Seeds of justice and mercy

Students participating in the Mercy Seeds of Justice program gained an insight into the issues that can lead to homelessness when they visited McAuley House recently. They got a glimpse of the range of services offered to the women, by staff and volunteers. The visit was part of a wider program designed to connect Mercy school students to justice issues and Mercy organisations working in the community.

As part of the program, Year 9 and 10 girls from a range of Mercy schools in Melbourne came to McAuley House on ‘pampering night’, when the women are treated to massages, manicures, hair-do’s and range of other personal treats by members of Mercy Links – a group of volunteers aged between 18 and 27 who were taught by Mercy Sisters, educated at Mercy founded schools or currently teach at a Mercy school. The Seeds of Justice students (all girls because of the female only McAuley House location) involved themselves in the pampering and the social interaction that happens through the evening.

The Seeds of Justice participants are current students with a very keen interest in justice issues. Our schools engagement worker Kaillee Dyke, said the 15 students followed up the McAuley House visit with a full day retreat the following day where she and another worker, Winter spoke to a large gathering of Mercy students between Years 9 and 12.

“It was a powerful experience to link homelessness, as witnessed at McAuley House, with family violence. This link is rarely made in the media, but it is important that people understand that sometimes a family risks being homeless in order to escape family violence,” Kaillee said.

“But it isn’t just family violence. Many of the women who come to McAuley House are there because there is a no other affordable housing alternative and many are also experiencing on-going physical or mental health problems which impacts on their ability to work.”

Students at the retreat included boys as well as girls and the issues of most concern to them were:

  • homeless system and services for women and children in Australia
  • the day to day life of a resident at McAuley House
  • what behaviours may be a red flag for family violence
  • what should they do if they ever witnessed, or were personally subjected to family violence
  • how to break the cycle of violence
  • how to respond to a friend who they suspect is experiencing family violence
  • Information on what respectful relationships look like

“The Seeds of Justice was a reallyinspiring event to be part of because the students were so moved by what is happening to some families and inspired to be part of the solution. It is really humbling when young men have the courage to ask, ‘how they can ensure they are never a perpetrator’,” Kaillee said.

McAuley Community Services for Women has a continuing link with the Seeds of Justice program. Staff will talk to teachers as part of the program in early August.

McAuley House

McAuley House provides transitional supported accommodation and outreach support for women who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless. Many of the women face physical and mental illness, and other challenges. McAuley House fosters independent living skills so that the women can establish themselves in their own ongoing accommodation.

Photo: Thank you to Eugene Lynch, Executive Officer, Mercy Education Limited  for permission to use of the Seeds of Justice retreat photo.