Sonja welcomes change

During National Volunteer Week (9-15 May) McAuley Community Services for Women pays tribute to volunteer Dr Sonja Hood who serves on our board.

Sonja Hood’s decision to join the Board of McAuley Community Services for Women was motivated by the organisation’s capacity to respond to the local community with innovation and passion. Sonja, CEO of Community Hubs Australia, has limited spare time and was determined to spend it with an organisation that is willing to try new ways to provide the best possible service to women who are homeless or who are fleeing family violence. She also wanted to be confident she could make a difference.

“There is a lot going on in this space and I think I can make a contribution particularly with the recommendations from the Royal Commission and all the issues that will flow out of that. Also, the building of the new centre at Pickett St in Footscray is an important development for this organisation,” Sonja said.

“McAuley is an agile and dynamic organisation that isn’t afraid to try new ideas and that requires commitment and involvement from board members. It’s also something that attracted me to the board.”

Sonja said the Court Support4Kids program was an example of the organisation’s capacity to develop ground-breaking programs that could make a huge difference to women and children using the courts in relation to family violence. She hopes it will expand across Victorian courts.

There are some parallels between McAuley Community Services for Women and Community Hubs Australia, the organisation she joined as CEO last year. Hubs work with migrant/refugee women and pre-school children, offering services such as skills training, English classes, sewing and breakfast clubs as well as volunteering opportunities and community events. Sonja said both organisations were trying to craft solutions to support women who were often marginalised and without a voice.

“I am often amazed at how we can isolate women and then consider the problems that arise from that isolation, ‘someone else’s problem’ to fix up,” Sonja said.

Both organisations are constantly looking at ways to bring services and supports to women so that they can live fully in the community, find work and engage with other people.”

While Sonja is pleased that the spotlight, particularly following the findings from the Royal Commission, is on family violence, she regrets the inevitable crisis-driven response. The challenge for organisations such as McAuley Community Services for Women is to ignore the ‘hyperbole’ and always be driven by the needs of the woman.

“We need to hold firm to our priorities because the spotlight my go onto another issue down the track, but we know family violence will not go away and we need to keep our focus. What matters is that McAuley Community Services for Women has its doors open to women with the appropriate services to respond to their needs.”