A gap in domestic violence post-crisis care has – at long last – been filled with the arrival of a new Women’s Resilience Centre on the Northern Beaches. Starting as an online service in 2020, The Women’s Resilience Centre offers women who have experienced domestic violence or other trauma a variety of programs and methods providing longer-term support.
The Centre describes itself filling the gap between short-term crisis care and long-term recovery.
It declares: “We provide a Resilience Program supported by a lived-experience peer-to-peer Mentoring Program, delivered nationally online and face-to-face. Through partnerships with housing providers, we are planning a national network of residential accommodation for up to 12 months, providing a safe space for women to reset their lives.”
The Centre officially opened its first physical space in Mona Vale last month, making the online tangible with a space for women to feel safe and to communicate face-to-face with trauma-informed professionals to find the resources and support they need.
“There’s a big gap in inter-generational support,” explained Simone Allan, Director and founder of the centre.
“When people hit hard times, when they go through not only domestic violence, but experience tragedy, loss or trauma of other sorts, you can only rely on your friends for so long.”
Over the past two decades Australia has seen a shift in its attitude towards and handling of domestic violence, but an area that is still yet to receive widespread attention is the post-trauma care. While government and voluntary services can provide housing and support for victims, most are short-term, and through desperation, many women return to unsafe environments thereby perpetuating the tragic cycle of abuse and trauma.
There are 150 domestic violence incidents reported each month to the Northern Beaches Police Area Command, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics.
“I really started studying what was going on with the increase of domestic violence during COVID, and thinking ‘where do women go after crisis care? They’ve only got twelve weeks, and then where do they go? If they’re lucky they get a case worker, but what’s around them? What community is there to support them?’ They often end up going back seven to eleven times because they don’t know where else to go, because the post-trauma support isn’t there.”
“They often end up going back seven to eleven times because they don’t know where else to go, because the post-trauma support isn’t there.”
Allan, studying psychology, social policy and administration, then going on to postgrad work in human resources, has always been interested in human behaviour. In 1998, after working at a consultancy firm doing research and recruitment, she left to start her own business, Mondo Mentor, an intuitively designed mentor program that is now active in over 170 countries.
“I realised just before the Sydney Olympics that it was buoyant time of opportunity, so I set up my own firm and have been hiring leaders in business for 24 years,” said Allan. “Whist I was doing that, I recognised that most people who have stepped forward in life had one thing in common, and that was having great mentors to aid them.”
Forming a strong, collaborative network is a key feature of the centre, and now that it exists as a physical space, there is even more opportunity to grow, both for the centre and those visiting, she explained.
Shirley Carmont, the community liaison manager and interim centre manager explained further.
“We can now have face to face classes for financial wellbeing or job readiness, and we have classes planned for next year on building self confidence.”
“What isn’t often always understood is that some women may not have been physically harmed, but have still suffered years of erosion to their sense of self and their own capacity, which is where the mentor-mentee element of the centre comes in to play, setting up these women with other women who may have experienced something similar, but are further along on their own path and are now able to help others with greater empathy.”
Carmont, a practicing naturopath, initially began working at the centre as a volunteer in April 2021 helping with fundraising and taking minutes at the monthly board meetings.
“I became their community liaison manager and have been working closely with the Northern Beaches Domestic Violence Network, an organisation where shelter workers, charities such as Lifeline and Relationships Australia and other orgs in the space of domestic violence are able to share services and understand what these groups are able to offer in the Northern Beaches,” said Carmont.
“If we don’t know something, we will find out, and that’s thanks to our resource centre and being able to work with other groups in this space.”
Though the centre in Mona Vale makes use of the resources available within the Northern Beaches community, there are people all across the country who have benefited from the online services and programs. Allan, being born in Armidale and having grown up in regional NSW, has plans to expand the model of the Women’s Resilience Centre all throughout Australia.
“The really keen to prove this service on the Northern Beaches and replicate the model out in country areas of Australia,” said Allan.
“The Centre in Mona Vale has so many passionate people from the Northern Beaches involved, and we will be replicating that concept in each country town by finding similar types of committed people who have an understanding of their community. We won’t be flying people in, but finding local people who care about building resilient families and helping families step forward.”
The Women’s Resilience Centre has received one volunteer funding grant of $5000 from the government, but has predominantly relied on fundraising events and the generosity and goodwill of small businesses throughout the Northern Beaches to fund their operations.
Women will not need to supply any referrals or personal information to access the services offered at the centre. They will be able to access the resources of the centre either by visiting the site in Mona Vale directly, or, emailing them directly with the nature of their inquiry in the subject heading at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to the centre, you can either donate on their website or email them directly on the links below: