Our Director of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence, Alison Evans, recently visited services in Leonora and Kalgoorlie with Minister Simone McGurk, Ali Kent MLA, Catherine Coletsis (Senior Policy Adviser, Ministerial Office), and Department of Communities’ staff, Bradley Mitchell (Regional Executive Director) and Glenn Mace (Executive Director).
Local leadership in local contexts to combat domestic and family violence
First stop was Leonora. Our short meeting with Nyunnga-Ku Women’s Group left me wanting much more. A determined group of community women got up at the crack of dawn to cram into a small shop in town to share their concerns and solutions with us. There is no women’s refuge or specialist family and domestic violence in town. Services visit Leonora on a regular basis. There are also no real housing options, including for service staff. These tireless women in the community work hard to fill the gaps. These aren’t women trying to be charitable. They are fuelled by a sense of injustice and a determination to create safety and hope for women and girls in Leonora.
Next stop: Goldfields Women’s Health Care Centre. CEO Gloria Moyle never fails to impress. I thought she was just special to me, but it seems that she is loved by everyone in town. Staff and members of the Board talked about the effectiveness of small-town ways of working and collaborating, but felt that their strength and resilience was being sorely tested by growing complexity, a pitiless housing crisis and a staffing shortage. Delicious home-baked goods and a large as life (or maybe a little taller) Minister Roger Cook cut-out lightened the mood.
Next stop: Mara Pirni Healing Place (FDV Hub). I’m so captivated by this hub – its staff, the beautiful grounds, and the layout. Staff are this wonderful mixture of grass roots, community responsive and creative while keeping a sharp eye on the research and evidence. Their passion and commitment to their local community and family and domestic violence work is inspiring. The staff have evidence-based interventions rooted in the practical realities of the local community. What they could achieve with more resources would be quite phenomenal.
Next stop: Goldfields Women’s Refuge (Finlayson House). Yet again, it is the energy, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit – all in the name of being a top-notch, high quality and respectful service for victim-survivors – that stands out. This service does not cut corners – in fact, staff push the envelope. Staff suffer though – you can feel it – every time they must turn a woman and her children away because there is no room available. This happens too often staff say as demand is so high. The Board has a plan to build some self-contained units on-site. This would alleviate the problem a little. They just need to find someone willing to fund it.
There is limited research on the coping and help-seeking activities of regional, rural, and remote Australian women when they are surviving domestic and family violence (Hogg & Carrington, 2006; Wendt, Chung, Elder, & Bryant, 2015). But it is clear that services embedded in their local community contexts are more likely to be effective in assisting women living in isolated places (Cheers, Darracott, & Lonne, 2007). Specialist domestic and family violence agencies in Kalgoorlie have specialist and specific knowledge and information about the dynamics of domestic and family violence. Managers and practitioners are skilled in crisis response, outreach activities, and community development. They care about planning and development for long-term support and recovery for women, children, and men.