This year, Bonnie’s is 42 years old. When we began in the 1970’s, our founders were young women, only in their 20s and 30s: some were students, some ‘city feminists’, some local women who simply saw the need for women’s safety in their community every day. They established this second-ever refuge completely off their own bat.
I still find it amazing when I think about the energy and commitment it must have taken to do it. They lobbied, they strategized and they threw all their intelligence, creativity and courage at the idea. These were remarkable, tenacious feminists who absolutely believed that all women and children have the right to violence-free lives.
Some things don’t change
So that brings me to today, sitting here and writing this at Bonnies. I’m looking around me now and I can see so clearly that the energy, intelligence, and commitment of those founders lives on in our current staff. To do this frontline work well, you have to have passion, care, and a genuine and positive regard for the people you are supporting. Lives can depend on it.
Forty years of dedication and we definitely see the results. For example, we’re always delighted to notice the ways women change or shift as they begin to feel safer. We see children become more settled and make new friends at school; women ‘find’ themselves and their voice; get clearer about what they want for themselves and their children; and generally, re-establish their lives. Through all of this, the workers walk beside them. They are witness to the changes that occur, always giving encouragement and re-enforcement. And they are consistently coming up with new ways to do even more.
Remarkable women still doing great things
The staff were the ones who recognised that it can be quite daunting for adolescents to find themselves living in communal accommodation with strangers – that’s why we set up the teenage room. For these teenagers, while they are relieved to be away from a violent environment, they’re also away from friends, their private space, and the familiar things of life. The teenage room is now their own space.
In 2016, staff initiated art therapy workshops and our Aboriginal mural project, both providing women with a place to be creative, express themselves, socialise with other women with a similar experience, and make something beautiful.
Recently, the Domestic Violence Response Enhancement funding allowed us to establish the Rapid Response project. This means our staff can give crisis response support out of business hours, when needs are most complex and the situations often very dangerous.
Trying even harder
The staff reflects our community these days – they come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds (they speak 13 languages between them) and they reach out to women like them. Hindi and Urdu speaking women meet regularly at the Safety Hub in Liverpool Women’s Health Centre, and we also partner with CORE to provide a domestic violence group for Vietnamese women. It is so important that women have information and support that empowers them – that they are aware of their rights and the law so they can make informed decisions.
At Bonnie’s we’re all proud of the remarkable, young women who, four decades ago, saw the need for a refuge and a future. And today I’m proud of the remarkable, dedicated, and smart young women who continue the great work they started.
So to our staff: I salute you.
Written by Tracy