Progress reports

Board Update: August 2019

The NSWBA Board held our monthly meeting on Monday 29th July during which we discussed the progress of our 2019 restructure.  In consultation with a wide variety of our stakeholders, it has become apparent that we’ve matured as an organisation to the point that we would benefit from having a paid Volunteer Coordinator.

Claire Cooper, Sonia McAlpine and Janice Gibson have collectively held that responsibility since we opened on 4th November 2016 and we are incredibly grateful for their hard work and dedication during this time.

Our planned expansion includes a Community Drop-In Centre and outreach programs, as well as increased fundraising activity to be headed up by Emma Taylor, our Fundraising and Communication Officer.

Now is the time to have a paid Volunteer Coordinator.  To support this role, we have asked Claire Cooper to join the NSWBA Board and are delighted to announce that she has accepted effective, 1st August 2019.  Claire will supervise the new Volunteer Coordinator, and establish and chair the new ‘People and Culture Committee’ for NSWBA that will implement a volunteer management plan amongst other priorities that we will develop over time.

During this transition time Claire will continue to help organise and work with our volunteer community.

Please join me in wishing Claire the best of success in her new role as a Board Director for NSWBA and in thanking Sonia and Janice for their hard work to date.


Update from the Chair, July 2019

Mary’s House has received a number of generous donations over the last month enabling the Board to start formulating a plan to continue supporting women after they leave the refuge.

Over the last month, we have been focusing on the End of Financial Year campaign and we’ve been very grateful to receive large and small donations from our donors.

In working through our priorities, the Board has come to realise that the women who leave the Refuge would benefit greatly from ongoing structured support through a set of community programs that will range from financial counselling, therapeutic counselling, job-seeking support to community get-together’s, yoga and choirs. The program is being designed by Julie Stewart, a Board director, and we hope to hire a staff member to run the program in the coming months. More about this innovative new program in our next newsletter.

There will be many volunteer opportunities once this program starts rolling out and we look forward to keeping you up to date.


Update from the Chair, Winter 2019

Winter may bring in some cold weather, but the sun is still shining over here at Mary’s House. In this update Liz discusses the increased need for crisis accommodation, and how our team are banding together to create some big changes over the next few months.

It’s getting colder and as you probably are, I’m wondering where the sunny summer months went??

It’s been a busy first 6 months to the year starting with the changes we made to our operating model and the increased need for our crisis accommodation.  We have been 80% full at the House and I give great thanks to our case managers Jo and Leonie who are working as a collaborative and highly effective team supporting women and their children into the House and then professionally and caringly case managing them into their new lives.  Thank you!

Julie Stewart on our Board is a great support as supervisor to Jo and Leonie and we all appreciate the wisdom, guidance and unstinting generosity in providing this invaluable service.  Julie has started a Quality Assurance Committee which she chairs, and that has the case managers and the Volunteer Coordinators on it and it’s a great way for us to ensure that we are providing a quality service to our clients, our staff and our other stakeholders. All suggestions for improvements or additions to the client experience can be fed through that Committee.

The Fundraising, Communication and Community Engagement Committee (FCC) – headed by Fran Hagon from our Board, with Committee members Roger Williams and Laura Rieveley from our Board have been busy managing the many aspects of this side of our business, with the assistance of Sonia McAlpine, NSWBA member. I’m happy to say that the newly appointed Fundraising, Communication and Community Engagement Co-Ordinator role has been decided and that the planning around our priorities is progressing at speed. The first Mary’s House end of financial year campaign for Donors has launched which is super exciting and Mary’s House is entering its own team into City2Surf this August which should be lots of fun.

I had pause to reflect on our business and I’ve run not for profits for nearly 2 decades now (gulp!) and the success of a not for profit is that there are three sides of the business that are essential – the service side, the fundraising side and the administration/finance functions and it’s fair to say that these three groups will always have different priorities.  That’s normal.  When the three areas are harmoniously pulling together and supporting each other’s goals, that’s a great organisation and I can see our three areas starting to really support each other’s objectives and that’s great news for our future success!

I’m looking forward to meeting as many volunteers that can come to our volunteer-get-together on Wednesday June 26th and I thank you again for all your hard work in realising the mission we’ve set for ourselves.


Update from the Chair, Autumn 2019

Autumn brings with it changes, internationally and locally. In this update Liz discusses International Women’s Day and what that means for gender equality, and the important changes recently implemented.

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day and embrace the theme of #Balance for Better. Gender equality means many things to many people and one of the things that is particularly important to us at Mary’s House is the reduction in violence against women that comes about as a result of gender equality.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, women are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence. Since the age of 15, 1 in 6 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner. The equivalent statistic for men is 1 in 16. One in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner compared to 1 in 6 men. One in 5 women and 1 in 20 men has been sexually assaulted or threatened. As a society none of these statistics are acceptable, however it is clear there is a significant gender bias. Let’s  #Balance for Better.

There is often a view amongst our community that domestic violence “happens to other people”; “it doesn’t happen in my area” and other similar views. Domestic violence is unfortunately throughout our society and happens everywhere – we like to say that it is not discriminatory and happens in every postcode! The experience at Mary’s House over the past 2 years is indicative of this. During this time we have had residents from 15 nationalities; from all age groups – from 20 through to 68; coming to us from the north shore of Sydney; the west; the east; and interstate; coming with children and alone. In short there is no “typical” resident.

So on International Women’s Day let’s #Balance for Better and aim for a better world for all of us!

As you know we are constantly working to improve our Mary’s House operating model and to that end, there have been a few organizational changes.

For some months the Board has been keen to give effect to the strategy arising from the Association’s 30 June 2018 Strategy Day (attached here). The NSWBA Board considered the strategic decisions that have been made, the financial model under which the Association currently operates and the scale of our services over 2018. As a result, the Board is implementing a significant organisational restructure.

We have two new Board committees established last year which provides the opportunity to utilise those committees to oversee the operational work of the Association with the case managers reporting to the Quality Assurance Committee, chaired by Julie Stewart and the Fundraising and Communication Committee, chaired by Fran Hagon, overseeing community engagement, communication and fundraising.

We have also reviewed the operating budget of the Association. We are committed to maintaining a sensible operating budget that honors the generous donations we receive, whilst leveraging our volunteers and staff. For this reason, we’ve decided to significantly reduce our administrative costs/budget going forward and as such the Executive Officer role has been made redundant effective 15th February 2019. We are also committed to our fundraising plans and targets and as such we will recruit a 0.8 paid FTE as Fundraising and Communication Officer which replaces the existing two casual roles. The Office Administrator role description is being reviewed (the role is not being made redundant) and the case managers roles stay the same.

We are grateful for Maggy’s hard work as our Executive Officer and we wish her well for the future.

Maggy’s Summer update 2018

Today is World Human Rights Day. This marks the final day of the 16 Days of Activism, which began on November 25 with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The 16 days of Activism is a UN campaign to raise awareness about gender based violence, challenge discriminatory attitudes and call for improved laws and services to end violence against women.

So how did the 16 Days of activism come about? On November 25, 1960, three political activist sisters: Patricia, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabel, who had long opposed the cruelty and violence of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, were clubbed to death and dumped at the bottom of a cliff by Trujillo’s secret police.

The Mirabel sisters became symbols of the feminine resistance. In commemoration of their deaths, 25 November was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980. This day was formally recognized by the United Nations in 1999.

In 1991, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership called for a campaign of 16 Days of Activism against gender based violence.

One in three women experience violence in their lifetime.  It happens in every country and every society. It happens at home, in schools, on the streets, at work, on the internet and in refugee camps. It happens during war and in the absence of war. Too often it is normalized and goes unpunished.

No matter where violence against women happens, what form it takes and whom it impacts, it must be stopped. The UN Sustainable Development Goal – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without ending violence against women.

The statistics for domestic violence in Australia for 2018 are very scary. Most of this violence is against women. Since 1 January 2018, 72 women have been killed as a result of domestic violence. There have also been 20 children killed this year as a result of domestic violence. Clearly these figures are not acceptable and that is why initiatives like the 16 Days of Activism are so important to raise awareness of this situation.

Mary’s House is very proud to be offering one solution to supporting women and children who are escaping domestic violence and who need to find refuge and safety.   Without our community and their ongoing support there would not be a Mary’s House.  We are also grateful to be part of a wider community of services who are active in offering support together with a range of services and education programs aimed at changing attitudes to domestic and family violence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of the Mary’s House community and supporting us through 2018. I wish you a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

Mary’s House Autumn 2018 Update

Mary’s House has now been open for 15 months. In that time we have directly helped 20 women and their families with a safe haven for an average of three months and facilitated them to start a new life. We  continue to support a number of these women through our ongoing outreach program. Through our intake and referral process we have helped a further 100 women find appropriate support. Each day we refer at least one women on to the appropriate service for them.

Just prior to Christmas we helped two of our residents start the next phase of their lives, in a new safe home for themselves and their families. As with any new home, this is an exciting but nerve wracking time for everyone involved. After helping our resident  find a suitable property, we then provide all the necessities for their new home – from beds and fridges, through to knives and forks. This is where our Mary’s House family truly comes to the fore. Vinnies are incredibly supportive, delivering new and preloved  furniture for the new home. We have many individual and corporate donors who provide our “starter packs” – these cover all the essential “smaller” household items like an iron, clothes airer, cleaning equipment, linen, saucepans and kitchen items, and the list goes on!

Each week, we provide the residents of Mary’s House with the basic consumables of food and groceries. Some of this is provided by our regular corporate donors:  Bourke St Bakery, Sunrice, Reckitt Benckiser, Chemist Warehouse, Coca Cola Amatil, Two Good, Our Big Kitchen, Harris Farm and Jahnus. Other regular items are purchased through money provided by our generous donors. In the past month we have received donations from over 75 wonderful Mary’s House Family donors.

These donations also enable us to help our residents with ad hoc expenses. Since our last newsletter we have  purchased new school shoes for a resident, opal cards for new residents, supported one of our residents with tafe fees to enable her to retrain and provided school uniforms and supplies, amongst other things.

As you can see, operating Mary’ s House is a busy and all encompassing role. We are very grateful to all who contribute to this – our volunteers, our donors and the other supporters of our extended family.

Update from the Chair NSWBA Board

There are four women and numerous children in the House being case managed by our two part time case managers and our new Executive Officer, Maggy Farago.

Maggy, very experienced in this field, started on September 8 with a comprehensive induction schedule which involved meeting the team and our supporters as quickly as possible.  More about Maggy in the next bulletin.

As well as assisting and screening residents, we remain ready to be of assistance as people need it.  For example, we may refer a woman to another specialist service who can best meet her needs.  We’ve also successfully transitioned a number of women and their children who’ve come through Mary’s House to stable accommodation away from abuse and violence – they come from our neighbourhood, from places around NSW, some have children, we’ve had all different nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. One of our former residents sent us a thank you card saying, ‘I thank God every day for the Mary’s House family” which really moved us and is the reason we do what we do – she and her son are now safe and moving on with their lives.

I was delighted to be on the panel for the sold out Time to Listen event which involved more than 50 church communities across seven denominations and was convened by the Northside Baptists. Executive staff from Baptistcare, CityCare, Anglicare, CatholicCare, Hillsong, Morling College, and St Vincent’s Health came together to talk about how we, across denominations, could model Christ’s love for the victims of domestic and family violence.

Mary’s House remains 100% community funded and have some great organisational partners, including the Mater Private Hospital who covers a substantial portion of our operating costs. We are fortunate to have a veritable army of 80 volunteers who manage the enormous generosity that Mary’s House experiences.

Liz Mackinlay

Chair NSWBA Board.