Wendy Forrest Evaluates McAuley House

‘No decision about me, without me’

Wendy Forrest admits she was shocked to the core by what she has read and heard in her work at McAuley Community Services for Women. But instead of putting her off volunteering with the organisation, she has taken on more work.

Wendy, a medical science academic, has ended up immersed in some major projects as a volunteer, importantly the evaluation of McAuley House.The evaluation provides us with evidence that we need to continually improve our response to women and to ensure that our service is meeting the needs of women as they see them….as in the age old catchcry, ‘no decision about me, without me’ To do that Wendy has spent a lot of time with past and current residents, to explore what they need and how McAuley House can best respond.

The evaluation process has also given both staff and women an opportunity to review all aspects of the program, highlighting the most useful, such as the group program ‘About Me’ and the Peer Support Program, and giving ideas on how each area can be improved.

The evaluation will continue through the year, but we are taking a continuous improvement approach and trialling or implementing changes as we go, for example, food and cooking.

A greater focus on the dietary requirements and special food needs of the women has led to changes in the warm and welcoming kitchen at McAuley House. The menu was reviewed by a dietitian and the suggestions have been implemented..

“These changes are important because they showall concerned that that the evaluation is a genuine process with practical outcomes.”

Along the way, Wendy has made some personal discoveries through her regular contact with women living at McAuley House. “I have had some wonderful, enlightening conversations with women from McAuley House. Their openness to share their life stories has provided me with an insight into homelessness that I would never have had without their generosity. More recently while having conversations with women at McAuley Care in the lead up to our submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, I have been humbled by their stories, and inspired by the determination and courage shown by them to seek a life free from violence, intimidation and fear,” she said.

Wendy’s involvement with McAuley Community Services for Women began with the purchase of an ‘I Care’ bracelet and then donations of goods to the Kensington office. It was during a visit delivering goods that she was ‘discovered’ by CEO Jocelyn Bignold.

“Jocelyn discovered my academic background and asked me to do some writing, and that, as they say is history! I was taking a break from work so it was perfect timing and made me feel useful- which it still does,” Wendy said.

Wendy doesn’t miss a chance to spread the word about McAuley Community Services for Women in the hope that her friends will respond by contributing to the organisation in some way, which they have done in various ways, including establishing a Catherine Circle contribution group as a result of a McAuley morning tea.

Wendy’s work on the McAuley House evaluation will influence the development of programs at the new Pickett St building when it is finished.

“The results of the evaluation will help to inform practices and processes for the new Pickett Street Community Hub. It will allow us to pick and implement the best of our practisesand know which to modify to better suit the needs of the women,” Wendy said.