News and Events

Notification of our AGM

Women’s Health West’s Annual General Meeting is to be held Wednesday 16 November, 2016 at 4.00pm (for 4.30pm start).

 Location: Footscray Community Arts Centre, Performance Space and Foyer, 45 Moreland Street, Footscray


The annual general meeting of Women’s Health West Inc will be held on Wednesday 16 November 2016 from 4.00pm at Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland Street, Footscray.

The annual general meeting will receive previous minutes and reports and conduct the election of board directors.

Section 9.2 of the constitution provides for up to nine positions on the board.  This year, there will be three directors nominating for re-election, two directors nominating as co-opted members and three continuing directors. No vacancies have been declared.

Those board directors re-nominating or whose term continues for another year are:

  • Lara Rafferty (continuing)
  • Samantha Merrigan (re-nominating)
  • Catherine Harding (re-nominating)
  • Nicola Rabot (re-nominating)
  • Maria Di Gregorio (continuing)
  • Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts (continuing)
  • Leharna Black (nominating as a co-opted member)
  • Elaine Montegriffo (nominating as a co-opted member)

Expression of interest from eligible members for positions on the board is welcomed.

Information to support your expression of interest is attached.  For further information please see the Women’s Health West website at www.whwest.org.au or contact Sam Merrigan via Women’s Health West on 9689 9588.

If you are unsure of your membership status please contact Gert Geyer on 9689 9588 or gert@whwest.org.au

Get your free tickets to our AGM and Annual Conversation.

Download the agm_invite_2016

Joan’s Place: a safe space for women and children of Melbourne’s west

Joansplace_spread‘Joan’s Place’ is a refuge for women and their children who are experiencing family violence. Joan’s Place has been around since 1982, and Women’s Health West took over its management in 2004.

‘Joan’s Place’ is named after the late Joan Kirner, former Victorian Premier and staunch women’s rights advocate, and is one of two women’s refuges in the west.

There is growing demand for access with more than 120 women and children staying at Joan’s Place each year. At the refuge, women and children can access specialist services that support families to create a new life free from violence.

Petra and her three children* experienced family violence for more than ten years. Recently she and her children found refuge at Joan’s Place. She spoke to Christine, our Communications Manager, about how staying at the refuge helped her and her children start again. 

This story was originally written for whw news Edition 2 2016.

Christine: How did you feel when you arrived at the refuge?

Petra: I was scared and stressed, but I felt we were safe. The kids were confused, and after I spoke to them and they saw the environment they understood this was going to be a safe house. It took a while for them to be happy.

Christine: Can you describe your life at the refuge?

Petra: I was there for about two months. I shared one room with the kids. There were bunk beds for the kids and it was hard to put them to sleep. Sometimes they didn’t want to go to bed, because they had fear in them, they wondered if everything is going to be okay. My kids tended to act out, rather than talk about it. They would be really silly and screaming. Sometimes I had to bribe them to go to bed because there were three other families living in the rooms next door.

There are four families living together in one house. It is very difficult to share a house at a time when we all have our own personal stress.

It would be great if we had access to a separate unit, even a one bedroom unit, with your own small kitchen. It would allow you to have privacy and not worry that you are disturbing anyone. I was the one with the most kids and so we created a lot of noise. Sometimes my children kept people up because they would not go to bed. Sharing the bathroom was hard. My youngest daughter didn’t want to go; I would bribe her just to have a shower.

I did use a lot of services available at the refuge and through Women’s Health West. It was easy to access support that helped me deal with my situation.

Christine: How did having access to specialist family violence staff help you and your children?

Petra: Mishelle, the children’s support worker, was a very good help. They have a room for the kids at the refuge where they can do after school activities. She spent time with them and did a lot of activities there. This really made them happy. You can see they feel safe.

I would talk to my social worker, Amanda, about the kids. They didn’t want to go to school because they worried something would happen to me while they were gone. Having access to people like Amanda, and counsellors, makes you feel stronger, because you know there is support for you. You feel like you can get somewhere.

I did seek counselling for my children while at the refuge and after we moved out. They were happy to see the counsellors at Women’s Health West. Sometimes they couldn’t wait to be there. It took a couple weeks to make a difference, but they were happy. The children’s counsellors also helped if I was having trouble with the kids. They gave me some ideas.

Christine: How did you change while you were in refuge?

Petra: For me as a mother of three, waking up and sending them to school and coming back to the refuge, I could start seeing myself. I could brush my teeth, brush my hair, look in the mirror. Before, I could not even look at myself, because I was with the violence and dealing with that. You remember you are a human too, so it was time to look after myself. I felt I was alive again.

Christine: How did Women’s Health West family violence staff prepare you for life outside the refuge?

Petra: When I was at the refuge I started thinking about things I could do. I had a conversation with Amanda saying I wanted more from my life. When I left the refuge I started a course in children’s services.

They helped me find a house. It’s tough to figure out where you are going to go and you have no money. But with my social worker’s help it became possible. We have been living in the same house now for eight months.

Christine: How is life for you and your family now?

Petra: When I got married I had confidence, but then living with him I lost it, because he always cut me down. I was blank, I had no answers. My family would try and tell me what to do and ways they can help, but I wasn’t all there. It was like I had nothing to say. Now I’m out there telling people what I’m doing, what I need.

You think your ex might not find you but one time he did. I went to the police station straight away. I learnt that there are services, you don’t have to live with it. I worked with my social worker and I have a safety plan, I know what I need to do.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I am proud. I think about where I was and where I am now. I am doing a course, I have a home, I am moving on with the kids.

*Some details have been changed for safety reasons.

Click here for more stories on our programs, services and sector and the latest Women’s Health West news.

Find our more information about our family violence response and support services.

Public harassment of Muslim women: what can be done?


Our Community, Our Rights is a project that engages women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in human rights advocacy training, then supports them to develop and manage their own advocacy projects. This year we have been working with Muslim women from the Horn of Africa.

The women who participated are deeply concerned that many Muslim women feel unsafe in public places. In response to this, a group of participants have decided that they would like to engage policy makers and service providers in a conversation about the experiences and concerns of community women, and also share their ideas about how we can tackle this problem. Read this blog by Faduma, Fowzia, Tawaduda and Hawo and please register for the forum to hear more.

Many Muslim women feel unsafe in public places, when using public transport and when driving in their cars. Muslim women are often more easily identifiable than Muslim men, due to the clothing we chose to wear. This can make us a target for those who hold negative attitudes towards Islam and multiculturalism.

These experiences and feeling unsafe has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of women in our community. We understand this very well, because we are a group of Muslim women and many of us have experienced harassment ourselves, as have many of our friends and loved ones. We can’t speak for all Muslim women, but for the women in our project group and for many women we know, this fear and anxiety affects us, every day.

Women might not go out as much, and when they do, they feel fear, like having butterflies in their stomach. We are even more scared when we are with our children, because we don’t want to put them in danger or expose them to bad language and racism. We also worry about our daughters, when they go out wearing their hijab.

It can take strength to wear the hijab in this environment. It’s not easy being different. We admire the strength of our daughters and the women in our community.

We would like to share our experiences with you, tell you about our Safe Spaces for Muslim Women initiative and start a conversation about how we can all work together to send a strong message that the harassment of Muslim women is unacceptable.

Please join us at our forum about the safety of Muslim women in our community.

When: 11:00AM -1:00PM, Tuesday 26 July 2016

Where: Maidstone Community Centre, 21 Yardley Street, Maidstone

This event will include:

  • Presentations about our experiences and the experiences of other women we know
  • A guest presenter from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights
  • The launch of the ‘Safe-Spaces for Muslim Women’ resource kit

The resource kit and event are an initiative of community women who have participated in Women’s Health West’s Our Community, Our Rights project.

Please note that registration is essential. Please register by Tuesday 12 July, by calling Susan at Women’s Health West on 9689 9588 or by sending her an email.

A message of support to Caroline Wilson


Women’s Health West Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan

Women’s Health West’s Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan sent a message of support, and also thanks to Melbourne sports commentator Caroline Wilson, following the recent sexist and insulting remarks by Collingwood Football Club President Eddie McGuire, North Melbourne Club President James Brayshaw and Triple M commentator Danny Frawley during their radio show on Triple M.

Samantha is happy for us to share this message with you. Please read her message:



Hi Caroline,

I don’t normally email people I don’t know. But I feel compelled to contact you after hearing of this issue and reading your article in The Age.

I am writing this in my personal capacity and as the chair of a not-for-profit organisation, which provides case management support to victims of domestic violence and their children.

But to the point of my email – thank you.

Slowly, slowly public opinion is changing. The public reaction to issues like this is moving from ‘what’s her problem?’  to ‘how could he?’ Maybe it’s happening too slowly and we’ve still got a long way to go but at least it’s happening. And in no small part that’s due to people like you who are in the public eye standing up and pointing out sexist behaviour, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

I wonder what reaction you are receiving. I suspect it’s not all supportive and may be worse than the incident itself. I just want to make sure that I add my voice to those supporting you.

Kind regards,


Samantha Merrigan
Chair of the Board, Women’s Health West

Access free and cheap condoms around Melbourne’s western region

Share the love, not STIs: Why should we care?

  • Rates of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as chlamydia, HIV and syphilis are on the rise in Victoria
  • Almost 80 per cent of these infections are in young people, even higher for young people in the west
  • Rates of condomless sex are higher in the west than in other parts of Victoria
  • One way to prevent STI infection is to use condoms consistently


How can we spread the word?

Spread the word, not STIs!

Women’s Health West, together with the Action for Equity partnership, have installed a series of condom vending machines across the western region of Melbourne. The aim of these machines is to increase access to affordable contraceptives in a discrete, safe and non-judgemental way.

Download the Cheap Condoms in Melbourne’s West flyer

You can find out more information about sexual health and well being via these organisations:cvm_moreinfo_MARIBYRNONG_A5single

Download the Where can I get more information in Maribyrnong? flyer
cvm_moreinfo_MELTON_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Melton? flyer

cvm_moreinfo-SUNSHINE_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Sunshine?  flyer

Download the Why do we need them? flyer

The condom vending machine project is proudly supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.