News & Events

Dr Karen Morley – Chair of Emerge Board

August 6, 2018

Dr Karen Morley joined the Emerge Board in 2009. She was approached by the then Chair, Connie Ridley, because of her interest and expertise in working with women experiencing family violence. Today she is Chair of the Board, a voluntary position she is proud of.

“I began my working career as a psychologist working with women experiencing family violence. I worked with women individually and in groups, to help them to be safe, and to them to overcome the serious effects of the violence.”

“With colleagues, I was involved in the development of training programs so that general health and community workers would be able to identify, and then work appropriately, with women who were experiencing violence. At that time, family violence was seriously under-diagnosed and reported. It was not included in the assessment protocols that health workers were trained in. The impact on women and children was not understood at all well, and it was often ignored.”

“As a Board member, the biggest challenge that I have seen for Emerge over my decade of involvement has been the challenge of being a small, independent, single-purpose organisation.”

“The regulatory and administrative burdens of being a small organisation are significant. Each time we review our strategy, the board asks whether or not we should join a larger organisation to achieve better economies of scale. So far, it has been clear that the benefits of being single-purpose and independent far outweigh the burdens.”

“Being structured as we are, we have been able to attract a team of passionate and dedicated staff who are experts on working with women and children affected by family violence. We have been able to pilot and embed new approaches and programs that other larger organisations are just not providing.”

‘This single-minded focus of ours doesn’t just make a big difference to the lives of the women we serve. It also helps the whole system to improve and get much better at helping women and children to overcome the effects of violence. We’re a bit of an incubator because of our special focus.”

Challenge of being secure and visible

“Another challenge has been around being both secure and visible. Women’s safety remains an absolute priority and it brings considerable challenge. To help women to be safe, refuges have in the past been very secret. Some violent partners go to great lengths to find women who have left them, which places the safety of those women, our workers, and other women, all at risk. Managing that risk, keeping everyone safe, is priority number 1.”

“The challenging part of this is that there is a fine balance between safety for women and helping the community to have a real awareness of how to keep women safe, and how best to support them when they need to flee violence.”

“Out of sight can mean out of mind. Most people still don’t realise that family violence is the single biggest cause of women’s homelessness. The Royal Commission into Family Violence has certainly improved the general awareness of the extent of family violence as a problem, but I think a challenge that remains for us is the impact in terms of women’s homelessness.”

“I am most proud of over the last several years has been the strengthening of our therapeutic focus. When I first joined the board, we were doing little. We had just started our art therapy program. Most of our attention was devoted to the important areas of housing and legal assistance, assistance that was very practical. We still do all these things because they are important. We now also take a therapeutic focus with our clients from the moment we first meet with them.”

“Our understanding of how we can make the biggest difference is shifting all the time. Our staff are seeking to make the maximum impact possible. Women and children who have been living with violence suffer terribly. Their futures, and their potential, are harmed. We’re doing what we can to help them get their full selves and their full potential back. So that they can regain their confidence, make up for what’s been taken from them, and go on to lead fulfilling lives.”

Vision for Emerge

The ultimate vision for Emerge is that we will no longer need to exist because family violence has been eradicated. Until then, our vision is to help as many women and children as we can to firstly break free from violence, and to get their lives back on track.”

“The impact of violence on women’s confidence is significant, so helping women to be able to live rich and full lives is really important. The impact of family violence on children’s development can be profound. When there’s violence at home, children don’t get the right start in life. Even when they and their mothers are safe, they’re still playing catch up. Without specific programs, they might never get back on track. We’re working hard to make sure children and families get back on track for a bright future.”

“Our vision is that all women and children who experience family violence have the opportunity to recover and to have strong, positive, caring relationships.”

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