Growth for Community Change

When every news story is about fear, hate and misfortune, and every person we pass has their nose buried in a phone or tablet it might be easy for us to start to think that we live in a time of individualism and social isolation. Working in the community sector, and reading the news, I am constantly confronted by staggering statistics on deaths due to gender-based violence, reports on terrorism, hate crimes and youth suicide and depression – and it cannot be denied that there are days when “big bad world syndrome” kicks in and the problems appear too great for the community to bear. Every so often however it is through the kindness of a stranger, a simple act of selflessness that I am snapped back to the reality of the time we live in. Our community faces huge challenges, but we can change that.

In the 1990s when I was growing up, buses and cafes were noisy places where people were talking to one another visibly. Today, people are looking down at their electronic devices appearing to ignore one another, which, has often been perceived by older generations as a failing of the younger generations – perhaps however, we are missing something. You see, in October of this year I put a post out over the Hobart Women’s Shelter (HWS) Facebook page requesting that individuals and community groups donate their time, and material goods to assist the HWS in providing a Christmas celebration worthy of the women and children who access our service each year.

I was overwhelmed with generous responses from people of all walks of life, individuals of every age, schools, Girl Guide Groups, social groups, men, women, families, businesses – even past clients wanting to give back to the community which once assisted them. One young woman in particular however, I feel deserves a special mention. So often, the younger generations are passed over as not having the work ethic and drive of generations passed, but let me assure you that the spirit of community, hope and giving is alive and well in the hearts of the youths of Tasmania. I received a Facebook message from Laura, a young woman living locally, asking what exactly she could do to assist with our upcoming Christmas preparations. I mentioned to her that we would love to put together some ‘party bags’ for the children attending our Christmas Party. Laura asked approximate ages and genders of children, and then proceeded to blow our minds.

Laura using Facebook rallied her peers to contribute donations of time and gifts to go into party bags for children of a variety of ages. In addition, she assisted me in contacting local bussocial-media-and-changeinesses to acquire further donations for the shelter. Erik Qualman Pulitzer Prize nominated author of Socialnomics and What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube, wrote that “The power of social media is that it forces necessary change,” and I could not agree more.

One of the laura-2Hobart Women’s Shelter’s (HWS) core values is growth. We embrace change and opportunities for learning. With this in mind I would like us to consider the individual contributions of community members, and the ways in which we can reach out to one another and connect as a ‘community’ be that online (with our nose buried in our phone, not talking to people on the bus because we are busy mobilising dozens or our peers to change the world) or in person – there is no right or wrong way, as long as we as an organisation and community continue to grow in our appreciation and realisation of the beautiful contributions that we can ourselves and those around us can make into making the world a better place, where not every news story need to fill us with dread.

Every Step Has to be Safe

Contemporary Turkish writer and thinker Mehmet Murat ildan wrote that “For stairs to be safe, every step on the stairs has to be safe,” an idea which generates images of sturdy pathways forward and seems an appropriate thought from which to begin this post about safety.

One of the Hobart Women’s Shelter’s (HWS) core values is safety. We prioritise physical and emotional safety in all aspects of our service and create a safe working environment. With this in mind, looking at the safety of both the clients we do and have served, and those we wish to service in the future, we are constantly reviewing our practices and looking at ways in which we can improve our service to ensure we are able to provide physical and emotional safety for women and their children.

Over the last few years, we have noticed that many women are reluctant to remove themselves and their children from situations of violence when there is a loved family pet involved, unless they can assure the safety of the pet. As not doing so may further traumatise children, or place the pet at risk of violence or neglect at the hands of the perpetrator.

It has been noted that for both women and children, moving without their special companions at this time compounds the stress and sense of loss and makes the trauma they are facing in their family life that much more intense. Unfortunately in the past our shelter has been unable to house pets, and the women accessing our services were often unable to afford to pay kennel/cattery fees to provide the care pets need which would have a multitude of benefits – health, mental health, and stability for children whose lives have been turned upside-down by homelessness and family violence.

Fortunately however, we have recently been the recipient of a Community Grant from Huon Aquaculture in order to fund our Pet Protection Project providing us with the funding required to provide kennelling/cattery services for the pets of women escaping from domestic violence.

So as Mehmet Murat ildan wrote “For stairs to be safe, every step on the stairs has to be safe,” I hope that the Pet Protection Program will provide another “safe step” to women and children escaping from domestic violence – by ensuring we are able to create and provide a holistic service in which every step is safe, providing women and children with a safe pathway from crisis to recovery. Please stay tuned for more exciting updates to our service!