Thank you to everyone who sent me congrats for my St Kilda Gatehouse work anniversary as shown by LinkedIn. After being a supporter for a number of years, I joined the board 5 years ago and accepted the role as chairperson from 1 July this year. In common with most of you, I have been a long-time promoter of diversity and gender equality in the workplace, which is now a generally accepted standard, enforceable by law. Alongside this, St Kilda Gatehouse has given me a deeper understanding of the lack of gender equity in our society and especially for those living or growing up in abusive relationships. St Kilda Gatehouse works with women and girls who have held onto their resilience, even when society has not recognised the complex trauma that has shaped their lives.
While workplace equality remains an important issue, providing equity for girls and young women here in Melbourne, to have access to freedom of choice through understanding of their mental health, is a much deeper, essential proposal. Child sexual exploitation, here in Melbourne, has been recognised publicly during the COVID-19 lockdown, yet this abuse has a long history and very limited remedy to date.
The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have taught us much about the fragility of our mental health, the scale of family violence and disparity in choice across socio-economic groups. We always knew there was disparity, but the pandemic shone a bright light on those with limited basic choice. If a young girl grows up with family violence and child sexual exploitation as her experience of life, then the “choice” of substance addiction and street sex work is a road to survival and self-determination rather than anything more sinister. There is no equity in the life of a child who grows up experiencing abuse as the norm.
The St Kilda Gatehouse Young Women’s Project is an early intervention program for young women and girls involved in, or at risk of sexual exploitation here in Melbourne. During the lockdown we conducted a close review of this program to strengthen the support services we offer. We are now urgently seeking financial partners with a heart to seek equity for young girls at risk, to help fund our long-term programs. Complex trauma cannot be addressed in a few weeks. We may need to work with a young woman and other agencies for 2-3 years until she learns to depend on her inner strength to recognise and seek the safer choices available to her. These are fine young women in the midst of our city, who deserve the chance to seize opportunities which we may take for granted, but which they have not known possible.
If you or your clients are willing to work with us to empower these young women through provision of financial support for the Young Women’s Project this Christmas, or at any time during the new year, please contact me. Regular accountability for use of funds will be provided. St Kilda Gatehouse is a charity registered with the ACNC.
Wishing you all peace and joy this Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year