April 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to IGFF’s monthly newsletter!

Recently, one of our clients was talking about her choice to pursue justice pathways. She reflected that after everything she’s experienced, she deserves to be happy, simply stating:

I deserve to have a good life. 

The belief that everyone deserves to have a good life drives IGFF’s work. There is still so much to be done in building a world where Survivors are supported to share their stories, and work towards justice, recovery and healing.

In the recent Autumn weather, our team has been taking the time to look to the future and think about how we can make sure our work has longevity: ensuring our reliable, ongoing support and advocacy continues long into the future. Conversations with our clients and community guide what we do, and we want to be able to maintain our critical impact for Survivors and people impacted by institutional abuse nation-wide.

After a long year of working from home, we’ve been adjusting to being back in the office, and working in ways that had been put on pause. This past month, we were able to have the whole team together in person to participate in a Planning Week. Our Head of Governance, Phil Lindenmayer, facilitated open conversations about the organisation, the ways we communicate and hopes for the future – along with plenty of icebreakers. Being able to understand how we can all best support each other and collaborate is a key part of IGFF’s holistic approach to individual client support and advocacy, along with our wider work with groups and communities, and lobbying for social change.

A key part of our trauma-informed practice is ensuring that our front-line workers have access to supervision, as a place to talk about their experiences, develop professionally, critically reflect and safeguard against vicarious trauma. Our Planning Week also included a Group Supervision session, where everyone was invited to share their experiences, and talk about how we work together. While the Casework Team are all very familiar with these processes, Governance and Administrative staff who joined IGFF more recently were surprised at how helpful the process is as a way to pause, reflect and take stock.

Systemic Advocacy: Working for Social Change

Systemic advocacy is a key way IGFF stands alongside and promotes the voices of our clients and community. We lobby to change policies and practices that re-traumatise and hurt Survivors, to target the very institutional and social structures that enable and perpetuate child abuse. Our mission is to work towards a world free of institutional abuse.

In recent months, we have provided targeted feedback and suggestions to the following bodies.

Feedback to the Joint Select Committee on the National Redress Scheme 

Our Chief Executive Officer Clare Leaney, Executive Manager Survivor Services Rachel Last, Head of Governance Phil Lindenmayer and Chief Operating Officer Joe Stroud recently spoke before the Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of the National Redress Scheme.

Talking about recent, optimistic developments, but also key issues and experiences with the Scheme, our team shared stories of what needs to be changed. As Clare emphasised in her introduction:

We cannot assume that signing up to the Scheme necessarily means that an institution is making the deep-seated cultural change that is vital to preventing a return to widespread abuse. Institutions have their own reasons for signing up. In many cases, it can be a genuine commitment to change. In others, it can be entirely self-serving, looking to protect themselves from cripplingly expensive litigation, loss of charitable status or damage to their reputations. We must retain the scrutiny that we have developed and remain vigilant to ensure that all children are protected. This vigilance cannot stop at some arbitrary point in the future. We need to embed transparent, mandatory reporting processes into the way all organisations operate and ensure that this is nationally consistent. Every opportunity missed to identify and stop an abuser puts another child at risk.

We need to work hard to remove the stigma of coming forward, a tool that abusers have often relied on to silence their victims. 

You can read the full transcript of our session here

Building Safer Communities

Systemic work also requires that we use the experiences, testimony and stories entrusted in us to make the world a safer place for children in the present and future. This month, we gave feedback to the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. By sharing our experiences of how these systems work, we can also work to transform them and build safer communities for everyone.

Later in Autumn, we will also be restarting our Everyday Courage series. Given the impact of COVID-19 on our work last year, we wanted to use 2020 to focus on sharing self-care strategies and links to practical, ongoing support, through resources like our Mutual Aid Database and information from our trusted networks. These resources provided critical support, and we are working out ways to ensure that they can assist our communities into the future. Complementing these practical campaigns, the Everyday Courage series works to share stories of the daily resilience and courage of Survivors, building awareness while celebrating our community’s strength. 

Social Justice and Equity Webinar

Clare recently participated in the webinar ‘Institutional Abuse and the Law’ as part of Monash Law Student Society’s Social Justice and Equity series. The panel discussion, with Knowmore lawyer Aidan McCarthy and Vivian Waller of Waller Legal, was a great way to assist students develop their understandings of the legal field – but also ensure they consider the resilience and strength of Survivors, and the lifelong impacts of trauma.

Choosing to embark on a justice pathway is a huge, deeply personal decision. Pursuing justice through civil litigation – suing responsible institutions and/or individual offenders – or making a statement to the police and taking part in criminal justice proceedings can be key ways of seeking accountability, and life-changing acknowledgement of harms done. But such processes can also be re-traumatising, and rekindle traumatic experiences or fears of not being believed. They can be drawn out over many years, and require people to comply with confusing, alienating legal procedures when they are particularly vulnerable.

Any discussion of institutional abuse and justice needs to centre Survivors’ voices and experiences. By ensuring our clients and community can be heard, we can help the next generation of lawyers and legal professionals know just how much still needs to be changed about our legal system.

One such future lawyer is currently on placement with us. Below, we introduce Tamara and her project, and talk about what she has been learning from the IGFF Casework Team.

Volunteer Profile: Law Student Tamara Kube

Tamara reached out to IGFF at the start of the year about volunteering with us, and has been providing incredible support through her key project work ever since. Drawing on her legal studies, she’s been interviewing IGFF staff and working with us to build a glossary of key legal terms we come across while working with people pursuing civil litigation. As she nears the end of her placement, we wanted to find out more about what this project has involved.

Can you tell us a little about the project, the work you’re doing and the resource you’re creating? 
This project is going to be a glossary of terms that are most commonly found in the Civil Litigation system and might be sources of confusion for clients of IGFF. It’s been a lot of research work so far, and I have done a lot of brainstorming with the caseworkers. I’m hoping that this will be a great resource to alleviate some of the stress that comes along with going through the legal system.

What led you to reach out to IGFF? 
My parents actually read about IGFF in an article, and sent it to me, because I was looking for a not-for-profit organisation to do my placement with! I did a little more research, and really liked the work that you guys do. It delved more into the legal world, and I feel quite strongly about the values you stand for.

Have there been any highlights of volunteering with us? 
I think the general excitement about my project has been a big highlight so far, and I have had a lot of fun meeting all the caseworkers and working with them! I’ve learnt so much, and finally been able to put all of the knowledge I’ve gained at university to work in a more practical environment.

What drives your studies in law? 
I think I have a really strong motivation to help people, and I really think that our justice system fails a lot of people that have had really horrible experiences. I like to believe I have a strong moral compass, which I know will make law difficult, but I believe that through this course of study, I’ll be able to use it in the best possible way for others.

This project has involved reading and hearing about how re-traumatising and difficult pursuing justice through the courts can be. Do you have any particular strategies for self-care, or things you do to unwind? 
I’m really lucky to have a really supporting and loving family to go home to, so they are a big support system for me. I love to spend time with them, and we do a lot together. I also do a lot of exercise, sleep as much as I can, and am a HUGE advocate for therapy – it’s the best form of mental self-care you can do!

In Recent News…

The National Memorial design competition has opened

The design competition to create a National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse opened this month. A key recommendation from the Child Abuse Royal Commission was to establish a memorial as a place of truth and commemoration. It will honour the strength of victims and Survivors in coming forward and sharing their stories and working towards change, while remembering the impact of institutional failures to respond to abuse.

You can find out more on the design competition’s website. The site will aim:

To provide a dedicated and enduring place to reflect, pay tribute and remind future generations to be ever vigilant in protecting our children.

The site for the Memorial on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

‘The memo that erased a scandal’

The ABC recently published a long investigative piece sharing stories about the Ballarat orphanage. The article discusses the past and present limitations of the criminal justice system in responding to Survivors who want to make complaints about institutional child abuse. We recommend reading with care.

As one Survivor, Yvonne reflects:

Justice takes many forms. If you were to look at the overall picture of justice, not only here but worldwide, I suppose it’s atrocious. It’s chaos. There’s no real law. People are a law unto themselves, in a sense, but I think we should be allowed to tell the story.

ABC photograph of Yvonne looking at photographs.

Footballer Rod Owen shares his story

Back then, if you said anything about your anxiety, depression or fears, you were labelled weird or soft, and banished. I never had the courage to ask for help.

This article shares Rod Owen’s story of survival and recovery. Please read with care, as it discusses child sexual abuse, suicidal ideation and addiction while sharing his hope and optimism about working with other people.

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If you have any more questions about what we’ve been up to, how we can support Survivors, or any of our services, you can leave a message for us to call back at (03) 9940 1533 or email igff@igff.org.au.

Donate now to support the work of the Foundation

IGFF is committed to achieving justice for Survivors of institutional abuse. We acknowledge the strength, courage and sacrifices of all on the journey to recovery.

IGFF would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we work and live. We pay our respect to Elders past and present.

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