Frequently Asked Questions
Women Supporting Women
Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC) exists to create safe futures for women and families. We work across the lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation (Inner City/Inner West Sydney).
We provide housing and support in times of crisis, creating safety for women and children impacted by homelessness, domestic violence and social disadvantage. We build on the existing strength and resilience of our clients through the provision of therapeutic and practical support, financial independence through training and education opportunities and targeted services for children and young people to break the cycle of violence, intergenerational trauma and social disadvantage. We actively engage our communities and supporters to be a part of the prevention movement to end gender based violence in a generation.
We are a grassroots organisation, actively working within our community to advocate for social change.
WAGEC support all womankind (and their children) - including women of diverse gender and sexualities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women of colour and women of all ages and abilities.
WAGEC's Head Office and Intake Centre is based in Redfern although we have short and medium term accommodation across the inner city region of Sydney.
Gender-based violence is any act of violence or abuse committed against someone because of their gender. The United Nations defines it as “physical, sexual or psychological harm”. Threats, stalking, and emotional, verbal, financial, cultural or reproductive coercion are all considered gender-based violence. It includes acts done to intimidate or create fear.
And it doesn’t always happen in isolation, people can be often subject to a combination of violent acts.
The places where these happen help us categories them into terms like domestic or family violence, intimate partner violence, lateral violence, sexual assault, or workplace harassment.
Gender-based violence is a product of the patriarchy, a Western social construct that dictates men should hold the power. It shapes family structures, organisations, systems of government, business, law and our communities as a whole. In practice, it means women are often excluded from making decisions. And it limits their freedom of choice, even when it appears from the outside they have power and resources. In many cases it stops women from reaching their full potential.
Gender-based violence, gender inequality and victim-blaming make it hard for victim-survivors of violence to seek the support and resources they need. Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre in Sydney directly supports women and children in crisis. And we also partner with communities, governments, private and public sector, and individuals to challenge gender inequality and end gender-based violence.
Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone. It occurs in all nationalities, races, religions, social backgrounds, sexualities and genders. It can be experienced by people with a lot of money or those living in poverty, by people who are in an intimate relationship and those who are not. However, women and children are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic and family violence and those who use violence are overwhelmingly male. People belonging to certain groups or communities may experience higher rates of domestic and family violence than others. Affected people may include:
Domestic and family violence can also happen in any relationship, hetero or same-sex, including with:
- Husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends
- Ex-husbands, ex-wives, ex-partners, ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends
- Parents, step-parents, guardians, brothers or sisters
- Careers or foster parents
Domestic and family violence can involve behaviour that is violent in any capacity. This may include:
•ongoing anxiety and depression
•eating and sleeping disturbances
•physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches
•find it hard to manage stress
•be aggressive towards friends and school mates
•feel guilt or blame themselves for the violence
•have trouble forming positive relationships
•develop phobias and insomnia
•struggle with going to school and doing school work
•use bullying behaviour or become a target of bullying
•find it hard to solve problems
•have less empathy and caring for others
Here are some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. It is never OK for someone in a relationship to:
- Physically hurt your body in any way
- Touch you in ways or places you don’t want to be touched
- Force you to have sex or do sexual things
- Expresses extremely jealously when you spend time or show affection to friends, family or your children
- Controls or monitors your technology (phone, computer or internet searches)
- Say and do things that make you feel scared or unsafe
- Take your money or use money to make your life hard
- Damage walls, parts of your home, or your things
- Threaten to hurt you, your children, your pets or people you care about
- Threaten to hurt themselves
- Share private photos or videos of you online without your permission
- Stop you from following your religion or cultural practices
- Isolate you from friends, family or the workplace
- Refuse to provide essential care and support for you if they are your parent, guardian, career, or paid support person
- Make looking after a baby hard by not letting you feed or settle your baby
- Scare you by following you, harassing you, or refusing to leave you alone
- Use the legal system to bully or intimidate you
- Stop you from making decisions about whether or not to have a baby, or other reproductive issues
- Stop you from having medicine you need or from seeing a doctor
- Give you medicine you don't need or more medicine than you need
Here are some signs of a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship gives you freedom to:
- See family and friends
- Go out without the other person
- Control your own money
- Make decisions about your body
- Make decisions about your work, friends and where you live
- Have your own hobbies and interests
- Follow your own cultural practices, religion or spiritual beliefs
- Communicate when you feel unsafe
- Celebrate your achievements
- Voice your options and feelings
People experiencing domestic or family violence may:
- Suddenly stop going out with no reason
- Worry a lot about making a particular person angry
- Make a lot of excuses for someone's negative behavior
- Have marks or injuries on their body that can’t be explained
- Stop spending time with friends and family
- Seem scared or wary around a particular person
- Seem worried that they are being watched, followed or controlled in some way
A person whose behavior is violent or abusive may:
- Act in ways that make the other person scared
- Put the other person down all the time
- Make threats to hurt another person
They might control:
- Where someone goes
- Who they see and speak to
- What happens to their money
- How and when they can use their phone, car, or computer
- Have a lot of rules about how the other person is allowed to behave
- Get very angry when the other person doesn’t follow these rules
It is OK to say something if someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence. There are some simple things you can do to help, including believing them and taking their fears seriously. Remember that domestic and family violence is not just physical — it can also be emotional, financial, spiritual, social, legal, reproductive, and can include stalking and neglect.
Finding out that someone you know is being hurt is always hard. Perhaps you want to help but don't know what to do. The good news is that there are simple things you can do that can make a big difference.
When someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence the way you talk and listen to them makes all the difference. You may be worried about doing the wrong thing, but it is important to know that it is OK to say something. Many people are glad to have the chance to talk about what they are going through.
When someone is experiencing violence they often feel trapped and out of control. These feelings can be made worse if you try to force them to do what you think is best. It is very important that people are supported to make their own choices, as they are ready.
- Believe them and take their fears seriously. This is important no matter what you think of the person or people who hurt them
- Listen without interrupting or judging
- Never blame the person experiencing the violence for what has happened to them. Violence is never OK
- Don’t make excuses for the person who has hurt them
- Understand that they may not be ready or it may not be safe to leave. Don’t try to force them to do what you think is best
- Remember that domestic and family violence is not just physical
- Help in practical ways—with transport, appointments, child minding, or a place to escape to
The cycle of violence explains how and why the behaviour of a person who commits domestic and family violence may change so dramatically over time. The cycle goes through a number of stages and provides an understanding as to why you or the person you are supporting might experience warning signs only sometimes during the day, week or month.
The cycle is not the same for everyone and some people may experience only some stages of the cycle or not relate to it at all. Please remember that the cycle is only a reference. If your experiences do not match this cycle, it does not mean that your experience of domestic or family violence is not to be considered just as seriously.
If you have thought about leaving the relationship or home, here are some steps that will help keep you safe:
Create a Safety Plan
- Plan an escape route from every room in your home
- Think of safe area at home to go to if argument starts (away from weapons, hard services and close to exits)
- Plan and practice the quickest way to leave the house
- Create and keep your escape bag close by but out of sight from perpetrator
- If possible, plan a safe time to exit the property
- Think about and make a list of safe people to contact, if possible memorise important numbers
- ALWAYS try to take your children with you or make arrangements to leave them with someone safe
- Create a CODE WORD or SIGN so your children/ neighbours or family know when to call the police for help
- If you have any mobility issues or disability arrange in advance for a friend or other support person to come straight away if you ring or text them
- Teach your children how to call the police: Dial 000 > Say address > Say name > Say “Help, mum is hurt”
Put together an Escape Bag Checklist
- House and car keys
- ID: you and children
- Mobile phone and charger
- Change of clothes
- Children’s favorite toy/blanket
- Baby equipment including bottles and nappies
- Your Passport and Birth Certificate
- Children’s passport and Birth Certificate
- Drivers License
- Money including cash, credit or debit card
- Bank details
- ADVO (always have a copy on you in your purse)
- Tenancy agreement, lease, rental agreement or house deed
- Car registration and insurance papers
- Marriage Certificate and/or Divorce papers
- Custody Papers
Organise a Safe Form of Transport
- If you don’t have a car make sure arranged transport with a friend or public transport
- Remember you can call police to pick you up to take you to a safe place if you feel in immediate or potential danger
- Park close to your building for work and home and consider asking someone to accompany you to and from the car
- Only leave your home and work place when it is safe to do so
- If possible, park your car on the street instead of in the driveway so you cannot be blocked in
- Practice travelling to the location you have chosen as the safe place, such as a trusted family or friend or crisis accommodation
- After leaving the relationship, start changing your normal routine (catch different trains or buses, leave home or work at different hours, and shop in different places)
- If possible save some money in case you need to take emergency transportation to a safe place
Write Down the Phone Number
- Family Member
- 1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732
After making the brave decision to leave your home due to DFV, you need to continue to ensure you and your children’s safety. You can do this by:
- Accessing crisis accommodation
- Accessing temporary accommodation
- Staying at a family or friends
When you arrive:
- Keep ALL addresses of your accommodation confidential; don’t tell anyone your location, not even mutual friends or family members of the perpetrator, in case the perpetrator locates you
- Inform the police you are safe and to let your trusted family know you are safe however the less your family know of your location the safer they will be if your partner asks them
- Talk to a DFV service, community lawyer or the police about getting an apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO) if you don’t already have one
- After leaving start changing your normal routine, such as, catching different trains or buses, leaving home or work at different hours and shopping in different places
- If you need to have contact with the perpetrator use email only, it is an easier way to keep a record of your conversations
- If you see the perpetrator get into a public space or busy place as soon as possible
- You are not under any legal obligation to inform your partner of your children’s whereabouts unless there are family law court orders in place – seek legal advice as soon as possible around disclosing your child’s current location
- Turn off the GPS location settings on your phone
- Get a Po Box for important mail, if the perpetrator has or could get access to your home letterbox
- Stay away from ALL social media as much as possible. Perpetrators can check your location via social media
- Change your mobile number to prepaid so it is untraceable
- Change all passwords: emails, banking, and social media for anything your partner may know the passwords to
- Get a new travel opal card that is untraceable and prepaid
- If speaking to support services, ensure you ask your address to be confidential
- Tell trusted friends or relatives that you are no longer in the relationship and they should call the police if they see your former partner near or trying to gain access to your home
- Change the locks on your doors, make sure all windows are as secure as possible
- Have additional security installed- sensor lighting/ burglar alarm
- Change the routes you usually take your children to school
- Inform people who look after your children EG. Teachers, childcare, which people have permission to collect them. If you have an ADVO, give a copy to the school
- Change your phone number
- When at work ask someone to screen your calls, it may be a good idea to speak to a trusted supervisor/ senior to inform them of your current difficulties/ risks. It is up to you how much or how little you advise the supervisor at work of your current circumstances (if you chose to at all). We suggest this as it may mean your employer is more flexible with your start and finish time, which enhances aspects of your safety plan, which you can discuss with your case manager
- Change your routes within your standard weekly schedule EG. Shop in a different supermarket at different times and take a different route home
WAGEC is unable to offer any specific legal advice however we can direct you to services that can help.
Women’s Legal Service NSW provides free confidential legal advice and referrals to women in NSW, with a focus on family law, parenting issues, domestic violence, sexual assault and discrimination. Its main objective is to inform women who have experienced violence about their legal rights and to help women obtain access to justice.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEGAL ADVICE LINE:
(02) 8745 6999 or
1800 810 784
We provide a personalised service to women and children at risk of homelessness. We refer them to the best services and programs for their needs.
We provide short term accommodation for women and families across the inner city and inner west of Sydney, totalling 90 beds on any given night. Most of the women and children staying at these refuges have experienced domestic and family violence so we make sure that the properties are safe and secure.
We provide over 45 transitional properties for families and a large ten-bed transitional property for single women. Our medium term supported accommodation offers women and families the stability of affordable housing before they move on to a more permanent home.
Our Central Support Office in Redfern provides a personalised service to women and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. When people first come to WAGEC, whether in person or by phone, we talk to them about their situation then refer them to the best services and programs for their needs. Sometimes women and families come to us in immediate crisis and we can help them to find housing and other support right away.
Specialist after hours support service service for women and children who are leaving violent situations.
We provide wrap around services and holistic support to the women and children who are living in our accommodation and in the community.
ACCESS is a six-month mentoring and targeted support program developed by WAGEC. ACCESS provides pathways to work, training and education opportunities for women in Sydney impacted by homelessness, domestic and family violence, and social disadvantage.
Through one-on-one mentoring and tailored learning opportunities, ACCESS supports women to improve their confidence, economic safety, and wellbeing. ACCESS offers an innovative and responsive model of support to women by facilitating access to the next step in their journey towards economic safety.
The ACCESS program aims to address gender inequality and the disadvantages faced by women impacted by homelessness, domestic violence and social disadvantage. The program seeks to:
• increase women’s economic opportunities
• improve women’s health and wellbeing
• build on women’s strengths to improve their confidence, resilience and capabilities.
You can apply to be a volunteer mentor if you:
• identify as a woman
• are over 18 years of age
• have time to dedicate to your mentee (minimum of about four hours per month for six months)
• are able to attend 12 hours of mentor induction and training (3 hours in person, 9 hours online)
• are able to commit to attending mentor group supervision (online) every 6 weeks and providing mentoring reports to WAGEC every 6 weeks
• are willing to undergo our volunteer onboarding process for your safety, our safety and the safety of our clients.
You can meet with your mentee in-person or virtually, or a mix of both. If you meet in person, you and your mentee must comply with relevant government COVID-19 spatial distancing and safety requirements and WAGEC safety protocols. The majority of mentors and mentees choose to meet mostly virtually, but some meet entirely in person – you and your mentee can decide what works best for you both. Mentoring relationships might take place:
• on the phone - via video or audio calls
• via virtual meeting – using Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp video calls
• at a café, library, community facility, or shopping centre
• by going for a walk together around the neighbourhood or the park
• by attending a course, workshop, or information session together
• via email or text message.
You would make a great ACCESS mentor if:
• you are curious about other people
• you are passionate about gender equality and women’s empowerment
• you share our values
• you have spare time and want to use it to do something meaningful
• you have strong personal boundaries
• you like to connect with people from all walks of life and all backgrounds
• you are able to mentor from a place of non-judgement and let the mentee set the pace of your mentoring relationship.
We asked our brilliant mentors what qualities you need to be an ACCESS mentor. They said:
• adaptability and flexibility
• epic listening skills
• openness to being taught and guided by your mentee
• respectful and patient
• compassionate and empathetic
• good boundaries
• dedication and commitment
• enthusiasm and positivity
• encouraging and supportive
• readiness to learn new things and to be wrong.
Being a mentor is a unique experience and will provide you with the opportunity to:
• gain professional, specialist training and experience to add to your work and volunteer history
• improve your coaching, mentoring and leadership skills
• contribute to creating a positive change in a woman’s life by supporting her to achieve her goals
• gain meaningful exposure to potential career opportunities for supporting women.
You will be supported along the way. We will provide you with:
• access to specialised training and support, including financial capacity building, trauma-informed and strengths-based practice, understanding and addressing domestic violence, gender equality, and mentoring fundamentals
• a mutually beneficial relationship with your mentee
• a certificate of completion
• knowledge and skills you can use in your professional, volunteer, and personal life
• group supervision sessions (virtual) every 6 weeks and ongoing one-on-one support
• opportunities to connect with other women in the community.
As a mentor, your role is to support your mentee to access the next step in her journey towards economic safety. What that step looks like varies for each individual mentee. Some of the activities mentors typically support their mentees with include:
• accessing English classes online to improve English skills
• building IT confidence and skills
• identifying transferable skills and potential job options
• identifying career pathways, changing careers, or re-entering employment
• building confidence and self-esteem, including public speaking skills
• support and encouragement for managing mental and/or physical health concerns, including exercise, managing chronic illness/injury, healthy eating and lifestyles, and different ways of thinking
• taking driving lessons to obtain a driver licence
• assistance with assignments and homework
• assistance and feedback on cover letters, job applications, and resumes
• encouraging the mentee’s growth mindset and reminding her of existing strengths and past successes
• accessing practical support such as clothing for job interviews and laptops for study.
be a good listener
• be consistent and reliable
• celebrate your mentee’s achievements
• provide guidance, encouragement, support and companionship
• use a strengths-based and capacity building approach to support your mentee to develop new skills and strengthen existing skills and capabilities
• help your mentee access information and resources to support her goals
• help your mentee complete tasks such as enrolling for online learning opportunities or applying for a job
• listen to and debrief with your mentee after a difficult experience or setback
• be willing to participate in training and support provided by WAGEC and other partners
• provide regular reports and feedback to WAGEC about your relationship with your mentee, and the ACCESS mentoring program
• compliment and support the mentee’s case management relationship by engaging with your mentee’s case manager and maintaining open communication between the parties.
Applications for January 2021 have no closed but keep an eye out for enrolment later in the year. We will be advertising via our socials and website.
You can fundraise for WAGEC in lots of ways: others have held flash tattoo days, black-tie dinners and online dances. They have sold virtual coffees, t-shirts and tote bags. They have forgone wedding and birthday gifts. No matter what you choose, you will be helping to create safe spaces for women and families escaping homelessness or domestic violence.
To start fundraising, click here.
Support from volunteers means we can do more for women and families.
Volunteering is a great way to give back and to really make an impact in someone’s life. Whether this be through sorting donations that make their way to a relieved mum with the essentials like the new backpack her child needs for school, or a direct impact through providing tutoring services to children.
To express your interest in volunteering, click here.
To view current volunteering opportunities, click here.
An active bystander is an individual who takes action to intervene in response to the observed incident. In the context of domestic and family violence, it means taking action when you see or hear violence, abuse, sexual violence o unacceptable behaviour by one individual towards another.
An active ally is an individual who supports another to respond to domestic and family violence beyond the initial incident. While being a bystander is more reactive and can occur in public areas, workplaces and other community settings, being an ally involves supporting another person right through to their recovery and in a more private space.
RECOGNISE red flags or signs of an unhealthy relationship / domestic and family violence.
Some red flags might be:
- Seems anxious when their partner is around
- Is isolated and isn't as social as they use to be
- No longer does the things they used to enjoy doing
- Is overly anxious about pleasing their partner
- Has lower self-esteem than they used to
- Mentions that their partner puts a lot of demands on them
- Has bruises or other injuries with no explanation or an explanation that does not seem correct
- Stand beside
- Get Help
- Look after yourself
REASSURE the person you are supporting that DFV is NEVER the fault of the victim regardless of the situation it happened in.
RESPECT what ever decision they make and allow them to regain a sense of control over their life. They will most likely know what is safest.
REFER by educating the person experiencing DFV about the different types of support services available.
RECOVER by taking care of yourself. DFV is upsetting and after hearing about it you may feel sad, angry or helpless. Self care is key.
(Reference: Acon, Say it Out Loud Bystander Toolkit)
- Denying gender inequality is a problem
- Condoning male peer relations involving aggression and disrespect towards women
- Undermining women's independence and decision making in private life
- Undermining women's independence and decision making in public life
- Promoting rigid gender roles, stereotypes and expressions
(Reference: Our Watch, Change The Story.)