Self-isolation and social distancing has meant separation from loved ones and support systems for many Australians but as Veronica Hunt from the Salvation Army explains, home isn’t always a safe option for vulnerable members of our community. “We know that for some people home isn't the safest place; that self-isolation and increased stress during COVID-19 has increased the instances and the experience that women have had of family violence,’’ she says.
“We know that women and children have found themselves with abusive and controlling partners and parents without access to their usual supports.”
The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that one in six women and one in 16 men have experienced some form of violence from a partner.
Sherry Duhe, the Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Woodside Energy, says the company was determined to maintain its support for victims of family and domestic violence during the pandemic.
“Even in a non-COVID environment, we know very well that victims of family and domestic violence are amongst some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Ms Duhe explains.
“As the crisis started to unfold, we received direct information from the (West Australian) Department of Communities about significant increases in occurrence of these unfortunate, violent situations, and also heightened risk around future acts of violence, that were brought on by the isolation and people being kept at home together in very stressful situations.’’
Woodside’s COVID-19 Community Fund has helped over 60 Western Australian not-for-profit organisations respond to the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. For Woodside Energy, collaboration with government, industry bodies and other resource companies was key to developing a coordinated approach to help those who needed it most.
Director General Michelle Andrews from WA’s Department of Communities says these partnerships were crucial in providing support.
“We had to work very fast with all of our partners in the regions, resources sector, business, local government, to put in place steps to protect those vulnerable cohorts,” she says.
“I've really welcomed and celebrated the way in which we partnered with the resources sector and for companies such as Woodside and others, who have always considered themselves part of the wider community, they were knocking at our door from day one saying: how can we help?” - Michelle Andrews, Director General, WA Department of Communities
Ms Andrews tells us that pooling expertise and sharing skill sets was also crucial to assist people quickly.
“Another great benefit that came through this initial response has been some of the skill sets and capabilities that sit in resource companies. For example, around logistics management and logistics planning. There was some sharing of skills and knowledge and capabilities and systems to help with that as well. It was great to see how everyone came together.”
In collaboration with the Department of Communities, Woodside was able to provide grants directly to in-demand services such as the Salvation Army’s Karratha Women’s Refuge in the Pilbara region, which received $71,000 through Woodside’s Community Fund.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic the Salvation Army Karratha Women's Refuge has continued its commitment for caring and supporting for women and children experiencing family and domestic violence,” Ms Hunt says.
“Social distancing and self-isolation requirements and home-schooling have proven really challenging for women and children seeking support from the Salvation Army during these unprecedented times.
“Woodside’s timely response and provision of financial support will greatly contribute to the easing the burden by providing much needed online education, food and clothing provisions and quality recreational equipment.” - Veronica Hunt, Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has a clear message to survivors and their family and friends: they are not alone.
“The Salvation Army and other specialist family violence services are open and we're available to provide support and advice to anyone experiencing family violence or who are worried about the impact of social isolation on their safety and wellbeing or on the safety and wellbeing of those people that they love the most,” says Ms Hunt.
The Australian business community is committed to supporting vulnerable sectors of the community who are continuing to feel the impacts of COVID-19. To learn more about what business is doing to assist their employees, customers, stakeholders and communities through COVID-19 visit: www.bca.com.au/what_our_members_are_doing
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, the Salvation Army has a range of services that can help you find safety and support, please visit: https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/need-help/family-and-domestic-violence/ or you can call the National Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Helpline (24 hours): 1800 737 732 (1800 Respect).