Albatross breaks bread with women in need of a hand

Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author)

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, International Women's Day, Community Engagement

Personnel from the HMAS Albatross Command Team and women from the Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI) do the ‘Each for Equal’ gesture - symbolising the campaign for a gender equal world. (photo: )
Personnel from the HMAS Albatross Command Team and women from the Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI) do the ‘Each for Equal’ gesture - symbolising the campaign for a gender equal world.

The HMAS Albatross Command Team marked International Women’s Day 2020 by reaching out to women in the local community whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence.

The team approached Ms Lesley Labka, Manager of the Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI) to see what assistance they could provide. 

Suggestions included a working bee, food drive or preparation of a meal.

The Albatross Command Team is a small one but consists of a few keen cooks, so they were delighted when Ms Labka opted for a communal lunch.

Albatross Community Engagement Officer, Chief Petty Officer Linda Eddington, said the team asked themselves “What small action could we make that might brighten their day?”

“It seemed to us that if you were living in stressful circumstances, away from your home, faced with so many unknowns, not having to worry about shopping and preparing food for yourself and your child, for even one meal, was something we could do that would be welcome.

“We planned a meal we could share with both residents and staff of the refuges.

“Team members volunteered to prepare a selection of mains and desserts, while Seaman Katie Hartigan was volunteered for - and excelled at - cupcake duty, so that children who couldn’t attend the lunch would have a treat when they returned from school,” Chief Petty Officer Eddington said.

While doing a reconnaissance visit of the refuge kitchen facilities prior to International Women’s Day, Albatross Paralegal Ms Denise Tucker asked staff how the women usually managed meals.

“It was really sobering for me to learn that most women arrive at the refuge with absolutely nothing and with no resources,” Ms Tucker said.

“So we also organised a pantry drive and received an abundance of donations of everything from baked beans to bananas to baby food and even shower bags stocked, not just with essentials such as soap and shampoo, but with a few luxuries like hand cream and Oreos,” she said.

Chief Petty Officer Eddington said sharing a meal could be a great unifier.

“It gave us an opportunity to learn something about SAHSSI and the important work they do by just taking the time to sit and talk over food,” she said.

HMAS Albatross’ Commanding Officer Captain Robyn Phillips said that while the primary aim was for personnel to do something in support of other women, the experience had a big impact on the Command Team. 

“Our team left with some profound insights into domestic abuse, which went far beyond the statistics and headlines,” she said.

SAHSSI is a Specialist Homelessness Service which provides accommodation, support and guidance in a safe environment, and has over 30 years of continuous experience, primarily working with women affected by homelessness or domestic and family violence.

Amongst their services are accommodation for women in a crisis situation, such as escaping domestic violence, and transitional housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as a  24/7 emergency accommodation and specialist support service to women and children who are fleeing domestic and family abuse.

To find out more, or to donate to SAHSSI, go to: https://www.sahssi.org.au.

Other priority items needed by the organisation are: white goods, furniture, vouchers, homewares and home starter kits.