IN the past 48 hours, one Bendigo hotel has prepared more than 60 meals for women and children living with the effects of family violence.
And the team at the National Hotel Complex is hopeful others in the industry will jump on board, as it seeks to do "its little bit" to help make a difficult time easier.
The hotel has set itself a challenge to keep making meals to help specialist women's family violence refuge service Annie North every night, for as long as it can.
The National Hotel Complex is still open, but only for takeaway meals, as per the COVID-19 restrictions. One of its owners, Bruce Morcom, said the team had found time to make meals for Annie North, in addition to completing orders for customers.
Thirty-six steaming hot packs of succulent roast chicken breast with homemade gravy, roast vegetables and peas left the kitchen on Tuesday night.
Tonight, the hotel handed over more than 30 meals.
The arrangement came about on Monday - the same day Australia's hospitality industry was adapting to restrictions intended to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Mr Morcom said the team had been keen to help out Bendigo Foodshare.
Bendigo Foodshare suggested Annie North might welcome donations of prepared meals.
Insulated bags full of food were being loaded into a car for delivery to women and children about 24 hours later.
"If everyone does their little bit we'll all get through it," Mr Morcom said.
He said hotel staff had been working with Bendigo Foodshare to plan meals for Annie North using some of the stocks of donated fresh produce, which would otherwise spoil.
"We'll just do what we can do with what's available," Mr Morcom said.
Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin said the National Hotel Complex's efforts were not only nourishing - they let women and children know their community cared about them.
"Having a freshly cooked nutritious meal delivered to them is a wonderful thing to do," Ms Oberin said.
She said women and children entering refuge were already, in effect, self-isolating from the community.
"This is not new to them," Ms Oberin said.
But the conditions created by the pandemic would add to the pressures on women and children leaving family violence.
"A woman's risk is significantly increased when they first leave a relationship," Ms Oberin explained.
"As a specialist women's family violence refuge service, we assist women and children to access the resources and supports in a safe manner.
"Case managers often accompany the women and children to appointments, and in almost all cases, they have home delivery for groceries.
"Given COVID-19, some of these ways of supporting are not available at this stage."
Ms Oberin said Annie North was prioritising the health and wellbeing of the women and children it supported, its staff and volunteers, and its community.
"We have moved to non-face-to-face support, except by exception, and have over the last week prepared to deliver services to our clients using phone or other technology until the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course," she said.
"We have increased our therapeutic responses to our clients and our well-being support for our staff, most of whom will be working from home until further notice.
"All of our services remain in place but will be delivered through phone, technology or social distancing."
She said the women and children Annie North supported had all recently experienced trauma, from which they were recovering.
"On top of that is the fear and anxiety we all feel due to the pandemic," Ms Oberin said.
Some of the struggles faced by women and children living with the effects of violence were those many families were experiencing during the pandemic, like limited support, limited money, and having to take children to supermarkets with no second parent to assist.
But Ms Oberin said those struggles were compounded by the risk of further violence.
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Annie North and other specialist family violence services have started discussions with supermarkets to request priority online delivery of essential items.
"At the moment we are short of toilet paper, hand sanitiser and Dettol or other disinfectants," Ms Oberin said.
"Our staff are having enough trouble getting these things for their own families."
The COVID-19 risk meant Annie North had taken the measure of suspending donations and allowing only essential visitors to its premises.
"It would be good for a local business in our community to volunteer to offer to collect these for us," Ms Oberin said.
"It would have to be managed well, though, as we do not want to collect too many of these items or hoard them ourselves so that others miss out."
Businesses interested in assisting can reach out to Annie North by calling 0418 562 083.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
In an emergency, call 000.
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