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Bayside Women’s Shelter

Why Sydney Women’s Fund funded a unique pilot to help family violence survivors build a better future…

When women and children are referred to Bayside Women’s Shelter, a crisis accommodation refuge in Sydney’s south-east, they need immediate help with necessities such as clothing, food and somewhere to stay.

“As soon as they arrive, we sit with them to identify their urgent priorities and the services they need to connect to, whether they’re legal, medical – whatever they require,” says general manager Sallianne Faulkner. “Because of the trauma they’ve experienced, they may not be in a position to think clearly about what’s next, which is where we come in.”

But there comes a time – maybe weeks, or even months down the track – when Faulkner and her case workers encourage women to think beyond their immediate circumstances to their longer-term future. How will they achieve financial security for themselves and their children? If they don’t currently have a job, what kind of employment will they seek?

“These can be difficult questions for anyone, let alone someone who may have experienced coercive control, where all decisions are made for them,” says Faulker. “Often they’ll default to casual work that doesn’t need qualifications or much experience. [pull quote] But if a woman has lived through trauma, why should that stop her from accessing the professional jobs that lead to financial security? Why can’t we help family violence survivors achieve their dreams?”

That’s why, earlier this year, Faulkner applied to Sydney Community Foundation’s Sydney Women’s Fund  for funding to establish a unique, 12-month program that will mentor family violence survivors to create their dream career. The grant she received – worth $20,000 – will enable her to hold group careers counselling sessions for a pilot cohort of women, who will then receive follow-up guidance to put their plans into action.

“We will help with practical steps, such as finding a relevant TAFE or university course, assisting with filling in applications and talking to employers about potentially taking time off for exams,” says Faulkner. “Our case workers might help with finding care for children, so the client can study, for example. We will help them through the process of achieving their goals.”

Working towards these kinds of significant goals can be particularly challenging for women who may be suffering poor self-esteem as a result of their experiences, adds Faulkner. “We all know that it’s easier to stay in your comfort zone, but you have the greatest gains when you step outside it,” she says. “I’m so excited we can help women do that.”

Established in 2018 by a group of local, professional women, Bayside Women’s Shelter operates as an autonomous charity within the Women’s Community Shelter network. It offers accommodation, food and safe refuge for women and children escaping family violence.

“The women who founded the shelter had identified the need for emergency accommodation and fundraised within the local community,” says Faulkner. “It’s a rental property with room for 12 families, equipped with all the security features we need to keep them safe from perpetrators.”

The shelter has been full since the moment it opened its doors.

“Most families stay for up to 12 weeks before transitioning into private accommodation,” says Faulkner. “It’s really exciting to receive funding for this pilot career project, so we can give these women the chance to really set themselves up for the future and achieve the stability they deserve, for themselves and their children.”

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