After 43 years, Kara House has updated our Kara Family Violence Service. A small change perhaps, but for us it better reflects the range of services we provide to the many women and children in our crisis accommodation and the wider community.
Our priority is the safety of women and children experiencing family violence and we will remain supportive, nimble and independent enabling us to respond quickly to the individual needs of victim-survivors.
As a small organisation there will be a period of crossover as we work our way through all the changes but we will remain contactable through all our existing channels and continue to provide all our services.
We are excited about the future and look forward to keeping you updated along the way.
16 month journey to reunite Matida* and her sons
For Matida the stress was incredible when her ex-husband took her two boys out of the country. Pregnant and alone, it took a support team to help her reunite with her sons.
We first met Matida, 6 months pregnant at the end of 2019, when she was referred to Kara House with her toddler daughter, Rayan. While caring for Rayan and planning for a safe birth, Matida’s focus was on her two young sons being cared for by her mother overseas.
As a form of control, Matida’s husband, the perpetrator of the violence and the father of her children, removed her boys from her care and took them overseas. Being separated from her boys, Ibrahim and Jamal, took a huge toll on Matida’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. She struggled to manage the day-to-day care of Rayan and Khalid, and eventually child protection became involved placing the children in care while Matida was admitted to hospital.
During this time, Kara House was working away in the background liaising with various services and gathering information on how to return the children to Australia. Because of COVID-19 this became a very long and drawn-out process, and a sense of ongoing frustration and sadness for Matida.
With the assistance of an immigration lawyer, the children and their grandmother were given an exemption to return to Australia. While Kara House managed to access funding for plane tickets, there were immigration issues, which then impacted the exemption timeframe, and another exemption had to be applied for.
After an exhausting 16-month process, plus 2 weeks isolation in hotel quarantine, and with so much excitement and happiness Ibrahim and Khalid were reunited with their mother, little sister and their new baby brother. With thanks to generous donations, Kara House welcomed the children with new clothes, toys and books. Kara House continues to support Matida and her family in a transitional property and we look forward to them enjoying a secure and happy future together.
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY - TAX TIME APPEAL
Access to technology helps kids maintain education and connection with friends.
Mothers and children impacted by family violence often arrive at Kara House empty handed and without an ongoing income. For some children this can mean no access to technology, restricting their ability to study and stay connected to friends.
Importance of continuity of education
Children seeking safety have usually moved away from friends and family and are enrolled in a new school as soon as possible. No access to a tablet or internet connection can make the difficult transition even harder. For mothers, not having the ability to help their children with access can be extremely stressful.
Help us keep children connected through technology.
We would like to provide children staying at Kara House with age-appropriate tablets and devices. When families move on from Kara House to one of our transitional houses or into the wider community, we would like to supply them with prepaid data cards to ensure they continue to be connected.
By donating to the ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY - TAX TIME APPEAL you can help children stay connected and relieve the ongoing financial burden of mothers trying to work out a better future for their children.
Your support will go directly to providing technology for families. If you would like to support this project, please donate HERE.
Dr Angela Spinney, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne and Board member of Kara House. Dr Spinney and colleague Dr Farnaz Zirakbash developed this Research Project with the primary aim ‘to assist universal community service providers to identify and respond appropriately to family violence”.
The full Research Project* is available HERE
Spinney, A. and Zirakbash, F. (January 2017), First to Know, First To Act; Assisting Universal Community Service Providers to identify and respond appropriately to family violence, Wesley Mission Victoria and Swinburne University
This research project explored the best ways for community service providers to identify and respond to women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of family violence, but who do not specifically identify themselves as such to service providers. Many women present at homelessness crisis agencies citing relationship breakdown or financial difficulty, rather than family violence specifically, as a primary cause of their need for support. There is an urgent need to integrate family violence identification and support into crisis and universal service practice frameworks. ‘First to know’ service providers need to better understand the relationship between exposure to family violence and effects on women’s and children’s housing status and their physical, mental, social, emotional and financial wellbeing. Where services fail to initially identify those experiencing family violence, the assessments of client risk and planning for client safety can be inadequate. Clients may not receive the information they need on their legal rights and safe housing options, or be offered the early intervention, support and recovery options that are available.
The research explored the best ways for community service providers to identify and respond to women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of family violence, but who do not specifically identify themselves as such to service providers. Many women present at homelessness crisis agencies citing relationship breakdown or financial difficulty, rather than family violence specifically, as a primary cause of their need for support. There is an urgent need to integrate family violence identification and support into crisis and universal service practice frameworks. ‘First to know’ service providers need to better understand the relationship between exposure to family violence and effects on women’s and children’s housing status and their physical, mental, social, emotional and financial wellbeing. Where services fail to initially identify those experiencing family violence, the assessments of client risk and planning for client safety can be inadequate. Clients may not receive the information they need on their legal rights and safe housing options, or be offered the early intervention, support and recovery options that are available.
The overall project objectives are:
LGBTIQ people impacted by sexual, domestic and family violence (SDFV) from across Australia will now have access to relevant, culturally appropriate and state-specific information and resources with the national rollout of the digital support hub, Say It Out Loud
Produced by ACON, Australia’s largest sexuality and gender diverse health organisation, Say It Out Loud is an online platform on sexual, domestic and family violence designed specifically for LGBTIQ people. First launched as a NSW specific site in 2017, the resource received funding from the Department of Social Services in 2019 to be expanded nationwide.
The new national website, being launched today to coincide with the final day of the annual campaign ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, provides comprehensive and inclusive information for LGBTIQ communities around the country affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault. It focuses on building healthy relationships and features tips, assessment tools, safety planning measures, videos, personal stories and other support resources.
Do you work with clients of diverse genders and sexualities who have experienced sexual, domestic or family violence?
As a proud partner, Kara House is responsible for updating the state specific content for Victoria. Kara House will regularly update support service information, content for the What’s On calendar section of Say It Out Loud as well as any major policy and legislation changes and any other community specific information, resources, campaigns and other material and information that could affect LGBTIQ people experiencing or using abuse.
If you would like to discuss how your organisation and work with LGBTIQ community members can be promoted please contact: Katie at email@example.com or call 9899 5666
Dr. Ilsa Evans, Higher Instance Education Coordinator at Chisholm, Melbourne and member of the Kara House Board writes about the traumatic effects of 2020 on women and how it will continue to reverberate for women for years to come.
The year 2020 began in the midst of a bushfire crisis, before sliding almost seamlessly into a pandemic that necessitated an unprecedented global response. Impacts have been felt on every societal level - macro, meso and micro. Lives lost, economies battered, along with job security, tourism, education, and immigration. With regard to COVID-19, there is no doubt that Australia has weathered the situation comparatively well. Nevertheless, particularly as much of Victoria enters a second period of lockdown, there would be very few people across the nation who have not felt the effects in some way.
However, disaster situations are also a little like icebergs, in that many ramifications are less visible than others. One of these is the gendered nature of both the immediate impacts and the longer-term recovery. Data collated by Women’s Health East (2020) reveal that the women are disproportionately affected. They form the majority of essential workers, and they are also in the lowest paid jobs. At the same time, women are performing far more unpaid labour during lockdown, including the responsibility for education at home. 55% of job losses related to COVID-19 belong to women, while the majority of the casual workers unable to access job-keeper payments are women, and women are depleting their superannuation at a higher rate than men. The mental health impacts of COVID-19 are also gendered, with women experiencing higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress, while the Women’s Mental Health Clinic at the Alfred Hospital has seen a 2800% increase in demand.
In addition, existing gender inequalities are often exacerbated during a health crisis. Women already provide disproportionate care in both the workplace (70% of workers in the health and social services sectors are women), and at home (globally, women perform 76% of unpaid care work). Early evidence already indicates that women are facing increased financial insecurity. The situation is exacerbated by more time being spent at home due to isolation measures and, for many, the home also now being their workplace (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2020). Yet, simultaneously, evidence has long indicated that, for women, home is the most dangerous place to be (UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2018). The bottom line is that one of the most potentially harmful impacts of the pandemic, for women and their children, is a heightened risk of domestic violence.
Relationship violence increases in the wake of a disaster. For instance, after the Canterbury earthquake, NZ police reported a 53% rise in domestic violence. In the US, studies documented a four-fold increase following two disasters and an astounding 98 per cent increase in physical victimisation of women after Hurricane Katrina. In Australia, research strongly indicates a substantial rise in violence against women in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires (Parkinson & Zara, 2013)
Similarly, emerging global data indicates an intensification of violence, particularly domestic violence, against women and girls since the outbreak of COVID-19. UN Women (2020) is calling this a ‘shadow pandemic’, and report that increased cases of domestic violence and demands for emergency shelter have been recorded in Canada, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. Reports of domestic violence in France have increased by 30% during lockdown, while calls to emergency helplines in Singapore recorded a 33% increase.
Within Victoria, a survey of practitioners responding to women experiencing violence during the current pandemic found an increase in both the severity and frequency of violence, as well as an increase in complexity of needs and even, disturbingly, new forms of intimate partner violence (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2020). There are over 500 calls being made each week to Victoria Police, a 94% increase to men’s services, and a 50% increase within the Magistrate’s Court (Women’s Health East, 2020).
As detailed by Parkinson & Zara (2013), ‘disaster itself can trigger an increase in the severity of existing violence and violence that is new. In existing situations, women’s preparation and evacuation strategies may be limited by concessions to controlling partners or, more directly, by lack of options… women may have no choice but to rely on abusive partners to keep themselves and their children housed and relatively safe.’ However, this research also highlighted that domestic violence is not recognised as a legitimate issue in the post-disaster reconstruction period. As we continue to wade through the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its inevitable long-term effects, we must learn from the lessons of the past.
Returning to the iceberg analogy used earlier, research has long indicated that the statistics on violence against women only represent the tip of the issue. The majority of victim survivors never come to the attention of authorities, or even the service sector. The long-term effects of an abusive relationship reverberate through the lives of those affected, even many years after the relationship itself has ended (Evans, 2007). Yet they live with the impacts in silence. As we manage our response to these unprecedented times, we owe it to them to not do the same.
Evans, I.C. (2007). Battle-scars: Long-term effects of prior domestic violence. Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, Monash University, Clayton.
Parkinson, D. & Zara, C. (2013). The hidden disaster: domestic violence in the aftermath of natural disaster. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Volume 28 (2).
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (2018). Global Study on Homicide: gender-related killing of women and girls. Vienna.
UN Women (2020). The Shadow Pandemic: Violence Against Women and Girls and COVID-19. Available at: https://www.wgea.gov.au/topics/gendered-impact-of-covid-19
Women’s Health East (2020). ‘Towards a Gender Equal Recovery’ COVID-19 Factsheets. Available at: https://whe.org.au/blog/2020/06/towards-a-gender-equal-recovery-covid-19-factsheets/
Workplace Gender Equality Agency (2020). Gendered impact of COVID-19. Available at: https://www.wgea.gov.au/topics/gendered-impact-of-covid-19
Dr Angela Spinney, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne and Board member of Kara House writes about the intersection of domestic and family violence and homelessness.
Family violence is the main driver of homelessness for women and children in Australia. Many women who have experienced it are owners or tenants of a home that they have fled as a result of violence. It is quite extraordinary to think that a woman may be a victim of a crime and become homeless as a consequence while the perpetrator remains living in the property. Yet this is the norm.
For the past 45 plus years the refuge movement has done a terrific job of keeping women safe, but it means that we view the problem of family violence as being solved by removing the victims from their homes. It is too easy to think, "job done, they are safe now". This solution does not acknowledge that for many women and children being forced to leave your home and become homeless is deeply disturbing, and that subsequent substandard housing conditions compound the trauma of the violence.
We know that after fleeing, women and children are generally forced to make a series of moves between temporary accommodations, and that the loss of their home can have devastating and long-term consequences.
Entry into refuge and then transitional accommodation means two moves. Moving to private rental accommodation can lead to many more housing moves over time, as increasing rents force women and their children further from their communities and networks. Public housing makes up only 3 per cent of the housing in Victoria; access to the remainder is dictated by how much you can afford to pay. Research# has found that it would be far more favourable, both in terms of reducing trauma and in terms of cost savings, for as many women as possible to be empowered and enabled to remain safely in their own home with the perpetrator removed.
Choice is important. Some women may no longer feel safe at home, or may be so unhappy there they wish to leave and start afresh. There will also be circumstances when police advise women that they are unable to ensure their safety. However, that is very much the exception. More than twelve years’ experience from Sanctuary schemes in the UK show that many women want to stay in their own home, and it is now the norm there.
Stay-at-home schemes require skilled workers to help women undertake effective risk assessments of their individual situation, assist with the provision of security upgrades to properties, provide ongoing support, and link people with empathetic peers who have had similar experiences.
There are potential barriers; first, a relationship breakdown causes less money to be available for housing. For an owner-occupier with a mortgage, or a private tenant, this decrease in funds could make it impossible to remain in their home. However, enhanced government subsidy payments to meet such shortfalls would generally be less expensive than providing women and their children with homelessness accommodation. While subsidising rent or even mortgage interest payments may seem shocking to some, it is a much more economical and less traumatic solution than processing women through the Australian homelessness service system.
Secondly, it relies upon ensuring that a perpetrator is removed and kept away. This relies in turn upon an appropriate and strongly enforced justice response to family violence. Family violence is not solved by hiding women away, but rather by a perpetrator being assured that there will be serious consequences for his actions. If perpetrators are dealt with strongly enough by the criminal justice system (including imprisonment, with heavy penalties for breaches of exclusion orders) then women can remain safely in their home.
The removal of perpetrators from the family home would be assisted by a greater awareness of the rights available to victims of family violence. Victorian tenancy legislation allows a tenant who has experienced family violence to apply to a tribunal to have their tenancy agreement amended to remove the name of the perpetrator from the tenancy. This ends the perpetrator's tenancy and any rights they had over the tenancy. Residents who are not tenants can apply to have their name added so that they can continue to live in the home with the perpetrator removed. Likewise the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) allows anyone who occupies a rental property as their primary residence to change the locks without the landlord's approval and regardless of whether they are named on the tenancy agreement, as long as they have a "reasonable excuse" for doing so.
Crisis accommodation will always be needed as an option, but let us work together to make sure that women who have experienced DFV are increasingly given real choice. I would love to hear your views. firstname.lastname@example.org
# e.g. National mapping and meta-evaluation outlining key features of effective "safe at home" programs that enhance safety and prevent homelessness for women and their children who have experienced domestic and family violence./ Jan Breckenridge, Donna Chung, Angela Spinney, Carole Zufferey. Sydney : ANROWS, c 2015.
Available to download free of charge from the ANROWS website. www.anrows.org.au
This article is adapted from a piece I wrote for The Guardian newspaper at the time of the RCFV in July 2015 Domestic violence perpetrators deprive victims even of roof overhead,(24 July 2015) Dr Angela Spinney
Field placement has long been an integral part of vocational education and training for those intending to work anywhere across the family violence sector. Dr Ilsa Evans - Member Management Committe
It offers students applied work experience, networking opportunities and a greater understanding of how professionals operate across the sector. It also hones the skills required to effectively facilitate independent learning while providing, crucially, a platform for students to link class-based theory with actual practice. The vital importance of field placement is recognised by both the Australian Council of Community Workers (ACWA) and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).
Each year Kara House offers a number of placement positions to students who are undertaking related courses, such as the Diploma of Community Services or the Bachelor of Social Work. The students are allocated to the mentorship of a staff member on a rotating basis, under the auspices of Kara House’s Specialist Senior Family Violence Practitioner Jen. About the program, Jen says “Kara House offers the student an insight into intensive crisis case management and risk assessment and allows the student the opportunity to interact directly with clients impacted by family violence.”
A significant proportion of these students come from Chisholm Institute of TAFE in the south-east, and a mutually beneficial relationship has been built over the past five years. An indication of the programs successs is that all recent students have since gained employment within the broader community services sector, and most within the family violence sector itself. As the most recent placement student, Lea, says “Kara House provided me with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude to be able to work within Family Violence.” About to graduate from her diploma Lea is an excellent example of the vital role of student placement.
Fully-supported supervision and the willingness of the staff at Kara House to share their time and knowledge has been the bedrock of the program’s success. In this, they do not just benefit both organisations involved but the sector as a whole.
Family Violence can be a challenging area within which to work and operate, and it is imperative that newly emerging workers have an understanding of the procedures, protocols and practice as well as the values and philosophies of the sector as a whole. Kara House is to be congratulated for playing their part so ably in this regard.
Dr Ilsa Evans is Group Coordinator in the Community Services at Chisholm Insitute
Often the thought of attending Court and facing the perpetrator is a frightening experience, and this is where a Kara House Specialist Family Violence Practitioner can help provide both practical and emotional support to help guide the client through the process.
When meeting with a client for the first time and assessing her risk, the practitioner will discuss the client obtaining a Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO). A FVIO protects a person from a family member who is using violence.
To prepare a client for Court, the practitioner will refer them to a local service for legal advice and then contact the local Magistrate’s Court to book a date for an FVIO application to be submitted. The FVIO application is a complex form and the practitioner assists in ensuring all the details are correct and factual.
On the Court date the practitioner will meet the client at Court and remain with them until the process is completed. There is usually a safe room where the client can wait with the practitioner to ensure they are not intimidated or at risk from the perpetrator.
The practitioner helps to navigate the often complex process, providing information, advocacy and emotional support. The practitioner will explain the Conditions on the Order and the breach procedure, should the perpetrator breach the FVIO.
The practitioner is also available to provide ongoing support if there is a breach or if the client is required to return to Court at a later date.
For victims of family violence, the impact of trauma can make it incredibly difficult to verbalise thoughts.
Strong feelings of shame, humiliation, guilt and fear around speaking of the abuse can make it even more difficult for them to receive the support and direction they really need.
Women often arrive at Kara House with very little, having fled their home, job, family and community. It is an incredibly isolating and stressful time. Talking about trauma and engaging with trained specialists during the initial crisis is an incredibly important part of their road to recovery.
In 2018, we introduced the Art Therapy Program to help our clients during this time. Each fortnight, clients at the refuge participate in a two hour session where they are taken through aspecifically designed artistic exercise. The program is facilitated by an accredited Art Therapist and a Kara House Specialist Family Violence Practitioner.
The art therapy provides an empowering outlet to process feelings and thoughts, by allowing them to express themselves through art rather than verbal language. Clients can make sense of frightful memories and find their way through the chaos and raw emotion of abuse.
Most importantly, art therapy provides opportunities for discussion and engagement, allowing Kara House to help the women create strategies for a better future for themselves and their children.
Art therapy has been identified as a therapeutic response appropriate for women and children of all ages impacted by the trauma of family violence. We have had great feedback from the participants, and we believe initiatives like the Art Therapy Program greatly improve the long term outcome of the women and children we work with.
Our MOVING ON Family Violence Support Group is for women who have experienced family violence and might be feeling alone, stuck and overwhelmed. Over 6 weeks enjoy relaxation activities like music therapy as well as group discussions and one-on-one chats.
It's a safe place to take time out, make strategies for the future and connect with other women in similar circumstances. The group is facilitated by specialist family violence practitioners who understand your situation and FREE CHILDCARE is available.
FREE CHILDCARE is available to all participants
Our MOVING ON Family Violence Support Group starts Fberuary 12 and meets Wednesday mornings between 10am and 12pm. We welcome women of all ages and backgrounds attending. FREE childcare is provided to let you concentrate on your well-being. The group is facilitated by specialist family violence practitioners.
Some of the activities include Music Therapy and facilitated group discussions and one-on-one chats.
The primary aim is family violence education and assistance to help women to develop solutions and strategies to build self-worth and move forward. Beneficial activities are used to relax and improve the well-being while creating opportunies for facilitated group discussions and one-on-one chats.
The group is open individual or referrals from organisations like Women's Services, Housing Services, Family Services, Docorres, Schools etc. Ideally clients shouls attend for all 6 weeks but we are open to them attending one or more sessions.
MOVING ON Family Violence Support Group is an innitiative of Kara House and funded by a private grant and out ongoing donors. In 2019, Kara House ran four MOVING ON groups with great outcomes. We plan to continue the group right through 2020.
To find out more about the group please contact Kara House on 1800 900 520 or email@example.com
On the 16 October, Kara House celebrated 40 years of empowering and supporting women and children escaping family violence. To mark the important occasion we held an evening event at Box Hill Town Hall. On the night, we were delighted to be joined by current and past staff, former Management Committee members, our donors and supporters and well as members of the local community. CR Andrew Davenport Mayor of the City of White horse, Robert Clark MP for Box Hill, CR Tina Liu and CR Bill Bennett all came to lend their support.
Master of Ceremonies, Comedian and Heath Advocate Nelly Thomas kept those attending laughing while beautifully expressing the sentiment and the importance of the work of Kara House. Firstly, the Chair of the Management Committee, Margaret Morrissey welcomed the guests and spoke of the excitement and significance of Kara House turning 40.
The City of Whitehorse has provided Kara House with a significant support over the last year and we were happy to invite CR Andrew Davenport Mayor to speak about their importance of Kara House in the local community and their commitment to the prevention of family violence.
The keynote speaker was Associate Professor Suellen Murray author of the book “From margins to Mainstream: the Domestic Violence Services Movement in Victoria”. As a former member of the management committee, she was able to talk about the history of Kara house then give great insight into the current Family Violence sector.
We were honoured and privileged to have former client Liang* to speak of her time and association with Kara House. She told her painful story and how, with the help of Kara House she was able to achieve a wonderful outcome and is now enjoying a great future.
Next Students from Swinburne University displayed the new website they are redeveloping for Kara House. The website looks amazing and we are looking forward to its release at the end of the year. Finally Veronica Coleman (Kara House Manager) and Catherine Lockstone (Vice Chair) spoke of the future direction and plans for Kara House.
We were delighted that so many supporters, colleagues and the local community were able to join in the celebration!
*Liang – name changed
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8th Kara House attended the Women In Rotary Breakfast with a group of our favourite supporters and advocates. The primary objective of the event is to celebrate women’s achievements on the road to gender equality. A discussion panel of representatives of the media, Alfred Hospital, Police Force and a local school discussed the event topic “Today’s girls – tomorrow’s leaders”.
Those in attendance were Lucy and Alex from Donvale Chiropractic Centre, who year after year gift us toys and clothing at Christmas, and Joy Gibson and Kelly Quirk from Box Hill Institute who have assisted with fundraising in the past year. Dr Angela Spinney and Christine Hayes also attended from Swinburne University who advocate and provide corporate volunteering for Kara House.
They joined our Chairman Margaret Morrissey, members of the Management Committee and Kara House team for breakfast. It was a wonderful chance to catch up on what’s happening at Kara House and thank them for their ongoing support.
The Midsumma Festival is Victoria’s premier LGBTI cultural festival, made for and by communities who live with shared experiences around diverse gender and sexuality. Held annually since 1988 it is the largest celebration of gay and lesbian culture and art; including performing arts to music, sports to film.
The Midsumma Community Day on January 14th kicked off the 3-week festival and Kara House team joined in the fun manning our stall in the community hub. The team handed out gift bags containing pens, badges and wristbands and information brochures. By talking and fielding questions with the community the team was able to spread awareness of family violence within the LGBTI community and the support that Kara House provides to those who are experiencing family violence.
Kara House is a specialist family/domestic violence service which provides crisis accommodation and outreach support for women and children who have been impacted by family/domestic violence. Kara House clients are allocated an individual skilled and experienced family/domestic violence support worker to assist them to identify their needs and to move towards a more positive future. This includes *emotional support *risk assessment and safety planning *advice and information *advocacy *referral *Court support *liaison with schools and child protection. Kara House welcomes all clients – young and aged, with a multicultural background, single, LGBTI, women with disabilities, and women with children. Clients can contact Kara House directly or can be referred from another service.
The streets of Melbourne CBD were transformed into a sea of orange for the annual Walk Against Violence on November 22nd. The team from Kara House joined countless other organisations and individuals who came together to march through the CBD and end in Federation square for speeches and entertainment. The yearly event is one of many events which are part of the “16 Days of Activism”.
The Walk Against Family Violence began in 2009 by a committee of family violence services, local council and Victoria police in the southern region to raise community awareness of family violence and its impact within the community. The purpose of the walk is to break the silence on family violence, and hopefully each year the walk builds that the public is encouraged to stand up against family violence and speak out. Family violence is a problem for all of society and we all have a responsibility to make changes within our own families, workplaces, schools and community’s to be accountable and to no longer ignore the effect of violence against our mothers, sisters and daughters.
Kara House, as a specialist family violence service, contributed a submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria that is currently underway.
Kara House, along with other services in the family violence sector is uniquely placed to provide informed comment to the Royal Commission.
Chaired by the Honourable Marcia Neave AO, formerly Justice of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria and with the support of Deputy Commissioner Patricia Faulkner AO and Deputy Commissioner Tony Nicholson, the Royal Commission is charged with inquiring into and reporting on how Victoria’s response to family violence can be improved. A report with practical recommendations to stop family violence will be presented to government by Monday, 29 February 2016. .
The Royal Commission has already undertaken reviews of written submissions, community consultations, stakeholder and expert round-tables and gathered research from site visits and data and documentation provide by key agencies.
The Royal Commission is currently in the next phase of holding public hearings to explore the range of ways in which people experience family violence, and the laws, policies, practices and services that have been implemented to respond to and prevent family violence. These hearings began on Monday, 13 July 2015 and will continue through to Friday, 14 August 2015 and will seek to explore competing views about the best way forward.
For more information on The Royal Commission into Family Violence visit:
Thanks to the generosity of the ladies of Box Hill Golf Club, the lives of women and children seeking safety and refuge at Kara House has been made a little more comfortable. In February this year, the Ladies Charity Committee chose Kara House as one of their beneficiaries. Since that time, we have been fortunate to receive much needed donations of linen, towels and bedding. We now have enough linen, towels and sheets to support our clients throughout 2015 and beyond.
On 13 April, the ladies of Box Hill Golf Club held their annual fundraising day, resulting in funds raised of $5400 for Kara House. We are very grateful for this support, which will go towards supporting women and children so disadvantaged by family violence.
A big thank you to the ladies’ President, Myra Fisher, the Ladies Charity Committee, Box Hill Golf Club and the 112 ladies from 22 golf clubs who supported this fundraising initiative. This cash injection will allow us to undertake much needed maintenance for the house and to enhance our children play room.
Kara House has recently undergone some well-needed upgrades to its children’s play area. After some wild weather a couple of years back the shade sail covering the play area was lost, leaving no coverage or protection from sun for the children utilising the area. The ground covering was also hardened after many years of use, and the cubby house needed some repairs.
An upgrade to the area with replacement of the shade sail was identified as a key requirement for the refuge by the Kara House Development Committee in 2014. Kara House reached out to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Foundation, who kindly volunteered to help raise the money to support the required upgrades.
The play area has now had its new shade sail installed, with the ground covered in soft mulch. Repairs to the cubby house have also taken place. The difference has been significant and the residents of the Kara House refuge are greatly appreciative. Future plans for upgrading the play area include new plants and play equipment.
Suddenly homeless, Vhu* and her four children arrived at Kara House with absolutely nothing and nowhere to go.
Vhu, 41 contacted Kara Family Violence Service, saying she was Vietnamese and needed an interpreter. We re-contacted Vhu with a phone interpreter, and she informed us she and her four children had been evicted from her house. Vhu’s husband, following years of abuse
towards Vhu and the eldest daughter, walked out of the house three weeks previously and had not returned.
Vhu’s home was a private rental in her husband’s name and her husband had been issued a Notice to Vacate due to rental arrears. Vhu had no knowledge this was happening. Vhu told us she was currently staying with a friend, and her four children were dispersed amongst other friends. Vhu disclosed she was 24 weeks pregnant but had not told anyone. Vhu had no money and nowhere to go.
While our core business is specialist family violence services, we work closely with several housing services, and contacted them hoping there may be a vacant transitional property available. Finding safe and affordable housing in Melbourne is incredibly difficult, especially for larger families with a very limited income.
Luckily after many phone calls we had success and were offered a property. We were able to reunite Vhu and her children and relocate them to a safe area. Kara Family Violence Service continues to support families like Vhu’s during their tenancy and if needed.
Case management commenced, with Vhu’s antenatal care being a priority. Kara Family Violence Service material aid provisions included clothing packs for all the family, home and cultural cooking pack, linen packs and food hampers. Vhu has been linked with Centrelink, and we have liaised with the children’s schools. Using donated funds, we were able to provide laptops for the children to continue remote learning.
A children’s assessment has been completed and the summary indicated the children have been traumatised by the abusive environment they had been living in. Medical and counselling appointments have been made for the children. Despite the trauma this family has endured, they are now safe, they are resilient, and are now looking forward to the birth of the baby.
A great environment creates great outcomes.
We are incredibly grateful to Family Safety Victoria and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing for providing a state of the art, purpose built facility for women and children and their consultation and liaison. We’d like to take the opportunity to further enhance the new site with some projects that would make their stay just a little more comfortable. Providing a great environment for clients can really make a difference in their recovery and long-term outcomes. We are reaching out to the community for assistance to help us make this happen via financial or material aid donations.
Here are some of the improvement projects we are planning:
If you would like to know more about how you can help with these projects contact Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 900 520.
The new site has been built by Victorian State Government and will enable us to expand and build on our existing services. The site comprises 6 separate units of various sizes, which will accommodate singles, small and large families. Each unit will provide a separate private space with an outdoor balcony or courtyard. A central playground and outdoor areas will provide places for children to play and women to meet others in a similar circumstance. One unit offers full accessibility for those with a disability allowing us to meet the unique needs of our clients.
An onsite office will provide 24hr support and assistance. Purpose built interview and meeting rooms are secure and private spaces for new client intake and meetings. The multipurpose room gives clients to access computers, wellbeing activities and a well-stocked library for both adults and children.
We are excited to have the opportunity to expand our work in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne and will maintain a strong presence in the City of Whitehorse. The original Kara House will continue to offer accommodation, support and services for women and children impactedby family violence.
A great environment creates great outcomes
We are incredibly grateful to Family Safety Victoria and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing for providing a state of the art, purpose built facility for women and children. The site will be set up to offer women and children with the best possible environment to assist them in developing a safer future.
Learn more here www.areyousafeathome.org.au
More than a quarter of a million ofVictorians do not speak English well or atall. To ensure inclusive and accessiblefamily violence information is available,
DV Vic and DVRCV have translated their ‘Are you safe at home?’ resources into 15 different community languages.
COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of our lives. But times of stress and hardshipare never an excuse for violence or abuse. If you are experiencing abuse, there is support available. Services can work with you to explore your options to keep you andyour family safe. Learn more here www.areyousafeathome.org.au
If you are in a crisis and require a translator, call the Translating andInterpreting Service (TIS National) on 131450 and ask them to call safe steps on1800 015 188. If you are in immediatedanger, call 000.
Late December 2020 we received the keys for six new Transitional Housing units for Kara House clients.
The six detached units were funded by the DHHS in collaboration with the Woodards Charitable Foundation who are committed to finding homeless families a safe place to live. DHHS selected Kara House to provide support and work with the Salvation Army Housing to manage the tenancies.
Transitional housing (THMs) is an incredibly important stepping stone for clients ready to leave our crisis refuge. THMs provide a safe and stable conduit for 3-6 months while we work with clients to secure long-term accommodation in the wider community.
There was a tight timeline to get clients accommodated as soon as possible and we had the task of setting up the 6 units which is not easy during the Christmas season. We reached out to our community and You Matter, a wonderful not-for-profit organisation came on board to help. They support family violence survivors by providing all the household furniture and items needed to run a functional home reducing the financially crippling burden of beginning a new life from scratch.
In early January a team of 15 volunteers arrived with two vans of furniture. In one day they completely refurnished, styled and set up all six units. The results were amazing, with “Vogue” style detail right down to bathroom drawers filled with toiletries, indoor plants, fruit in bowls, artwork on the walls and soft cushions every where. Incredibly we were able to move six very excited clients into the units by mid January thanks to the team at You Matter.
Other Kara House donors helped us fill the gaps with TVs and other electrical items where needed. Thanks to Starcorp Textiles, Bronwyn Burgess, George Drymonis and NAB team and our Regular Monthly Donors.
We believe that providing women and children impacted by family violence with the best possible environment while in our care can greatly influence their recovery and future. In these uncertain times providing a safe, comfortable place to stay is even more important.
For women and children escaping an abusive situation, they already experiencing isolation having to leave behind family, friends and their community. With the current COVID-19 crisis their isolation is two-fold as they are now unable to go out to re-establish links with new schools, support services and the local community around the our refuge.
In mid march the wonderful Volunteer Team from the DuluxGroup offered to repaint the separate bedsit apartment at Kara House. The bedsit is a stand alone unit which provides safe accommodation, particularly for women with young babies and toddlers. Each year Kara House provides refuge to over 100 families meaning all our areas are well used and in need of constant upkeep.
We were incredibly pleased to receive the email from Dulux and to hear we had been chosen as a community project this year. Team leader Samodha Dharmarsi was on board from day one understanding the difficulties of executing such a project in environment which must remain hidden to the greater public as well as our organisational commitment to the least possible disruption to the clients currently in the refuge.
The transformation was amazing. The team of six worked right through the day creating a beautiful and fresh space ready for the current occupants, a mum and 2 kids, to move back in to the next day. The best surprise is that not only did they repaint the bedsit but also repainted the outside courtyard creating a beautiful space for all our clients take some much needed time out.
“We had the fantastic opportunity to give back to our community by redecorating one of the temporary residence units at the Secure Accommodation Refuge of Kara House. A massive thank you to my team Fareed Amini, Daryl The, Methma Suriyaarachchi Simon Tranand Virginia Hau who worked tirelessly with such great enthusiasm converting the house to a home in one day and Dulux Technical Services Specialist Chris Seuren who guided us with product training to get the job done well and joining us on the day as well. Thank you, Kara House for this wonderful opportunity. We are humbly proud to be able to make a small difference in someone's life who is going through such a traumatic experience.”
Samohda Dharmarsi – Volunteer Team Leader – IT Project Coordinator Dulux Group
In the current crisis women and children in the refuge are spending most of their time indoors. Like everyone else in Victoria they are home schooling children, navigating supermarkets and social - but they are not in their own home, they have no family support and in a totally unfamiliar location. The refurbishment of the bedsit could not have happened at a better time by helping up to provide a safe, fresh and clean environment for our clients.
We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of the DuluxGroup over the past few years and we can not thank Samohda and the team enough for their kindness and hard work.
Message from our Manager and Chair
For all of us there are a lot of unknowns at the moment, as we try and navigate what is happening in our workplaces, homes and community as well as around the world. We wanted to take the time to update you on the measures Kara House will be implementing during this time.
During the COVID-19 crisis we will continue to support women and children impacted by family violence, prioritise the safety of our staff, clients and the community, while working within the guidelines of DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and the Government.
We believe it is particularly important to ensure the safety of our clients by continuing access to our specialist family violence services and support. Past data tells us that in times of stress and crisis, Family Violence may escalate. Social distancing, self-isolation and shut down measures can add extreme pressure and increase financial hardship in already abusive situations.
In line with advice from the Government and Health experts we have implemented changes in the way we work. We’ll be modifying the way we operate by limiting face-to-face contact and continue to provide support via phone and email. All non-essential staff are working remotely at home and those remaining in the office will be practicing social distancing.
We are committed to providing uninterrupted help to ensure that women and children impacted by family violence during this time will be supported.
It’s an evolving situation and we will respond to the ongoing changes by adapting the way we work.
We really appreciate the concern of all our donors, supporters and friends and know that we can make our way through this difficult time with your ongoing support now and in the future.
We'll provide you with regular update as the situation develop.
Manager – Kara House
Manager – Kara House
Mother Goose Program - Keeping mums and their kids protected
There is nothing more important than the bond between parent and child. Sadly, this special relationship can be challenged when a family has been impacted by family violence and this can lead to life-long repercussions.
Family violence impacts, not only the mother, but also the child. Whilst the child may not be directly targeted, there is tension in the home environment leaving the child feeling unstable. Due to the family violence, the mother often doesn’t have the ability to spend play-time with the child.
In 2018, Eastern Health FaPMI, the City of Whitehorse and Kara House formed a partnership to begin trialling the Parent Child Mother Goose (PCMG) Program at Box Hill Library. Each organisation provided different expertise including social work, enhanced maternal Child Health Nursing and our specialist family violence services.
Mother Goose is an evidence-based program that strengthens the attachment and interaction between parents and their young children by introducing them to the pleasure and power of using rhymes, songs and stories together. The rhymes, stories and songs can be used to cut through emotional and stressful situations in daily life – like a toddler meltdown at the supermarket.
The group takes place on a weekly basis for 2 hours throughout school terms. The program is primarily aimed at parents who have experienced family violence or mental illness with children aged 0-5 years. The program is enjoyable and fun, and is available to participants free of charge.
At the end of the singing session the Specialist Family Violence Children’s Practitioner is available for a one-on-one meeting with the mother to discuss the impacts of family violence on the child and assist with strategies to overcome these.Our Kara House Specialist Family Violence Children’s Practioner says, “Mother Goose allows uninterrupted time between mother and child, to nurture attachment and bonding through song, providing a sense of fun and normalcy back into the child’s life.”
The Mother Goose Program plays an important part in creating a strong bond between mothers and their children who have been impacted by family violence. For these families early intervention
Every January in Melbourne, Midusmma Festival brings together the diverse LGBTI+ community with an explosion of events by a diverse mix of artist, communities and audiences. It shares the lived experiences of those voices on the margins and celebrates new ideas and starts conversations that will help shape the community in the future.
Kara House joined in the celebrations at the MIDSUMMA CARNIVAL on Sunday January 19. Our aim was to create awareness around our specialist LGTBI+ services by forging new connections with the community.
Kara House offers crisis accommodation and support for same sex attracted women who are experiencing abuse in a relationship. We also offer outreach support and advice to anyone identifying as lesbian, transgender, gay, bi-sexual or intersex. We are open to direct contact or referrals from other organisations.
We support and celebrate LGTBI+ community. It was wonderful to be part of a brilliant day filled with colour, interesting conversations and new connections.
Lilah was assisted by Kara House to have her son Ajmal aged 3, returned to her after her husband had her removed from their home. Ajmal had not spent a night away from his mother before so when he came into refuge, he clung to his mother and would cry if any other worker or resident came near him. At the refuge, Kara House provided Ajmal and his mother a range of books and toys to promote play and attachment between Ajmal and his mother.
Ajmal had experienced physical abuse and was displaying symptoms of trauma, including going back to wearing nappies when he used to be toilet trained. He also stopped using words and reverted to making noises to indicate his needs, he was out of his normal routine and had lost his appetite.
Ajmal had regular sessions with the Children’s Worker where they would discuss routine and how to create a calm safe environment in order to reduce the impact of trauma on his developing brain. Kara House also linked Ajmal and his mother in with the Mother Goose program which promotes storytelling, eye-contact and singing between mothers and children up to the age of five.
Ajmal responded well to this approach and began to explore the refuge environment. He enjoyed playing in the cubby house in the refuge playground and liked to be outdoors. In the cooler weather, he enjoyed snuggling up with his mother on the couch reading books or playing with the other children in the shared playroom.
Ajmal was linked in with other services to assist his mother with parenting skills and he continues to be supported by Kara House in medium term accommodation today. He is attending childcare and loves to play with other children. He is ahead with his literacy skills and continues to have a strong bond with his mother. Ajmal no longer cries when workers come over to see the family, instead he runs up to give them a hug.
The need for air-conditoning in the bedrooms at the refuge became apparent when two pregnant women stayed in the refuge last Summer while the temperatures were in the high 30's. Both were in their third trimester and then stayed on at the refuge after the births of their children. Previously only the commual area was air-condtioned leaving the bedrooms hot and uncomfortable, especially with a new baby.
We put the call out and once again, The Rotary Club of Mont Albert and Surrey Hillls came to our need. Generously they donated and installed four new air-conditioners in each of the bedrooms in the refuge. This summer has been incredibly hot but the new air-conditoning means the women and their children can relax in the privacy of their bedrooms and get a good night's sleep.
Beautiful new table and chairs for the refuge
We are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of the Rotary MASH. Last year Rotary MASH funded the renovation of the refuge kitchen which included new cupboards, bench tops and all new appliances. To complete the new kitchen in October they donated a new table and chairs. The table was purpose built to fit the tight area and made out of sturdy wood, meaning it will last for many years to come. The new kitchen is now an inviting environment for the women and children and will greatly inprove their experience while in our care.