“Beryl Women Inc. is a service for all women and their children experiencing domestic/ family violence, with a strong focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women from and culturally and linguistically diverse (‘CALD’) backgrounds.
Beryl Women Inc. practices from a feminist framework and aims to empower women and children to live a life free from violence and abuse.
The Refuge’s primary objective is to provide crisis accommodation to women and children escaping domestic/family violence. The service is funded to provide crisis and transitional accommodation and to provide outreach support to women and children escaping domestic/family violence. Case management is provided to families within a trauma-informed framework. By working closely with vulnerable families, Beryl is in a unique position which gives it opportunities to engage families and build relationships that promote and enhance a family’s capacities and strengths.”
In 1989, the refuge was renamed Beryl Refuge Inc. in honour of Beryl Henderson.
The Australian Women’s Register in the Australian Women’s Archive Project
History of Beryl
Beryl Women’s Refuge was the first women’s refuge for women and children escaping domestic violence in the ACT.
It provided accommodation and a range of legal, welfare and health services to a diverse range of clients.
Inspired by the feminists who established the Elsie Women’s Refuge in Sydney, Julia Ryan, Elizabeth ‘Biff’ Ward, Pamela Oldmeadow and other members Women’s Liberation in Canberra formed a Refuge Committee in 1974 to investigate through local welfare organisations the need for a similar refuge for victims of domestic violence in the ACT. Their evidence-based funding submission to the Commonwealth Department of the Capital Territory resulted in the lease of a three-bedroom house in Adams Place Watson and a grant of $4,000 towards its running costs. On 8 March 1975 Pat Bryant, wife of Gordon Bryant the Minister for the Capital Territory in the Whitlam Government, officially opened the Canberra Women’s Refuge and handed its keys to veteran feminist and abortion law reform advocate, Beryl Henderson. In 1989, the refuge was renamed Beryl Refuge Inc. in her honour. Originally staffed by trained volunteers from Canberra Women’s Liberation and Women’s Electoral Lobby, it was managed by a Collective of the Refuge Committee, operating by consensus decision-making.
In May 1976 the refuge moved to a two-storied duplex in Kingston, provided rent-free for two years by a Canberra businessperson, and received government funding for paid staff. Initially, all homeless women were accepted into the refuge but on 8 August 1983, Toora, a separate refuge for single women, was opened, allowing Beryl to focus on women with children.
In July 1986 the Incest Centre (now Canberra Rape Crisis Centre) was established, initially as a subsidiary of the Canberra Women’s Refuge. In 1990 Beryl opened a halfway house for women and children awaiting priority government housing. A $40,000 government grant in 2001 allowed Beryl to run children-focussed programs and in 2004 further funding permitted the provision of a twelve-month outreach program for former clients.
On 19 December 2005, Beryl Refuge Inc. was renamed Beryl Women Inc. In response to significant cuts in government funding the management of Beryl transitioned in April 2007 from a collective to a committee model of governance. Beryl increasingly employed ethnically diverse staff to better reflect the diversity of their clients and created two designated positions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
In 2015 Aboriginal woman Robyn Martin, Beryl’s Manager from 2005, was named ACT Woman of the Year.
Robyn Martin was also awarded the The Chief Minister’s Rotary Peace Prize at the World Peace Day event on 21 September 2019.