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WOMEN HELPING WOMEN

October 9, 2018

Jessica Woller is the Manager of Integrated Family Services at Emerge. She looks after the Arts Therapy and the Family Violence Case Management teams at Emerge. We talked to her about the rewards and demands of working in a refuge.

“Working in refuge is working with women in crisis, which means we are starting from scratch in every sense. One aspect that can be unexpected is that we are often helping women who may be grieving for the loss of a relationship, that they’re still in love with the person who has been abusing them.

The rewards are helping a woman to see how much she can achieve once she arrives at Emerge.

For some women, being supported by us enables her to be independent for the first time in her life; this could mean she has own bank account, income, choice over what she eats and wears. She can also allow her children to have choice and freedom without fearing repercussion.

It is also very rewarding to see children’s lives begin to change once they come to our service and one of the highlights for staff is encouraging families to take part in our school holiday activities. Each holidays we take children on an outing to ten pin bowling, ice skating, rock climbing or a play centre and for many, it is often the first chance in years to have fun as a family, and at the same time beginning to bond, learning independence and to trust again.

What is it like to work at Emerge?

In the crisis work I was doing with young women at a previous organisation, more and more of these women were coming through homelessness due to family violence. This was a concerning trend.

I was offered the position with Emerge, and it was a turning point for me. My passion to support women and children in crisis aligned with the organisation’s mission of enabling independence for women and children by breaking the cycle of family violence. The stars lined up the day I started.

For me the chance to work with the incredible women at Emerge who are highly educated and have diverse backgrounds in psychology, education, social work, arts therapy and social sciences and have vast experience working in refuges has been extraordinary. We support each other and our clients, and share knowledge to get the best outcomes for our women and children. It is a true team approach.

What trends do you see?

We are seeing an increase in homelessness for women and children as a direct result of family violence. The families we support are also needing to stay in our service for longer periods of time because due to a critical lack of affordable housing options in Victoria there is nowhere for them to go.

As we see a shift in society’s understanding of what family violence is, more mums with young babies are leaving their homes and coming to Emerge because they know that what they are experiencing is not okay. In the past, these young mums may have felt they had to accept what was happening to them, or they may not have known what choices were available to them and stayed with their partner. Mum’s today have a wider understanding of the many different forms of family violence and how damaging it is for their children to witness this.

What does the future hold for you and for your time at Emerge?

The Royal Commission into Family Violence was an incredible step forward, and Victoria is leading the way in a response to addressing family violence. However, with one woman murdered weekly in Australia due to family violence, it remains a devastating and serious problem.

At Emerge our future is one of growth and change, and it is exciting. We are constantly looking at how to develop our services with the vision of creating a society free from family violence. I am proud to be a part of it.

Experiencing family violence? Click below to make a plan that works for you.

Go to safety plan