WAGEC is a product of feminist movements and social reforms of the 1970’s in Sydney where women organised together to create awareness and politicise women’s inequality. These women made clear the links between structural inequality and injustice and listened to the experiences of women and children who had been affected by domestic and family violence, by sexual violence and by structural disadvantage. Most of all, these women demanded social change. In 1974 the first women’s refuge was established in Glebe, just up the street from WAGEC’s current head office in Redfern, by a group of Women’s Liberation activists. After months of unsuccessful applications to the government and private developers, the women smashed the windows of vacant homes in Glebe and began operating them as safe spaces for women and children. Like these women, WAGEC has always had to adapt to survive, reimagine our feminist values in a patriarchal system and continue to advocate to have our voices and stories heard.
WAGEC was established in 1977 by a woman named Jeannie Devine. A woman who after becoming homeless and navigating the system (only to experience its failures), took it upon herself to create a space where women could go after everyone else had turned them away, a home for those who had fallen through the cracks. More than 40 years later, WAGEC has grown from a small drop-in service in Surry Hills: WAGEC now operates three crisis refuges and 40 transitional properties for women and families escaping domestic and family violence and/or homelessness. WAGEC continues the work of Jeannie Devine today, working with women in the community whose experience of violence and systemic disadvantage is not supported by our colonial and patriarchal systems. WAGEC’s clients include women on vicarious visas, trans women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, older women, women experiencing mental health issues and women who experience addiction. WAGEC are the women listening to women, they’re the women standing up for women and they’re the women supporting women in crisis.