italian Welfare Organisation CO.AS.IT. decided to relinquish responsibility to a new body run specifically by women and Kara House was born.
The organisation set about fundraising to find a permanent location and finally in 1988 they were able to purchase a large family house in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. This original location continues to house women and children every night of the year and is known as Kara House.
In the year 2000 we expanded our services to offer outreach to women living in their own accommodation in the community and in 2002 began to offer our services to members of the LGBTIQ+ community. In 2014 we took a greater role in supporting women and children staying motels around Melbourne waiting for a position to be available in a refuge like ours.
In 2017 we started our Community Education programs that are specifically for women impacted by family violence and opened this to referrals for other industry organisations. We started with our Family Violence Support Group and then our Art and Wellbeing Program and in 2019 piloted a Financial Wellbeing Program.
In 2018 in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence the Victoria Government announced their commitment to rebuild every refuge in Victoria to provide a safer environment for family violence victims. Though 2021 produced so many challenges for all of us we are incredibly excited that in our 43rd year of service we’ll be opening our second development in February 2022.
In mid 2022 we updated our look and name to become Kara Family Violence Service to better represent to wide variety of services that we offer to help women and children impacted by family violence.