Women came to the Meadows Primary School Community hub last year to make stars as part of a global movement against family violence. Hub coordinator Maureen Leahy set up the ribbons and materials for the one-hour session. It lasted all day.
The women, all part of the Meadows Volunteer Pathway project, did more than just create a community display, they explored issues around family violence, broke down a few cultural myths and learned how to support others who are living with violence.
“The setting was welcoming and no one felt threatened. As we made stars, the question kept coming up, ‘do you think violence against women is okay?’” Maureen said.
The display, created with some of the $500 funding from the John Wallis Foundation, hung in the school’s welcome area, triggering important conversations that are still going on.
Last year 180 volunteers participated in a range of programs and 20 are currently involved. Employment and training are a focus, but it may take several years for participants to reach that point. Many are isolated in the community and may not have worked in paid employment for years. But Maureen takes every opportunity to connect the volunteers to the community.
“We don’t tell the volunteers what they should do, but we help them develop the skills and confidence to make choices,” she said.
“For many this is about feeling connected to the school community to support their child’s education, for others it is finding work.”