Welcome to IGFF’s Monthly Newsletter
Despite the hundreds of days we have now spent in lockdown, the team at IGFF have been enjoying the warmer weather and sunshine as we work from home here in Victoria.
Although we are all working from home, we’ve been noticing the combination of tempestuous weather, warmer days and bush bursting from life in our gardens and daily walks. As one of our Caseworkers shared at our team meeting, the Spring-like weather some of us have been experiencing in parts of Victoria more closely reflects Petyan – wildflower season – in the Gariwerd seasonal cycle. With permission from Gariwerd Elders, including the Gunditjmara, Winda Mara (Kerrup Jamara), Goolum Goolum, Kirrae Whurrong and Framlingham peoples, the Bureau of Meteorology have a guide to the six distinct weather periods recognised in the Brambuk seasonal cycle. For those of us in parts of Melbourne, much of this recent weather is part of the Wurundjeri season, described in Woiwurrung traditions, of Poorneet, or Tadpole Season. This article outlines how Wurundjeri Elder Nanna Jessie Hunter described the different seasons to Yorta Yorta scientist Jessie Ferrari.
As large parts of the country are facing public health restrictions, we hope that you are finding ways to connect to nature, the change in seasons, or whatever interests you. A new initiative that has been recently launched in Victoria – Victoria Together – provides free virtual wellbeing resources across a range of categories from mediation and yoga practices to comedy and art. It might be worth clicking around to see what you can find.
We’re always keeping an eye out for other resources and interesting events that might be interesting or relevant for our clients, team and wider community. As we provide services nationally, we are open to ideas and thoughts from across the country. If you have something you would like to share, you can email it through to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond as soon as we can.
An image of the Otways from a rainforest meditation available through Victoria Together.
The First MVC Meeting of 2021
Last month, IGFF held the first-ever virtual Melbourne Victims’ Collective meeting. While we all missed the opportunity to sit together in person to share a cup of tea, MVC members were invited to Zoom or dial into the meeting.
It was definitely different to previous meetings, but the speakers kept their discussions honest and spoke with great candour, and made complex conversations about the National Redress Scheme, Survivor advocacy and other justice pathways feel straightforward and informative.
Among others, we heard crucial insights from:
- Dr Katie Allen MP, who spoke to her experiences on the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme, and what drives her personal work in this space.
- Kim Price, Principal from Arnold Thomas and Becker lawyers, who discussed insights from recent litigation successes on behalf of Survivors.
- Jim Boyle, who shared reflections and some crucial thoughts on the justice pathways currently available to Survivors.
We would like to again thank all the speakers, but also – and most importantly – all the MVC members whose care and patience made this meeting possible. We know that it has been a long time since we were able to hold a Collective meeting in person, and while we hope that we will be able to safely see each other face to face again soon, we are grateful for your understanding and flexibility as we try out new ways of coming together remotely.
National Redress Scheme Updates
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have now joined the National Redress Scheme, after years of advocacy by Survivors and ex-members of the group.
A further 33 institutions have also recently joined the Scheme, and can be found listed in Minister Ruston’s 10 September media release. These include Tennis Australia, St John Ambulance Australia Queensland, Beacon Hill Youth Club and Youth Off the Streets. 526 non-government institutions, along with all Australian governments are now participating in the scheme, and the Minister’s update committed to ensuring every institution with a history of working with young people join’s the Scheme, so that all future Survivors who come forward have the option to access redress.
The federal government has also recently agreed to fund compensation for Survivors from Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home, where many Stolen Generations Survivors suffered horrific abuse. As Retta Dixon Survivor and applicant to the Scheme Frank Spry said in his response:
I’m happy that something has happened and hopefully we don’t have to go through any rigorous process to access whatever compensation we need.
No compensation in any way will achieve any closure at the end of the day, because we live with the trauma.
Work from Home Reflections
This past month, the IGFF team was able to get together for an informal lunch from home. Checking in to chat and share some cheesy jokes provided a nice reminder that we will eventually be able to see each other face to face again.
Some members of the IGFF team at our meeting.
It was also a wonderful way to acknowledge the incredible effort of our Casework Team in working from home. The first half of this year has again seen a rise in our direct support and advocacy services, and our team have worked tirelessly to make sure that every client – new and old – has access to ongoing, wraparound supports.
The below charts are based off some of the completely de-identified information we record – and emphasise just how much care each Caseworker puts into what they do, and the impact our growing team has had.
The number of client-related sessions the Casework Team held in the first half of 2021.
The kinds of services provided in the first half of 2021.
Reminder: Change of Phone Number
In case you missed our last announcement, we’d like to just share a reminder that IGFF’s number has been updated! 1300 12 IGFF (4433) will hopefully be an accessible, convenient and easily memorable way for you to stay in touch, so please do make sure to pop it in your phone.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
In Recent News…
Inside the brutal world of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Four Corners
our Corners has published a long-form interview with Survivors who are pursuing justice and redress through the civil courts, following on from the recent ABC interview with Sydney Jehovah’s Witness Survivors, and news of the organisation joining the National Redress Scheme,
As the article acknowledges, little has changed since the Royal Commission exposed the cruel treatment of child abuse victim-Survivors within the religion. The Survivors interviewed describe the re-traumatisation of being interrogated by authorities within the religion about their experiences, and the loss and grief caused by shunning practices, which cut ex-members off from their loved ones and community. As Survivor Amy Whitby stated:
I feel like what happened had a bit of a domino effect on the rest of my life. I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if that hadn’t have happened, my self confidence, my self worth.
Photo: James Ross/AAP
Money is frequently offered to redress wrongs — what does it achieve for victims and justice?, The Conversation
Despite the many forms it takes — and the many victims who seek it — money payments may not be interpreted as “justice” when received by victims.
We call this the money justice paradox. How can a sum of money, however large, compensate for a loss of life or health? Victims also ask why their loss was “worth” less than that of others, when comparing payments. For these reasons, money may fail as justice to victims.
Stronger privacy protections set to be locked in for disability royal commission witnesses, SBS News
As disability advocates and organisations have been saying, stronger protections for people sharing their stories with the Disability Royal Commission will enable more people to safely talk about their expeirences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The vast majority of IGFF’s clients identify as living with some form of disability, and we have seen first-hand the importance of strong confidentiality protections for people exposing institutional failures and extreme violence with Royal Commissions. We will continue to watch the Commission’s progress closely, as we hope it will lead to widespread change.
An image from People with Disability Australia’s campaign to have privacy protections for witnesses to the Royal Commission become law.
Everyday Courage: Rural Communities
Over the past few weeks, we have been putting the spotlight on the particular everyday courage of Survivors in rural, regional and remote areas on our Facebook. Below are the first two posts in our series.
Life in rural areas
Survivors living in these areas often face barriers to recovery and justice that people in urban areas might not consider.
Living in a small, close-knit community can mean being strongly connected to your neighbours, and feeling supported by the people around you. Yet it can also make it more difficult for some people to find anonymity and privacy while doing things like attending health services or reporting to the authorities. Barriers can be physical, like hurdles getting to and from appointments and finding suitable professionals to work with. They can also be less tangible, and involve worrying about confidentiality and what will happen if you aren’t believed. Fears of community backlash and isolation are very real, and can have a huge impact on daily life.
Mental health services
For many people living in regional areas, finding someone to talk to can be particularly challenging.
When everyone in a community knows each other, it can be difficult to privately and confidentially source mental health support. Services are not often easily available, and there can still be stigma for accessing a known service. If you face difficulties with a service, like your local GP, you might then not have other places to turn to – and may need to keep seeing the professionally socially.
In the search for the right professional, Survivors may find themselves needing to access services that are far away, making it difficult to travel to and from appointments. Online and phone services can be key – with organisations like IGFF providing support remotely. Yet people should be able to access the face-to-face services they want as well, and the shortage of mental health professionals affects all people in regional and remote communities. While these communities are often rightly celebrated for their strength and resilience, everyone should be able to have access to the services they need.
For more information about how this issue impacts people with disability, like the majority of IGFF’s clients, the ABC provide a useful explainer. Lifeline also publish key resources for people living in rural and remote areas, with specific recommended services.
We also recommend watching this recent video of Thelma Schwartz, the principal legal officer at the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service, speaking on The Drum about the heartbreaking experiences of sexual violence Survivors in regional and remote communities. The stories she shares are difficult to listen to, and we do recommend viewing with care.
Online resource: Collective Trauma Summit 2021
The talks and events that will be part of this summit will explore the theme ‘Collective Healing in Action’. Some topics that may be relevant to the work we do – and how we do this during COVID – include conversations about moral injury, restorative justice and how we can go beyond being trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive, both individually and as a society.
Register to attend the Summit for free here
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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 1300 12 IGFF (4433) or email email@example.com.
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All donations of $2 or more to IGFF (ABN 53 165 246 926) are tax deductible in Australia.
Every donation to IGFF is used to help Survivors, families and communities recover from institutional child abuse. Your support will assist case management and advocacy for individuals, the Melbourne Victims’ Collective, community education and feedback to government.
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.