Beacon of hope

• Attendees at the Stirling Women’s Centre’s 40th anniversary included minister for prevention of family and domestic violence Simone McGurk (third from right), WA Liberal leader Liza Harvey (second from left) and Stirling mayor Mark Irwin (third from left). Photo supplied.

“DEATH surrounded me and I was in a very dark place.”

Those are the chilling words of Belinda Day, one of the many victims of domestic violence who found refuge at the Stirling Women’s Centre.

For the last 40 years the centre has provided accommodation and support to women and children escaping domestic or family violence.

Last week Stirling council held an event to mark the milestone, coinciding with the anti-DV campaign 16 Days in WA.

Ms Day attended and spoke movingly about her experiences.

“I arrived at the Stirling Women’s Centre with absolutely nothing except the clothes I was wearing, extremely thin, with a huge pregnant stomach expecting a child, shortly,” she said.

“Death surrounded me and I was in a very dark place. I didn’t feel worthy to be loved nor believed in, I was a lost soul, extremely vulnerable and reckless.

“I remember thinking and feeling, ‘Why does this always happen to me? I’m so messed up’. I had strong anxiety and was thinking, ‘Now I have curfews, rules to follow, like I’m a little child. I must get out of here asap because I don’t want to be in another jail.’

Protect

“I had this expectation and view on refuges in Perth because I have been to more refuges than you can count on both hands. Little did I know that the workers at the SWC wanted to protect, love and support me through this long journey.

“The SWC believed in me, when every other refuge gave up on me. They knew I was head strong and had a dream which has the white picket fence.

“They helped me gain confidence and the tools to know that I deserved to be loved and acknowledged for who I am and where I’ve come from.

“They stood by me through thick and thin, gave me love, helped me form and experience what true, healthy and loving relationships are and what they look like, by their example. They gave me the skills needed for me to be the best parent I could possibly be.”

Stirling mayor Mark Irwin says he is very proud of the centre’s work.

“In 1976 the city began supporting women and children escaping family and domestic violence from a small house in Morley, and in 1979 the City of Stirling started the first purpose-built refuge in WA, which we now know as the Stirling Women’s Centre,” he said.

“The centre continues to be the only local government-managed refuge in the state and its success is due to the tireless work of staff and volunteers over the last 40 years who have helped thousands of families in need.”

The Stirling Women’s Centre also runs the successful North East Metro safe at home program, deals with family and domestic incident reports, looks after the Serene Centre, which offers free workshops to empower women and children.

In addition it provides advice to male victims of domestic violence.

The centre is holding a Christmas appeal to help 50 families in crisis.

Gifts can be put in red donation bins at Stirling council’s administration centre, libraries and leisure centres.

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