Claire joins forces with mates for women

Claire Ewart-Kennedy’s support for women, particularly vulnerable women, has always been strong. More recently, tragic national events and the constant barrage of news about family violence, has inspired Claire and a group of her friends to up the ante. The women, 20 of them, have pooled resources to join the McAuley Community Services for Women’s Catherine Circle.

The Catherine Circle is a group of people who are passionate about supporting McAuley Community Services for Women and its works with women who are homeless, as well as women and children experiencing family violence. The Circle aims to raise $100,000 each year, which is invested into a program, or service,z the members choose.

Each Catherine Circle member commits $1000 a year over three years. In Claire’s case she has joined with 10 women to form two ‘group members’.

It was a donation that she discussed with her family, including her two sons, aged 19 and 13 and a daughter, 16. “I wanted this to be something that we committed to as a family and I let the children know it was a response to something that needs to change. It’s about making this a better place,” Claire said.

Claire, chief-of-staff for Victoria’s Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto, was encouraged to join the Catherine Circle by friend Colleen Moten. Both women, along with the others in the group, have daughters in Year 11 and 12 at Ruyton Girls’ School. They attended a McAuley Community Services for Women event where the statistics around family violence were discussed including the death of 79 women Australia wide in 2015 through violence. This year that figure is already at 28.

“All of us at this event have issues in our lives. But at the end of the day those of us that have formed the two Catherine Circle groups have a safe home and a family that is concerned about us and supportive of us. So many women don’t have that sort of life,” Claire said.

Each of the 10 women contributes $200 a year for three years towards a program that Claire, who is studying her Masters in Social Investment and Philanthropy, thinks is a successful model. She is concerned that too many programs and projects are developed to respond to an extreme issue or crises. However, Catherine Circle members will have the opportunity to consider project options put to them and determine which one will have the most impact.

“We are a group of women who have agreed to put our hand in our pocket and commit to supporting other women,” Claire said.

“Too much of today’s not-for-profit and philanthropy work is focussed around the merging of resources and large grants to high profile projects, whereas Catherine’s Circle is based on grassroots philanthropy that a normal person can afford and support – the members of the circle get a wonderful feeling of empowerment when a group of like-minded women band together to seriously make a difference.”

People can give to the Catherine Circle as a single donor, a family, a couple, friends, book group or a work syndicate. In order to have a vote the group will nominate the ‘voting member’. For Catherine Circle details.