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whw news

EDITION 1 2014

mental wellbeing edition

Check out how we celebrate International Womens Day in the west on page 17

PHOTOS Simone Stabb

Confidence and connections p.14

A word from the ceo

Dr Robyn Gregory

Meet our next generation of leaders

elcome to the rst edition of WHW News for 2014. It is hard to believe it is April already! Like all of our colleagues in the sector, WHW hit the ground running this year and dont expect things to slow down, particularly in an election year. This edition focuses on our priority area of mental wellbeing, reecting a change in our health promotion priorities. The change follows the separation of the Victorian Womens Health Program from a more generic funding program, with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of Victorian women. This move, developed in tandem with the Department of Health, claries the importance of targeting programs and services to the particular and specialised health needs of vulnerable groups of women. Im sure you will nd the articles inspiring, in particular hearing about our programs from the perspective of community participants and our staff. For example, on page 11 Sunrise womens group member, Katrina Svilans, provides a rsthand account of the extraordinary benets of social connections to womens mental health and wellbeing, as well as insights into the physical impact of isolation and loneliness.

Elesha Williams and Rosa Koua also provide a rsthand account of the condence and connections they have developed as a result of participation in our young womens leadership program, on pages 14-15. Their comments give great hope for womens leadership in the future! On pages 6-7, Angela provides insight into a day in the life of a WHW crisis response worker, simultaneously providing insight into the lived experience of women trying to cope with intolerable domestic lives. And on page 13, health promotion worker Django Love outlines one of our programs for preventing violence against women, through the delivery of respectful relationships education in schools, sporting clubs and the like. With uncertainty about ongoing funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Housing, which currently expires on 30 June, our crisis accommodation services worker, Amandas page 10 article about the difculties single women face in accessing secure and affordable accommodation is very timely. See for the letter we sent to the Prime Minister as minister responsible

Celebrating women through performance p.17

This year we celebrated International Womens Day through dance, song and poetry

We need your ideas! p.12

Kate Hauser invites you to get involved in Womens Health West in the way thats most meaningful to you what is it?

Continued p.2

womens health west equity and justice for women in the west

1 2 3 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 16 17 18 19 20
A Word from the CEO Who we are Behind the Scenes Submissions: Inuencing equity and justice for women in the west What to expect when you talk to a crisis response worker The Ruby Files: A kangaroo kids can talk to Housing shortage for single women: a refuge workers insight Sunrise brought me new hope Simple connections: uncovering the benets of community participation Respectful relationships program on track to start in sports clubs Overcoming shyness: fourteen leaders in the making Donations International Womens Day: a cause for celebration International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Events and notices Womens Health West in the media

Continued from p.1

for womens policies and programs. Please feel free to use the content to write your own letter, it would assist us greatly with the campaign to secure an agreement and ensure ongoing services by WHW and across Victoria. The Ruby Files on pages 8-9 outline what our childrens counsellors have been up to along with the kids who come for counselling and join our fun groups. Im not sure all of the mums will be thrilled with Rubys recipe for making slime, but the kids sure will! Our International Womens Day celebration, held in partnership with Brimbank and Maribyrnong Councils, was also full of fun and movement, with dance, poetry and song featuring strongly. See our photos on page 17 for a taste of the event. FARREP workers Nura and Intesar point to the importance of enabling communities to abandon the harmful practice of FGM/C, on page 18, by involving and consulting with women who are affected by the practice. Health promotion worker Kate Hauser then outlines ways that women from our broad and diverse communities in the west suggested they could become involved in and inuence our programs and projects at WHW, on page 12. We look forward to putting your ideas into practice! The most exciting outcome since our last newsletter is that, on 11 February, Maribyrnong Council voted in favour of entering into a 21-year peppercorn lease with Womens Health West. While this move promises to secure our housing future the parallel between our organisational and client experiences of securing a home is apparent to us we now face the task of raising capital funds for the refurbishment of the building. You will be hearing more about this in the next few months, as we begin a concerted campaign for donations! In the meantime, Womens Health West thanks Maribyrnong Council for their investment in our future and recognition of the important community benet that is realised through our projects and programs.

who we are
Womens Health West (WHW) is the womens health service for the western metropolitan region of Melbourne. We cover the seven local government areas of Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley and Wyndham. We have two main programs that complement each other allowing us to work across the continuum from preventing problems, to responding to problems after they occur. Our health promotion, research and development program plans and implements activities designed to promote womens health, safety and wellbeing across three key areas sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and prevention of violence and discrimination. Our family violence service provides women and children who experience family violence with the range of services they require while in crisis such as court support, crisis housing and case management, through to services designed to promote healing and recovery, such as womens and childrens counselling. We work collaboratively with communities, government and local agencies, and provide secondary consultation for health, community and other service providers. All women living, working or studying in the western metropolitan region of Melbourne are eligible for membership of WHW, as are organisations whose client base includes the western region. CONNECT WITH WOMENS HEALTH WEST Receive the latest western region womens health news by lling in the mailing list section on www.whwest. Like us on Facebook www.facebook. com/womenshealthwest or follow us on Twitter

ISSN # 1834-7096 Editor: Nicola Harte, Communications Manager Contributors to this edition: Amanda, Angela, Aoibheann, Catherine Harding, Debra Wannan, Django Love, Elesha Williams, Intesar Homed, Iris, Kate Hauser, Katrina Svilans, Michelle, Nadine, Nicola Harte, Nicola Rabt, Nura Abubaker, Robyn Gregory, Rosa Koua, Shauna, Sophie, Stephanie, Stephanie Rich, Tess, Trish Hayes, Veronica Garcia, Vicki Hester Photographers: Lucia Ondrusova, Morgan Cataldo, Scout Kozakiewicz, Simone Stabb, Stephanie, Veronica Garcia Illustrations: Isis and Pluto Design and layout: Susan Miller, Read this edition and archives of whw news online at newsletter/ Edition 1 published: April 2014 Deadline for edition 2: 30 May 2014

whw news EDITION 1 2014

Behind the scenes

Board directors
Nicola Rabt

Catherine Harding

I hold a BA LLB (Hons) from the University of Sydney and Master of Public and International Law from Melbourne University and I recently became Government and Community Engagement Manager at the Good Foundation, a non-government organisation that delivers programs and projects that promote good health and nutrition, most notably Jamies Ministry of Food Australia. I spent over seven years working in government at a state and federal level, including as manager of the justice team at the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and as a legal policy ofcer with the Human Rights Unit in the Victorian Department of Justice. I worked on a range of projects within the community including establishing the County Koori Court and reviewing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2009. Im a qualied trainer and assessor and spent a year working as a primary school teacher in Costa Rica in 2005. Prior to this I worked in criminal law in Sydney (which contributed to the desire to ee Australia for a year to teach kids in the tropics). Having recently moved to the area with my family, Im keen to engage with my local community and contribute through my role on the board. Im excited to join the Board of Womens Health West as I have a strong interest in health policy. I am excited to join a proudly feminist organisation and look forward to working with a proactive and progressive organisation that lobbies for the rights of women.

I have a diverse career prole that includes 15 years in Victorian Government in a variety of policy portfolios, followed by government service delivery with professional services rm KPMG and the Australian arm of a global not-for-prot where I developed an organisational transformation plan. I am currently a consultant, servicing a variety of government, corporate and not-for-prot clients. My qualications include a Master of Social Science degree from RMIT. I have conducted a variety of gender research projects and lectured in environmental sustainability and gender studies. In government, I worked for Victoria Police, DHS - Public Health (now the Department of Health) and the Department of Treasury and Finance. In my government portfolios I have represented the state at national level as well as established funding partnerships with local government. As a former senior manager within the health promotion area of the Public Health Group, I bring a strong understanding of health promotion, the determinants of health and health policy to the WHW Board. During my term of leadership of the Victorian Injury Prevention Program it delivered measurable health gain and expanded its funding base. Currently I assist a range of clients to identify and address business solutions including change management, policy and practice frameworks, strategic planning, stakeholder engagement and the preparation of funding submissions to government. Last year I worked with the Womens Health Association of Victoria on a treasury submission that contributed to a reversal of the planned 5 percent funding cut to the health promotion budget. I am pleased to be joining the WHW Board and I look forward to working with you all.

WHW Staff
Trish Hayes

I continue to work at the Womens Hospital Pregnancy Advisory Service as a Counsellor/Advocate and as a research assistant/lecturer for the social work departments at Victoria University and RMIT. Previous jobs include producing an unplanned pregnancy and abortion decision-making guide; research, community development and counselling intake at CASA House, and researching violence against women at universities. I am passionate about womens sexual and reproductive health, particularly unplanned pregnancy and abortion, so my maternity leave replacement is a culmination of these interests with the highlight being policy, program delivery, planning and partnership support for Womens Health Wests exciting Action for Equity!


I recently moved back to Melbourne after spending two and a half years living and working on the remote tip of Cape York Peninsula. I was working for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation, coordinating a family violence prevention program that provided advocacy, support, case management and art therapy to women and children from the local communities. There were many challenges associated with delivering services in such a remote location. While PNG was a hop, skip and a jump across the Torres Strait, Cairns the closest Australian city was over 800kms south. In my time on the Cape I was lucky enough to learn a great deal about ATSI culture and life. I am excited to be part of Womens Health West and play a role in the great work of the family violence team.

whw news EDITION 1 2014

Behind the scenes

WHW Staff
PHOTOS Veronica Garcia

Django Love

managed a client escaping family violence with a worker from Womens Health West. I was delighted when the intensive case manager role came up and cant wait to put my experience into practice, as well as learning new skills.

keen to support women to live free from violence and to ensure that they have control over their decisions and lives.


I joined Womens Health West in December 2013 as the You, Me and Us project worker. My previous experience involved working on youth and womens health programs in the international development sector. I am enjoying transferring my knowledge and skills from working on internationallybased youth programs to support a program based in my home town.


Aoibheann (Evon)

Hi, my name is Irish and sounds just like Evon. I am delighted to be part of the WHW team and am looking forward to learning and contributing. Over the past 10 years as a social worker I have worked in child mental health, youth drug and alcohol, advocacy and counselling mainly focusing on young people. I have also studied creative arts therapy and I believe that creativity is a powerful and fun way to heal after difculties. I am inspired by childrens creative ideas (and their resilience) and I am passionate about working therapeutically and creatively with children. Work-life balance is important to me; when not at work I enjoy roller skating, dancing, playing banjo and making jewellery.

After failing to impress at a Safeway interview at age 16, I ended up taking my rst job in the local McDonalds. It wasnt long before I became vegetarian. These days I prefer to work in organisations more in keeping with my values, like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre where I have volunteered as a caseworker. I completed student placements in family services and at the Northern Centre Against Sexual Assault and worked in family services while studying a Bachelor of Social Work/Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), which I nished last year. Being passionate about human rights and feminism, I am delighted to be part of the team at Womens Health West.

I am originally from Ireland and was pretty new to Australia before I started at Womens Health West in October 2012. I volunteered in a refuge for homeless women for over a year while studying back in Ireland and spent almost ve months there working full time for my placement. I also worked in a drop-in centre for homeless men and women. Womens Health West hired me as an after hours crisis worker and Ive since moved into this case management role. Its always been my goal to work in family violence so this job is very exciting for me.



My rst social work role was as case manager for the Workforce Participation Partnership, a two-year project to identify long-term unemployed people in Braybrook and Maidstone. I supported homeless clients at Hanover Welfare Services and then worked with young people experiencing personality disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and chronic suicidal tendencies. Ive always wanted to work in family violence though and while at AMES, I co-case

My rst job was working at a logistic company, which is quite different from what I am currently doing. I was working at inTouch -- the multicultural family violence service --before coming to Womens Health West; I still work at both the logistics company and at inTouch when Im not at WHW. My current position is in the 24 hour crisis response team where I assist women at police stations and hospital emergency departments by providing them with emotional support, information about their legal, housing and nancial options.


My rst job was as a personal care attendant for a family whose sons were both in wheelchairs. Ive worked in an adolescent refuge and as a residential youth worker. I worked at DHS Child Protection for the last ve years. Im

whw news EDITION 1 2014

Stephanie Rich and Kate Hauser, Health Promotion Workers
MARCH 2014

mental wellbeing edition

Submission to the Review of the National Curriculum



recommended that respectful relationships education be more specically and consistently included across the Australian curriculum and other relevant learning areas. We also recommended the inclusion of both age appropriate and relevant sexuality education, that respects the diversity of human relationships and includes HIV/AIDS and STI prevention information.

MARCH 2014


Victorian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) Health and Wellbeing Plan

National review of pregnancy and work discrimination



participated in the community consultations to inform the development of a health and wellbeing plan for the GLBTI community, which is proposed in the Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012-2022. Our submission argues that action is needed across multiple settings where GLBTI communities experience violence and discrimination. We also highlight lack of specialised sexual and reproductive services that are youth and GLBTI friendly in Melbournes west, in comparison with other regions.


s submission argues gender stereotypes have a signicant impact on discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave and returning to work after parental leave. This results in different experiences and consequences for women and men, such as feeling pressure to resign, missing out on opportunities for promotion, lower salaries and bias in recommendations for hiring non-pregnant women compared to pregnant women. We recommend stronger education, capacity building initiatives and action to enforce workplace laws relating to pregnancy and parenting discrimination, including strategies for negotiating exible workplace practice.


Inquiry into Social Inclusion for People with a Disability



Stakeholder engagement and the National Research Agenda



s submission argues for the need to redress harmful stereotypes, stigma and violence that undermine the health and wellbeing of people with a disability and contribute to their exclusion from social life. We recommend that intersectional experiences of gender and disability are given greater attention in policy planning and development, particularly in relation to access to sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, and initiatives to prevent and respond to violence against women with a disability.


s submission argues that in working towards a society in which all women and their children are free from violence, it is vital that we undertake signicant work in the prevention of violence against women before it occurs namely, primary prevention. The NCE are ideally placed to provide the national leadership that Australia needs to contribute to the evidence base for effective primary prevention practice.

For further information, or to read the full submissions, please visit

whw news EDITION 1 2014

What to expect when you talk to a crisis response worker

Angela, 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 Womens 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:

n a typical day, we assess the L17s 1 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 conict. 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 nancial 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.

So are you mostly based in the ofce?

A bit of both, really. If we get a crisis call well go out to a police station or hospital to see a woman, which can take anywhere from 2 hours to a whole day. It depends whether she feels ready to talk. Regardless, we always cover the risk assessment, safety planning and nd out what resources and support she needs in place to stay safe.

Whats involved in the risk assessment?

Theres a set of questions called the CRAF (common risk assessment framework) that we ask to assess a womans risk of fatality. Certain things indicate a much higher level of risk, for instance the level of control exerted, what sort of physical abuse is being perpetrated, whether has there been an escalation in the violence, whether a woman is pregnant or has recently had a baby, whether she has somewhere safe to go. Some workers use it as a form; I like to make it part of the conversation so women feel like Im drawing out their story.
1 Police referrals

whw news EDITION 1 2014

Heres an example of a call we might make:

Woman: Im having problems in my relationship and my maternal and child health nurse suggested I call you. My husband gets angry really easily and this has increased since the baby was born. Last night he yelled at me and threw his dinner plate across the room because I had to see to the baby when she was crying. Worker: Lots of women who experience violence tell us that things escalate when a new baby arrives. Did he get angry like this before the baby was born? Woman: Yes, he doesnt like my family and gets angry if they call me or if they come over. I have always been close to my Mum but I dont see her much anymore because its easier to stay away than to ght. He calls me names, says things like youre useless and threatens to kick me out of the house. He has taken my phone from me a few times and once he smashed it because he thought I was cheating on him.

mental wellbeing edition

Worker: That sounds like things have been difcult for quite some time. Which of those behaviours feels the worst for you right now? Woman: I think feeling isolated and accused of cheating. He goes through my phone to check up on me. I had to cancel my Facebook account because he didnt like that I had male friends. He doesnt let me go to the shops alone. Once my husband thought I smiled at a supermarket checkout guy. He didnt stop yelling at me until I said I smiled even though I didnt. I was so upset, I just wanted him to stop. Worker: Its really common for men to accuse their partner of having an affair. Most women tell us that their partner has accused them at some point in their relationship. Some women tell us this feels very controlling; what is your experience of this behaviour? Has he ever been physically violent toward you or threatened to be violent? Woman: One time we had a ght after my parents left. He was angry because he thought my Mum was telling me to leave him. He was yelling right in my face so I asked him to leave me alone. I said I was going to call the police so he pushed me, I tripped over the coffee table and hit my head on the wall. While I was on the ground, he kicked me and called me ridiculous. He took my phone so I couldnt call the police and hid my keys so I couldnt leave the house. Worker: That must have been frightening for you. Have you ever reported his behaviour to the police? Woman: No, Im worried hell get too angry. And it hasnt happened again. There are other people in worse situations than me. I dont want to waste their time. Worker: A lot of other women have said the same thing. It is not a waste of anyones time to make sure you are safe. From what youve mentioned, it sounds like his behaviour can be controlling and threatening, and this has escalated to physical abuse on one occasion at least. We speak to lots of women and their stories tell us that these are common experiences for women living in an abusive relationship. Men who perpetrate violence regularly use verbal, physical or other forms of violence to control their partner in a relationship; this is family violence. If youre feeling frightened in your relationship, even if its feeling scared to see your family, then it is likely youre experiencing family violence. You are not alone; we can support you and your daughter. Do you want to make a time to come in and talk about your options? In an emergency or if in immediate danger, please call the police on 000. If youd like a conversation like the one above, please call 03 9689 9588 or 1800 015 188 after hours. If you need a telephone interpreter call 131 450 (24 hours).

whw news EDITION 1 2014

The Ruby files

A kangaroo kids can talk to
Ruby Roo the Kangaroo, Stephanie, Nadine and Aoibheann

Hi boys and girls! Ruby here, letting you know all the exciting stuff I have been doing lately.

We made dolls and houses for the dolls to live in

Inside the teepee there were cushions with pictures of emotions sewn on them


ast year I helped with the SPLASh (Safe Place for Laughter, Arts and Sharing) group in Wyndham. I loved working with the two Anglicare co-facilitators, Cassandra and Cassandra (easy to remember!) We had so much fun. I hung out in the teepee the children made with their mothers. Inside the teepee there were cushions with pictures of emotions sewn on them. I got really good at sewing cushions and only got my tail caught in the machine once ouch! The children and I used the cushions to show how we were feeling when it was a bit too hard to tell the adults in words. We made dolls and houses for the dolls to live in nice, safe houses for boys and girls. The children all practiced how to say what they were feeling. Im looking forward to meeting a new bunch of children next term, so keep your ears open for where we will be running the group.

Painting teddy bears in the Safe Place for Laughter, Arts and Sharing

I got really good at sewing cushions and only got my tail caught in the machine once ouch!

whw news EDITION 1 2014


have been bouncing with joy since November because we have a full childrens counselling team! Aoibheann (you say it, Evon) joined us and I love my adventures with her to see the children in Melton. Kangaroos need a lot of space to exercise and bounce around, so Im really excited to have a bigger ofce upstairs at Womens Health West. I have been hoola-hooping and bouncing on the spot to get rid of my extra energy. Last year I was a little bit nervous to meet the representatives from Maribyrnong Council. When Im nervous I pop bubble wrap and squeeze homemade stress balls (balloons with rice in them) which feels good and helps me relax. I told them about the work we do with children who have been exposed to family violence. Now that they know what we do were able to move to a new building with even more space for hopping around and playing with kids in therapy!

Gruffalo got dressed up!


he other day I invited the childrens counsellors from the north and western regions to come and visit Womens Health West. I heard all about Merri Outreach Service, Gatehouse, Anglicare and the Family Mediation Centre. We shared how we work with children and I learned some great art ideas! I taught them how to make ubber slime using things you nd at home like cornour have a go with your mum! I made a real mess because Im so furry, see how you go

You will need What to do

Cornour Food colouring Small mixing


1 Pour some cornour into a mixing bowl. 2 Stir in small amounts of water until the
cornour has become a very thick paste.

3 To make the slime the colour you want,

add about ve drops of food colouring and stir thoroughly into the mixture.

Plastic spoon Water

4 Stir your slime REALLY slowly. This

shouldnt be hard to do.

5 Stir your slime REALLY fast. This

should be almost impossible. You can keep your slime in the fridge for several days if you cover it. If the cornour settles, you need to stir it to make it work well again.
PHOTOS Stephanie

I made a real mess with the slime because Im so furry

whw news EDITION 1 2014

Housing shortage for single women

a refuge workers insight
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 rst 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.

cross 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 signicant implications for womens 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 Benet 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 benets, so they must explore shared accommodation within the private rental market. Shared accommodation can be detrimental to a womans safety; the lack of control over who they share with or who enters the property is just one risk. Understandably, many female victim/ survivors of family violence do not want to share their living space with men and -- for cultural and religious reasons -- some women cannot share a house with a man other than her husband. This drastically limits the number of properties available to her and even if she does secure all-female housing, the chance of no men entering the house is very slim. For vulnerable women escaping violence, this lack of control can put them at

further risk of abuse or homelessness and can cause great anxiety. Private landlords are the most common source of rental accommodation at the low-cost end of the market. Around one third of all rental dwellings are managed by private landlords and we have found them to be less aware of their legal responsibilities towards tenants than real estate agents. Tenants who are desperate to maintain their accommodation, such as women exiting refuge, are generally more fearful of being evicted and therefore less likely to pursue their rights or complain. In addition to nancial difculties, other barriers to accessing the private rental market include:

Private landlords may also perceive tenants on benets to have limited exibility in payment dates or to add an administrative burden

It is evident from our work that single women in the west desperately need an increased supply of governmentfunded social housing and affordable private rental accommodation. Until such time, single women are likely to remain locked out of the mainstream housing market and locked into long cycles of poverty and homelessness.

Home at Last

Poor English language skills (during the period from February 2013 to January 2014, 44 per cent of the clients at WHW crisis accommodation services did not speak English as their rst language and required interpreters to communicate) Poor literacy skills Lack of rental history Lack of work history Unfamiliar with the area

is a free and confidential service for older people. We give information, advice and support so you can find a lasting housing solution.
We work with many people 55+ in private rented accommodation. We also work with people in rooming houses, caravan parks, retirement housing or living with friends and family. Interpreter available. Youll find us at: 1st floor Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Reliance on bond loans or other nancial assistance In our experience, neighbours and landlords can contribute to the barriers that single women face because:

Neighbours can consider tenants seeking shared accommodation less stable, less responsible, and a source of potential problems

Call us 10am 4pm, Mon Fri on 1300 765 178 to talk to us about your housing needs.

whw news EDITION 1 2014


Sunrise Brought Me New Hope

Katrina Svilans, Sunrise Womens Group member

mental wellbeing edition

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

he 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 couldnt 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 dont 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. A chance meeting with an old friend planted the suggestion that I join a couple of womens groups she was involved with, to help me reconnect with people. I discussed it with my psychologist but it took me a further six months and several aborted attempts to work up the courage to go to my rst session. That was two years ago. Womens Health West coordinates the Sunrise Womens Group that meets every fortnight at the Laverton Community Hub, which is within easy reach of my home. When I rst joined the group, the facilitator guided me through simple, unintimidating introductions. I was relieved that the only criterion for joining was that I felt I had a disability. (Unlike Centrelink who, at the time, were causing me even more

desperate anxiety with their complicated assessment processes to get benets). On my rst day, the group went ahead with their scheduled activities including me but not singling me out. At their own pace, the women made time to say a few welcoming words to me individually and to tell me a bit about themselves. I learnt they had a strong commitment to the guidelines they had written that included not being judgemental, being kind and respectful of each other and treating any condences shared in the group as condential. We shared contact details and some of the ladies encouraged me to call them for a chat. More than one of them was willing to pick me up and drop me home as I dont drive and this helped lessen my anxieties even further. Now, two years later, I look forward each fortnight to seeing the familiar faces of the ladies of the Sunrise group. We share stories, information, achievements, humour, joys and sorrows over morning tea. Like any group, we have our dramas and our ups and downs but we weather them. Our new group facilitator keeps us on track and arranges inspirational speakers, learning experiences, excursions and shared activities. I always leave feeling happier than when I arrive. I still suffer periods of illness when I withdraw from the world for a time. But now I have people who care, that I can call when I am ready to talk to someone, who encourage me to come out of my isolation with slow easy steps, who raise my self-esteem and accept me just as I am. This has made my disability a hundred times easier to bear. Thank you to the wonderful women of the Sunrise Womens Group.

How to get involved

PHOTOS Scout Kozakiewicz

Please call or email Vicki at Womens Health West to nd out more about the group and where it is held or to get a copy of our latest calendar of events. Phone: 9689 9588 Email:


whw news EDITION 1 2014

Simple connections
Uncovering the benets of community participation
Kate Hauser, Health Promotion Worker

Womens Health West engaged in community consultations to inform the development of a meaningful whole-of-organisation client and community participation strategy from February to April 2014.

e asked the following questions to nd out what is important to women who work, live and study in Melbournes west: What are the ways you currently get involved in community activities, groups or social justice efforts? What makes you feel connected to particular groups? What are the benets for you? What types of activities would you want to get involved in? How could we support you to be involved?

Some of the benefits

A few examples of womens responses from the community consultations

I feel connected when:

Groups are welcoming and theres always a smile and someone to chat to! People are friendly, they know your name and welcome you to be a part of it I feel heard and respected by the people I work with. I feel like I have a lot to give, and there is nothing worse than when I feel exploited for my time or as if I am being used as a tokenistic gesture I feel connected to Sunrise [Womens Group] because we all have a disability and I feel like we are a family. The benets for me are friendship and respect

You responded in diverse and exciting ways, telling us about leading projects, advocating for social change, participating in support groups, attending public events and workshops, engaging in online discussions, writing blogs, volunteering as peer-educators, playing sports, and supporting friends and family. We will now develop some actions to support womens participation based on these discussions with community groups, individual responses to our survey, social media posts, and conversations with women who have connected with Womens Health West through programs and services. Keep an eye on our website for regular updates. We are committed to ongoing reection and we know that the conversation about client and community participation will not end here. If you would like to nd out more about the strategy or how you can get involved, get in touch with Kate by phone 9689 9588 or email at

I would want to be involved in:

An advisory group that has input into advocacy [activities] and is able to inuence government decisions Flash mobs and social activities are right up my alley! It would be great to see women leading on important community issues, in the media, organising events. Id love to be involved in mentoring or leadership opportunities, volunteering, committees etc.

whw news EDITION 1 2014


Respectful relationships program

Django Love, Health Promotion Worker

You, Me and Us uses a peer education model to train and support women aged between 18 and 24 years to become youth ambassadors to prevent violence against women.

Peer educators participate in the nal training session in February 2014

nce trained, the peer educators participate in the delivery of respectful relationships education to young people -- aged between 10-13 and 18-24 years -- in youth organisations, TAFEs and universities, sporting clubs and to senior primary school students in the western region of Melbourne. To support the sustainability of the program, professional development training is also being provided to staff in these settings. This is the nal year of the program and we have made signicant progress! We have delivered sessions to over 2,000 participants aged 10-13 and 18-24 yrs. By May we will have delivered a total of 100 sessions in schools. We are currently evaluating the project and the impact on primary school students is particularly interesting. We are nding that young people in years 5 and 6 are willing to discuss and challenge attitudes, and that gender stereotypes are not as rigid at this age as compared with older people. So far, the evaluation has demonstrated that these sessions can have some impact on attitudes, at least immediately after the session. For example, when asked if they agree with the statement, Boys are better than girls at sports like football the pre-session survey revealed that 36 per cent strongly disagreed that boys are better than girls at sport. However, this increased by 13 per cent in the post-session survey,

with almost half (49 per cent) strongly disagreeing with this statement. Session discussions about sexist remarks often prompted boys to admit that many girls they knew were very good at sport. In February this year, we trained the nal 14 peer educators who became part of the You, Me and Us peer educator network of 47 young women from the western region. The training was well-received and was co-facilitated by existing peer educator, Morgan Cataldo, who assisted the group to understand what it will be like to deliver sessions by sharing her own experiences. We also delivered the second session of professional development training for school and youth organisation staff. This training contributes to the sustainability of You, Me and Us by providing a deeper understanding of the causes of violence against women; explaining the ways that You, Me and Us works as a prevention strategy; and supplying resources to further discuss respectful relationships with young people. The nal training session for school staff and youth organisations will run on 6 May 2014.

The focus for the remainder of this year is to conduct respectful relationships sessions in sporting clubs. It will be interesting to see how the more relaxed atmosphere of the sporting club compares to the formal school environment. We have met with several sporting organisations in the west and aim to deliver at least 45 sessions to sports clubs by the end of June 2014. If you would like more information about You, Me and Us or would like us to run respectful relationships sessions in your sporting club, please contact Django on 9689 9588, email or ll the form at
The You, Me and Us respectful relationships education program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (Previously the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCHSIA)).

You, Me and Us will now conduct respectful relationships sessions in sporting settings


whw news EDITION 1 2014


PHOTO Morgan Cataldo

on track to start in sports clubs

mental wellbeing edition

mental wellbeing edition

Overcoming shyness
Elesha Williams and Rosa Koua, Lead On Again participants and Shifrah Blustein, Health Promotion Worker

n 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 Peoples 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 condence 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.

PHOTOS Lucia Ondrusova

whw news EDITION 1 2014


fourteen leaders in the making

Here are the reections of two participants:
Elesha Williams, 18, year 12 student
On 1 January 2013, I made a New Years 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 condence 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, womens 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 Womens Health West for creating this opportunity that opens young womens minds and gives them an insight into the highlights and failures of our society.

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 condence 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. Safas story, background and determination were inspiring to me, personally. She has achieved a lot; her biggest and most captivating achievement was to direct specic 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 rst steps by becoming a peer educator in [Womens Health Wests] 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 nd out more about the next program or to refer young women aged 16 to 24, please contact Shifrah Blustein on 9689 9588 or


whw news EDITION 1 2014

Debra Wannan, Finance Ofcer Sophie, Crisis Accommodation Coordinator

Womens Health West would like to extend our warmest thanks for the following contributions from September 2013 to February 2014. For example, Merryn Snooks, teacher from Mt St Josephs Girls College brought 15 year 7 and 8 students to present WHW staff with the spoils of their gift drive for women in refuge, including a basketball hoop! These much-appreciated donations and grants assist us to enhance our programs and services. Every donation goes straight to assisting women and children.
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Zonta Club Year 7 and 8 students Mt St Josephs Girls College McAuley Community Services for Women Sea Breeze Quilters Lee Archer Sea Breeze Quilters member Poppy Mihalakos, WHW staff Julie Veszpremi, WHW staff Elly Taylor, WHW staff Chloe Shorten Sandra Thomas Impact for Women Leon New Day boxes Salvation Army

Type of Donation
Business clothing for job seekers Colouring pens for children Toiletries Sports equipment (2 basketball hoops, 6assorted balls and pump) Womens clothing and nightwear 8 pamper packs, Christmas stocking items, 3 bassinet blankets Clothes, handbags, shoes and linen 2 bedside lamps and assorted toys Clothes, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, jewellery Toys Christmas hamper, childrens toys and books for refuge Furniture and household goods Christmas presents for women and children Box childrens toys 25 shoe boxes of cosmetics, skincare, treats and messages of hope 6 cartons of toys

Grill'd Highpoint Women of the West Colin Linke Bendigo Bank Footscray: Financial Literacy Program Klime Shoposki Household Relief Fund Court ordered donation x 16 TOTAL
Sea Breeze Quilters meet monthly at Altona Library

300 1,725 50 770 100 154 9,050 12,149

Donations are tax deductible. To donate online donations

whw news EDITION 1 2014


International Womens Day

a cause for celebration
Veronica Garcia, Information and Administration Worker

International Womens Day, held on 8 March each year, is an important day for women around the world. It celebrates the political and social achievements of women and is an occasion to look back on struggles and accomplishments, and to look ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.

ere in Australia, women are paid an average 17.5 per cent less than men each year. Intimate partner violence is the major cause of death for Victorian women aged 1544. Female lone parents constitute 83.8 per cent of all lone parents in the western region of Melbourne. These are some of the reasons that International Womens Day is a vital opportunity to stop and consider what we must still strive together to achieve. This year Womens Health West together with Maribyrnong Youth Services and Brimbank Youth Services hosted a fantastic event at Visy Cares Hub, Sunshine. The day began with inspiring speeches from Maribyrnong City Councillor Sarah Carter, the councils rst Gender Equity Ambassador, followed

by John Watson, Chair of the Brimbank City Council panel of administrators. Women from across the western region gathered to witness dance performances from B-Breaks and the Big Bang Dance Crew. Grace Vanilau taught us some fancy clapping techniques and her poetry had the audience captivated. Ethiopian performer Bistat Aberh, showed us how to dance with our shoulders. Alia Gabres moved some of us to tears with stories of the strength of her mother and grandmother; you can see her Blake Prize shortlisted performance piece, Cotton Summer Dresses at We hope that you had a wonderful International Womens Day and were able to get involved in events or celebrations near you.


whw news EDITION 1 2014

PHOTOS Simone Stabb

International Day of

Zero Tolerance

of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Nura Abubaker and Intesar Homed, Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program Workers

Zero Tolerance Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the FGM/C-practicing communities about the harmful effects of FGM/C, and to educate communities in the western region in calling for an end to the practice. Any type of FGM/C has been recognised as harmful practice and violation of the human rights of girls and women. The World Health Organisation is committed to the elimination of FGM/C within a generation and is focusing on advocacy, research and guidance for health professionals and health systems.


is working to prevent FGM/C here in the western region through a range of initiatives, as well as encouraging culturally-appropriate access to services for women already circumcised. For example, we are currently partnering with PapScreen Victoria to develop a community education resource for Pap testing and we will pilot a human papillomavirus vaccination in the coming weeks. The partnership will also engage the cervical cancer screening nurses in professional development about the cultural and social aspects of FGM/C. Womens Health West acknowledges that the most important aspect of ending this practice is involving and consulting with those women who have experienced, and are affected by, FGM/C. WHW undertakes family and reproductive rights education that focuses on enabling these communities to make their own collective choice to abandon FGM/C. We provide culturally appropriate education sessions to African women who have migrated from countries where FGM/C is practised. The focus is on the womens health and wellbeing and the women decide on the topics we cover through consultations and discussion with the worker. As part of the evaluation, one woman said girls these days are not circumcised, we were the unlucky ones. WHW is developing a young African womens sexual and reproductive health program. The program aims to

assist young African women to make informed decisions; and to encourage them to develop their condence, independence and leadership skills. We held community consultation sessions recently and when asked if the FGM/C practice should be stopped, one young African woman replied Yes, it should be stopped. A lot of African countries have stopped it now, they have a lot of evidence that it does [more] harm than good and because it is a cultural thing it is still going on but people should stop it. I am one of the people. I wouldnt circumcise my girls, I dont see any good about it and also I found out it does harm and it doesnt do well.

whw news EDITION 1 2014


EVENTS and Notices

Family violence and support services for the western metropolitan region
Family violence is when a partner or family member uses violent or abusive behaviour to control another family member. Family violence can include physical, verbal, emotional, economic or sexual abuse. For example: hitting, kicking, punching, choking, damaging property, yelling, insults, threats, bullying, withholding and controlling nances, unwanted sexual acts, forced sex. Family violence is a crime. If you are ever in immediate danger, call the police on 000. Womens Health West assists women and children affected by family violence in the western metropolitan region of Melbourne. Outreach support workers provide free face-to-face or telephone support by giving you information and assistance that may help you decide for yourself what to do. Womens Health West Family Violence Service Provides information, counselling, crisis and court support for women and children affected by family violence. If you need an interpreter, rst call the Telephone Interpreter Service (24 hours) on 131 450. They will connect you with the service you want. Womens Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria 24-hour service Safe accommodation, information, referral and advocacy InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence Provides family violence crisis intervention and recovery, prevention and awareness raising, education and research, and advocacy for culturally and linguistically diverse communities Elizabeth Hoffman House Aboriginal Womens Services Provides emergency accommodation and support for Aboriginal women experiencing family violence The Western Suburbs Indigenous Gathering Place Provides services and programs to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay, Melton, Brimbank, Wyndham and Moonee Valley Western Region Health Centre Victims Assistance and Counselling Program Provides a range of services to people who have experienced or witnessed violent crimes including family violence and all forms of assault Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault (West CASA) Provides counselling to facilitate the healing of victim/survivors of sexual assault Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Housing and tenancy information Sunshine Magistrates Court Werribee Magistrates Court Melbourne Magistrates Court Victims Assistance and Counselling Program The Victims Assistance and Counselling Program is a network of agencies across Victoria that assists victims to manage and recover from the effects of crime. Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 for referral to your local service or contact Western Region Health Centre on 8398 4178 9300 6274 9974 9300 9628 7873 8398 4178 1800 819 817 9628 9800 9687 5811 8398 4178 9318 7885 1800 796 112 or 9482 5744 8413 6800 1800 015 885 or 9322 3555 9689 9588

Sunrise Womens Group Caroline Springs

Sunrise womens groups are social groups for isolated women of all ages who have a disability and want to meet other women and feel connected. The group is open to women with a physical and/or intellectual disability and women who experience mental illness. We come together to: Build friendships and support each other Get information about staying healthy Try new things and have some fun! The Caroline Springs group meets fortnightly from 10am1.30pm at the Caroline Springs Library. The library is wheelchair accessible and there is a bus hub nearby. You can see the calendar of events at Please contact Vicki Hester for more information or to join a group: Phone: 9689 9588 Email:

UPCOMING EVENTS Introduction to First Aid

12 May 10am-1.30pm

Ten Pin Bowling

26 May 10am-1.30pm


10 June 10am-2.00pm

Make Up Lesson
23 June 10am-1.30pm


whw news EDITION 1 2014

whw in the news

Womens Health West has featured in thirty news articles since the last edition of whw news in October last year. On 9 December 2013 SBS News interviewed one of the participants in WHW human rights program, Our Community Our Rights, in conjunction with Womens Health West, Ms Noe contacted over 30 Australian retailers to explain the trauma that some refugees experience in dealing with aggressive salespeople. The organisations Shifrah Blustein says dealing with salespeople can bring up feelings of oppression in refugees who have a history of living in refugee camps. The majority of news stories featured the launch of Action for Equity: A Sexual and Reproductive Plan for Melbournes West 2013-2017. This plan is based on four years of work by the Western Region Sexual and Reproductive Health partnership and was launched by Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Georgie Crozier, in October last year. Full stories can be found online at news/media/articles

Womens Health West 317-319 Barkly Street Footscray 3011


9689 9588

9689 3861


womens health west equity and justice for women in the west