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Young Women's Project
This unique program designed by St Kilda Gatehouse with experience working with women involved in commercial sexual activity, targets young women aged 12 - 25 years old vulnerable to Commercial Sexual Exploitation, a trajectory that those who have experienced childhood trauma, abuse, family breakdown, poverty, and a lack of traditional supports are all too often at risk of.
Our long-term vision is that the Young Women’s Project will create a holistic model of intervention through providing an open-door Centre with outreach support, staff to support young women, and partnerships with other youth and community organisation’s to address the specific needs of these vulnerable young women to begin their recovery. The Project will encompass a community based open-door Centre with 'wrap-around' flexible outreach support and community services, whilst also providing a safe place for young women to partake in group work initiatives.
The initial phase of the project is underway with groupwork, secondary consultations, training and mentoring being provided.
The group work sessions create a point of connection and community for girls and young women who are vulnerable to Commercial Sexual Exploitation. It uses the medium of music to build relationships, create a safe space and environment and to foster a platform for sharing about life experiences, challenges and build on young women’s strengths and resilience.
The Mentoring Program provides matching of young women with volunteer mentors from the community. This is an existing program that St Kilda Gatehouse has operated successfully for two years in partnership with Whitelion and is being extended into the Dandenong area. The Mentoring Program offers: positive social relationship; alternative to the sense of isolation they often experience; strengthening in their connection with their local community. Mentors undergo extensive training required for their accreditation as Young Women’s Project volunteers. Through developing awareness of the challenges associated with commercial sexual exploitation, combined with mentoring skills, members of the community represent an integral part of the positive social impact that the Young Women’s Project strives to bring about. If you'd like to know more or want to support this Project please contact us.
The project has been developed in formal partnership with Whitelion. It is made possible through funding from Australian Communities Foundation, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Andyinc Foundation, Portland House, Mission Australia and Gospel Resource - and through the enthusiasm of volunteer mentors who commit to undergo extensive training and accreditation.
Mentor: Honesty Pern
Greeves St. is a social enterprise project supporting marginalised women who seek out street sex work as a result of abuse, addiction, poverty and other hardships. The Greeves St. project empowers women to learn new skills and gain self-esteem. By participating in the enterprise women learn to design, sew and market textile products for the boutique and gallery trade. In addition to the participation of Gatehouse clients, local artists partner with the Greeves St. social enterprise by donating images of their artwork to be printed on to greeting cards, which are then sold to galleries and shops. All profits from the enterprise fund St Kilda Gatehouse's pharmacotherapy program, which helps bring stability into the lives of those struggling with drug dependency and mental health issues. Visit the Greeves St. blog by clicking here.
For mothers whose path lead them to street sex work due to homelessness, abuse and poverty, separation from their children can mean great stress and trauma, leading to increased drug use and therefore street sex work.
For some women, however, motherhood can be a crucial incentive for change. During the process of building a new life a child's very existence can be a powerful source of support, inspiration and hope.
"I didn't know you could love someone as much as this" - Stacey, after her son's birth.
Staff, volunteers and mentors support mothers involved in street sex work to have increased and improved quality time with their children.
The aim of this support is to:
- Tackle the issues preventing meaningful contact, such as homelessness and drug addiction
- Organise recreational outings and positive family experiences
- Provide parental education and support
- Match donations of toys and clothing
Image taken from Red Light Dark Room, by Gemma-Rose Turnbull
Off The Streets
Leaving street sex work can be a very difficult and isolating process. There are also ‘pull’ factors which make it hard to leave street sex work such as freedom, human contact, a social network, a sense of safety in the familiar, drug addiction or other needs for money. Due to a history of negative and traumatic experiences many of the women engaging in street sex work feel there is no way out and that their past, as well as their current lifestyle excludes them from society and the opportunities. Many do not want to risk failure or additional setbacks.
A way to help reduce the ‘pull’ of street sex work is to provide the capacity to form meaningful, safe relationships and opportunities to engage in positive activities which provide a sense of purpose and achievement.
Off The Streets is a recreational program that provides the opportunity for alternative, fun, social and safe recreational experiences for those involved in street sex work. This year we have taken groups to the movies, to the snow and horse riding. We have also had women regularly involved in weekly swimming and have taken parents and their children ten-pin bowling. In November our Women’s Netball Team will be starting its third season.
Red Light Dark Room
St Kilda Gatehouse recently hosted a project conducted by photojournalist Gemma-Rose Turnbull. Red Light Dark Room gave women involved in street sex work the opportunity to tell their untold stories.
Over the past 12 months, Gemma-Rose has used a Australia Council for the Arts Connections Residency grant to photograph and interview participants, while teaching these women the skill of photography.
The Red Light Dark Room book is a collection of the interviews, observations and photographs. The images are often blurry, but they carry raw truths. Pictures of street corners, clients, drugs and the detritus of hard lives. They, and their accompanying words, have common themes, of abuse at a young age, violence, of using and being used. There is sorrow and cynicism, alongside strength and humour.
All proceeds from the book will be directed towards supporting women transition out of street sex work.
To purchase a copy of the book click here
The women who come to St Kilda Gatehouse have designed a mosaic art piece which will be mounted on the outside brick wall. Mosaic artist Sean Curtis assisted the women involved in the project to cut tiles, glue and grout and piece together the work. It was a real community effort. The women who decided on the final design wanted to reflect the heart and warmth of daily life at St Kilda Gatehouse.
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