Support for women never wanes

Margaret Harvey recalls the ‘stream of women’ through the doors of Mercy Care, now McAuley Care, when she worked as a volunteer for several years from 2001. “I didn’t know much about family violence and I used to think to myself that there couldn’t be any more women to come, but of course there were. Every night I slept over, there were women and children turning up and in need of crisis accommodation,” she said. No longer a volunteer, Margaret is back supporting our organisation.
     
Margaret volunteered to sleep over at the crisis centre one night a month, along with another volunteer. They relieved paid staff late in the evening and then left in the morning when staff arrived. Once she finished her volunteer shift, Margaret then headed to St Margaret’s Primary School in Maribyrnong where she taught children all day.

Margaret’s involvement withMcAuley Community Services for Women, a Ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, began when she was teaching at St Margaret’s with Sr Angela Reed, who went on to run Mercy Care. The two became friends and Margaret discovered that there was a shortage of volunteers needed to cover the evenings, so she put her hand up.

It’s many years since Margaret volunteered, but her connection with the Sisters of Mercy and commitment to women fleeing violence, remains steadfast. This year Margaret was instrumental in influencing the Royal Park Ladies Golf Club to donate the proceeds from their annual charity day to McAuley Community Services for Women for the first time.

Club members were invited to put forward organisations that could benefit from the golf day and Margaret nominated McAuley Community Services for Women. The support for the nomination was overwhelming as women were keen to support other women who are homeless or fleeing family violence.

Margaret will be playing at the charity day on April 12, and hopes the focus on McAuley Community Services for Women will help other women to understand how many people are affected by family violence.

“I don’t think most people know how serious the problem is even though the high profile cases are on television and reported in the newspapers. I recall being absolutely astounded when I began volunteering,” Margaret said.

“As a teacher I was always so sad when I thought about the kids from these families having to suddenly leave their homes, be disconnected from their school and friends, and all that gave them a sense of security and place.The impact of family violence on children can’t be overestimated.”

Margaret recalls her overnight volunteering as an opportunity to give some calm and comfort to the women and children who arrived.

“The women would come in at all hours of the night and early morning. We would give them lovely clean pyjamas, simple food and talk to them if they wanted to talk or just help them rest if that’s what they wanted. They were always emotionally drained and weary. We just helped make them feel as secure as possible,” Margaret said.