The importance of community support is paramount to operations at the Annie North Women’s Refuge.
After only three months, the refuge is having a positive impact on the lives of women and children who need a safe space after they flee an abusive partner.
Annie North Women’s Refuge executive officer Julie Oberin said it was great to see the facilities in operation.
“It’s lovely to look out the window and see children on the playground and the mothers out with them within a safe environment where they are looked after,” Ms Oberin said.
“We took our first family in for an overnight stay and they went straight into the refuge last week and they were amazed by our facilities.”
The Annie North Women’s Refuge opened in April 2018, 15 years after the idea had been suggested for a women’s cluster refuge in Bendigo.
The aim is to be able to provide multiple services to families while they are housed at the refuge.
An important aspect of the refuge model is ‘to put the complete lens on the perpetrator so the criminal justice system deals with him’.
“We can keep the family safe, bring the services into the refuge because it maybe too unsafe for women to go out to access them,” Ms Oberin said.
Annie North Women’s Refuge committee member Sarah Fawdry said it was ‘fantastic’ to have the refuge as a resource within Bendigo.
“This is something that is very close to my heart, having experienced it as a teenager with my mum and having to hide from my dad,” Ms Fawdry said.
“I’ve always had an interest in giving back after my experience of living in a refuge in Melbourne, while it was a difficult time, the women who ran the refuge made it a great experience.
“It has resonated with me and to have the opportunity to be involved with Annie North has been fantastic.”
Ms Oberin said since the opening of the refuge, support from the community had been unprecedented.
“Everyone really wants to help put back into the community, they feel this is something that has been hidden away for too long and they really want to help,” she said.
“Not only are we getting donations of material goods but also great cash donations.
“They help us provide the extras that we need which government funding doesn’t provide for us.
The refuge has been presented with a $10,000 grant from the Commonwealth Bank as part of a community initiative program.
Commonwealth Bank’s Tom Robinson said he couldn’t think of anything better for the money to go towards.
“Supporting the community is an essential part of what we do,” Mr Robinson said.
“When the opportunity came up to nominate someone we chose Annie North.
“It’s amazing what they do and I’m overwhelmed by the great things I’ve seen at the refuge.”
Ms Oberin said money from the grant would be used towards a project that supported young people who had been impacted by violence.
“Young adults such as teenagers are hard to engage as sometimes they have experienced longer periods of abuse,” Ms Oberin said.
“We already have a gaming centre which might entice them to come here and work with us so we can show them we are here to help.
“The plans are still in the early stages, but the grant will go towards focusing on any skill sets we can provide and any resources that we identify teenagers might need at the time.”
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or www.1800respect.org.au.
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