Help Stop Violence Against Women
Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children in Australia today, with an average of one woman a week being murdered. Often limited availability of affordable and secure housing shackles women in unsafe environments.
Today we shine the spotlight and raise awareness for family violence and violence against women in Australia, however, domestic violence is a reality for millions of people that extends far beyond one day.
City West Housing’s latest data indicates over 3% of current residents sort out affordable housing to escape domestic violence, however, current Australian statistics indicate that the amount who have been affected could be much higher.
After growing up overseas and training as a nurse, Simone* emigrated to Australia with her partner. Soon after they were married Simone’s life became shadowed by domestic abuse, and after the birth of her second child she made plans to leave.
“I knew I couldn’t stay any longer, I was in constant fear for my life”
Struggling to get by
Like many women fleeing domestic violence, Simone was crippled financially by her manipulative ex-partner. With two toddlers, she rented a one-bedroom apartment and while grateful to have her own place, she was struggling to get by.
“Child-care was almost equal to what I made in a day. My ex was taking half the childcare rebate and it felt as though I was working for free.”
Not having any surplus money available, Simone would walk over an hour and a half to work and take home leftover sandwiches from her workplace.
“I was in a deficit of $2000 a month. My ex wanted custody of the children and had left me with a massive tax bill in an attempt to de-stabilise my ability to provide.”
After borrowing money from family overseas, Simone questioned how she would ever make ends meet to support her young family. At this point, Simone looked into social housing but was told it was at least a 10-year waitlist.
A new beginning
Simone had never heard of affordable housing but was told by a case worker about City West Housing. She applied but didn’t have much hope after what she was told about the social housing wait time.
After a time, Simone was offered a 2 bedroom apartment in the inner city, “It was like someone was watching over us. We were weeks from becoming homeless and the way we were living was not sustainable.”
With her ex-partner still in their lives, Simone realised she wasn’t able to work as much as she had previously as she was starting to see the psychological effects on her children.
“They both struggled with anxiety and feared being taken by their father. I needed to be home more to support them and give them assurance. That was more important than work.”
Knowing that her rent would never be more than 30% of her gross household income allowed Simone to focus on more than just getting by.
“What City West also gave me was breathing room and the ability to spend more quality time with my kids when they needed me most.”
City West Housing offered Simone a safe and secure place she could call home.
“I didn’t have to worry about rent going up or sudden termination.”
Simone also appreciated that she didn’t need to move far from her support network. She gained strength from friends and her DV counsellor, and this network of support only grew once she moved into City West.
“Some of the women in my apartment building have been in similar situations, we understand each other and can offer support and friendship.”
Having a home she can be proud of is also important to Simone.
“Before, I was never allowed friends or people over, we were very isolated. Now I try to have friends over whenever I can, paying back their support in cooked dinners and quality time. I’m trying to show the kids what it should be like, to have a community like when I was growing up.”
The road ahead
Life’s still not perfect for Simone, “the state of domestic violence is not good in Australia, five years on my life is still terrorised by my ex-husband and he still has equal access to the children, despite ongoing court battles and testimonies.” Simone says unless there’s physical evidence abuse is hard to prove. Psychological abuse to children goes largely under the radar and unless both parents give consent children can’t get support from psychologists or counsellors.
Simone is realistic but positive about the future. “I’m doing the best I can, and I’m forever grateful to City West Housing for everything they’ve done for me.”
*name changed to protect identity