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News and Events

What to expect when you talk to a crisis response worker

When police are called to a family violence incident they are legally obliged to refer the victim to a family violence service. In the western region that service is Women’s Health West. We have three crisis response workers who receive an average of 550 referrals per month. One of those workers is Angela and this is her day:

On a typical day, we assess the L17s based on the code assigned by the police. Codes range from one to twenty. One denotes a serious assault and twenty means no threats, no assaults; a family conflict. The crisis response team handle all the criminal offences; serious assaults, breaches, threats, anything resulting in a charge. We refer cases involving verbal, emotional or financial abuse to our intake team.

How many police referrals do you receive each day?

It differs, we get about 60 on Monday mornings because of all the weekend referrals so we arrive quite early… but by Friday we might get about a dozen. We ring each woman and offer supports.

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Housing shortage for single women: a refuge worker’s insight

By Amanda, Crisis Accommodation Services

Most of us have experienced the challenge of sourcing and securing affordable private rental accommodation. Very few of us were fortunate enough to be successful first time round – even if we speak English, have a reasonable income, are employed and have a good rental history. This article highlights the barriers single women face when leaving our crisis accommodation service to move into the private rental market.

Across the western region, women report a lower individual weekly income than their male counterparts. In particular, 21.3 per cent of female residents and 14.7 per cent of male residents report an individual weekly income of less than $300. Low incomes have significant implications for women’s ability to access resources to improve their safety and wellbeing, and we see the reality of this when assisting single women in refuge.

Government housing stock for single people in the western metropolitan region is scarce, almost non-existent, so the only option for women with no children leaving refuge is to search the private rental market. Women with no children on Newstart or Special Benefit Allowance receive around $250 per week. Unfortunately, the median rent for a one-bedroom unit in this region is $240 per week. This is unaffordable for women receiving these benefits, so they must explore shared accommodation within the private rental market.

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Sunrise Brought Me New Hope

Sunrise women’s groups are social groups for isolated women of all ages who have a disability and want to meet other women and feel connected, here is one woman’s experience of the group:

I have suffered intermittent periods of debilitating depression and social anxiety for many years.

The doctors, psychologists, books, therapies and pills could only help so much. I had lost touch with most of my friends and felt unable to interact with people most of the time. I felt desperately lonely and trapped in my house by anxiety and increasing agoraphobia. My physical health deteriorated. I had become morbidly obese and had to deal with all the health issues that come with that: mobility, high blood pressure, diabetes, low self-esteem and so on.

One day I realised, anxiously, that I couldn’t bring myself to walk out the front door to my letterbox. I could not leave the house on my own. Thank god for my mother because she took me to appointments during this period. I don’t think even she realised how much it meant to me especially as she did not really understand my depression or anxiety and was more inclined to tell me impatiently to just shake myself out of it. (more…)

Overcoming shyness: fourteen leaders in the making

In January 2014, fourteen young women came together for a series of workshops as part of the Lead On Again program, run in partnership by WHW and the Western Young People’s Independent Network. They came to Australia as refugees, migrants and international students – from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Karen State (Burma), Chin State (Burma), Thailand, China, Somalia, Indonesia and Bangladesh – and spent the week building their skills and confidence to become leaders.

Following the workshops, the young women put their new techniques into practice by planning and implementing their own event; a lunch to celebrate their achievements and new friendships. Over the next year, we will support these young women to get involved in ongoing leadership activities to use and further develop their talents and passion.

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Here are the reflections of two participants:

Elesha Williams, 18, year 12 student

On 1 January 2013, I made a New Year’s resolution to never let my shyness become an obstacle and to take up every opportunity that came my way … so I jumped at the chance to participate in the 2014 Lead on Again program. I can honestly say that it was a life changing experience and I left a changed person. I have bonded with 14 other girls from all around the world and made friendships stronger than a 10-year marriage! The highlight of the program was meeting [the facilitators] and the new friends I have made.

I would like to be a journalist and the program has helped me gain confidence and develop communication and leadership skills that are vital to my future.

Lead On Again has inspired me to become more involved in my community and help other migrants settle into Australia. Leadership programs for culturally and linguistically diverse young women are very valuable because they help build interpersonal skills and self-esteem especially for individuals that speak English as a second language or are new arrivals in Australia. The program has made me more aware of multiculturalism, leadership, women’s rights and civic participation and I now want to educate other young women.

I would like to thank [the facilitators] and the other participants of the Lead On Again program for making this experience so memorable. Thank you to Women’s Health West for creating this opportunity that opens young women’s minds and gives them an insight into the highlights and failures of our society.

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Rosa Koua, 20, nursing student

I am a young Nubian woman from Sudan who lived in Egypt for four years and moved to Australia at the age of eight. I feel it is important to have other young people as role models.

Being part of Lead On Again was an awesome experience that allowed me to develop the skills to become a positive and motivating leader. I gained confidence and put it into practice by giving a speech. By working with new people I learned that others’ views are drawn from their different experiences and I respect that.

I helped prepare a panel of three young female leaders who shared their experiences and the results of their actions, career-wise. My group invited Safa Almarhoun, the Youth Commissioner at the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Safa’s story, background and determination were inspiring to me, personally. She has achieved a lot; her biggest and most captivating achievement was to direct specific issues in the community to the United Nations… Safa highlighted the extraordinary opportunities that are available if I am willing to work hard, no matter my age, gender or background.

Lead On Again allowed me to explore other ways of being a positive role model [by identifying] the multiple community opportunities around me. I have taken the first steps by becoming a peer educator in [Women’s Health West’s] You, Me and Us program. This role allows me to deliver sessions about respectful relationships to young individuals.

I am extremely happy to gain many new friendships through this program and discover a path to inspire other young people to become positive role models.

Elesha and Rosa have also expressed their interest in being peer educators for the 2015 Lead On Again program. To find out more about the next program or to refer young women aged 16 to 24, please contact Shifrah Blustein on 9689 9588 or shifrah@whwest.org.au.

Victorian women’s health sector seeks commitment to the development of a comprehensive women’s health policy and action platform for 2014–2018

In Victoria and across the world, different groups experience wellbeing and illness in unequal ways. Women are one of those groups.

Despite living in a prosperous state and having access to a wide range of generalist and specialist health services, there are still many areas of social, economic and health inequities faced by Victorian women.

Victorian women’s health services have developed Priorities for Victorian Women’s Health 2014–2018, which outlines what the women’s health policy and action platform should include, how it must be developed and implemented with five recommended actions and the principles underpinning those recommendations.