A team of seven staff members and volunteers from the Good Samaritan Inn braved cold, wet and windy conditions recently to take part in the Walk Against Family Violence in Melbourne.
The walk, which celebrated its tenth anniversary on November 23, is a community event organised by organisations dedicated to ending family violence, and is held annually around the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25. It begins at Federation Square and winds its way through four major Melbourne streets, raising awareness of family violence issues as it goes.
The new Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Inn, Felicity Rorke, said the Walk Against Family Violence was a chance to be proactive and show people what The Inn does to support women and children who have experienced family violence.
“A lot of the work done at places like The Inn goes on behind closed doors and at an undisclosed location, because of the need to provide a safe location for the women and children who come to us from a violent situation,” she said.
“So this is one day when we can come out and say ‘this is what we stand for’.”
“It’s an annual opportunity for the service systems to get together and demonstrate in a practical way what we want – we want women to be free from violence.
“We had bright orange T-shirts made up for our team on the day, with the Good Samaritan Inn on the front, and even though it was raining and cold, and horrible weather, lots of people stopped along the route and were aware of what we were doing.”
Before starting at The Inn, Felicity served on the board for 12 months and has had a long career in social work, particularly in the area of violence against women. She started in local government working in family support services, was part of setting up a refuge in Melbourne’s west in the early 1990s, while also working in the area of sexual assault crisis services after hours.
Felicity also worked at the Berry Street Family Violence Service in Melbourne and in the Pacific, working in the area of violence against women, through UN Women and the International Women’s Development Agency.
She said her new role at The Inn comes at a crucial time in Victoria’s history of addressing this rising social problem.
“What we are experiencing here in Victoria is unprecedented in terms of money being put into the system since the Royal Commission into Family Violence,” she said.
“So, in that climate, one of my tasks here is to work out how we can add value to what The Inn does. How can we build on the support that we provide to women and their children at the crisis point to enable them to move more quickly towards full recovery from the impact of family violence?
“At the moment, we’re a crisis accommodation service for women and children who have experienced family violence to stay here and be supported for an average of seven to ten days. We provide them with a bed, meals, crisis support and counselling.
“But what we’re looking at now is what else, in terms of systemic responses, can we do to support women. We want to think about how we can contribute to the bigger picture.”
Felicity said the post-Royal Commission funding boost has provided a four-year service agreement with the government, which gives more certainty for both staff and clients of The Inn than the previous year-by-year funding grants.
But while it’s great to have recurrent funding from the State government, Felicity said it remains crucial to have independent sources of funding so The Inn is not solely dependent on the government funding to survive.
“The reality is, family violence numbers are not going down,” she said.
“More than one woman a week across the country is still being killed by her partner or ex-partner.
“But often, we are unable to take any more women in because we don’t have the space and the resources. We know that hundreds of women and their children stay in motels every night in Melbourne alone.”
The Good Samaritan Inn’s 2017-2018 Annual Report shows that over the year, 248 women and 229 children were supported over 2,766 bed nights. Along with the work of the 18 employed staff, volunteers put in 1,704 hours. A highlight of the year was the opening of The Inn’s doors on a continuous seven-days-a-week basis, thanks to a boost in State government funding.
Felicity said that as it looks to the future, The Inn is introducing more activities for its residents, including mother and child bonding activities, relaxation and anti-stress classes, and bush adventure therapy which helps the women and children connect with nature to facilitate the trauma recovery process.
“We’re also going through a ‘co-design’ process with a company called Isobar Good, a design company that have recently begun working in the human services area. They will facilitate a process that enables the board, staff, volunteers, key stakeholders and the women who are staying or who have stayed at The Inn, to think creatively about what else The Inn could be doing that sits within our ethical framework, but adds value to what we’re doing.
“Hopefully, that will result in some tangible and innovate possibilities for us as we look to the future. It’s very exciting.”