The Shelter

“People know that they can get away now, and that they can come to the shelter. They don’t have to remain in the relationship. They don’t have to remain in very volatile strenuous situations.”
Denice Cotterill, Shelter Team Leader

The Shelter is open 24 hours, seven days a week. It is run by the manager, Sarah Hurren and the Shelter team leader, Denice Cotterill. Together they ensure the right services are available and that women and their families are cared for effectively. They collaborate to create an inviting space, where the staff, along with the visiting women, feel comfortable and happy. There is a permanent art therapist/councellor who runs therapeutic workshops on a weekly basis. There are also many part time staff. Local women are a point of familiarity with the visiting women. Their lifelong experiences of the region helps them to give deep and meaningful advice. All staff, from both facilities, ensure the women have immediate access to the necessary support, advice and counsel.

Art therapy

“Art gives people the option to talk and discuss or not…The point of art is that when hands start to move, people start relaxing. It is the process of art that is important.”
Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman, Art Therapist

Art workshops in the shelter and out in the communities of the Fitzroy Valley are run regularly. They include a range of practises including ceramics and sculpture, textiles, printmaking, painting, animation and jewellery making. Art-making as therapy can redirect and focus thoughts on rhythmic movements and the learning of skills and techniques, as well as creating a supported space for discussion and reflection. We also work with young women through the Girls Academy – offering theatre activities such as physical and playback theatre, circus, puppetry, costume and dance.

Art in the Shelter

The women and children staying at the shelter have come from violent, traumatic and stressful situations. Our art therapist is available to help to relieve anxieties and release pressures. Art sessions make strenuous situations at the shelter and difficult legal procedures more bearable. The free expression of art and its rhythmic actions transforms the unfamiliar environment of the shelter, into one of calm and relaxation.


The Animation Program began early in 2014, and offers individuals and families the opportunity to animate stories – traditional or contemporary – using a range of techniques including stop-motion, cel, sand, clay, cut-out and digital animation.

Belly Casting

Belly Casting is also offered as a service to expecting mums. Other family members can take part in this beautiful, nurturing experience of casting a Mum’s pregnant belly, or a newborns hands and feet, then painting this memento.


The Shelter opens its doors to community groups and other organisations. Our aim is to provide a holistic service. We want the women of the Valley to understand that the shelter is their resource. They can come and go freely, and ask for services and facilities which are responsive to their needs.
“Here we offer protection and support. We are supporting people to help themselves and we are connecting people with outside support”
Sarah Hurren, Shelter Manager

The shelter invites other agencies and organisations to provide a variety of therapeutic services including relationship and drug and alcohol counselling. Nindilingari, the local cultural health organisation, runs a weekly maternal and child health care group; we have a healthy eating and nutrition program; a girls group visits from the local high school to engage in activities at The Shelter and learn essential life skills. In addition, visiting professionals and our art therapist have run a number of workshops for community groups. Women have learnt traditional basket weaving and screen printing. These skills are increasing the women’s capacity to engage in micro social enterprise schemes. Although these are small steps, we are developing ways for the women to have financial independence. When women are socially and economically empowered they have the skills and resources required to free themselves, and their children, from destructive and debilitating relationships.