When the women of the HMAS Albatross Command Team visited the Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI) on International Women’s Day (IWD) earlier this year, it was meant to be a one-off occasion.
However, after preparing and sharing lunch with the residents at the refuge and the SAHSSI staff that day, the Command Team left with a determination to build on that activity and to continue to offer support.
Albatross Community Engagement Coordinator, Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Manager Linda Eddington said this connection was vital during these difficult times.
“Australian surveys show domestic and family violence victims seeking urgent assistance has spiked during the COVID-19 lockdown began in March,” Chief Petty Officer Eddington said.
“People are told to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but domestic violence victims don’t have a safe home to begin with, so more are seeking assistance from organisations like SAHSSI.
“Throughout the year we have worked hard to come up with ways we can continue our support for the local community while maintaining COVID precautions.
“One of things we learnt during our visit in March was that many of these women and children arrive at the refuge with just the clothes they left home in, so the Team decided one thing we could do was to hold a clothing drive.
“The response was truly overwhelming, and just when the donations office looked like it couldn’t hold another t-shirt, Ms Maxine Starkey from the Shoalhaven Defence Families Association’s Kookaburra Retreat arrived with a car full of baby and toddlers clothes,” she said.
The donation from Kookaburra Retreat contained so many beautiful baby clothes, the team decided to share them between two other local community organisations, Waminda’s Minga Gudjaga ‘Mother and Baby’ program which provides holistic midwifery care, and Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre Inc.
Albatross Paralegal Ms Denise Tucker had the job of working ‘Marie Kondo’ style magic on the donations, folding, ironing and even colour coordinating.
“Presentation was a very important aspect,” Ms Tucker said.
“We didn’t want to just turn up with garbage bags of clothes. We wanted to give the women a boutique experience.
“We received some really lovely items and we displayed them in a way that we hoped would provide the women with, not just items of clothing, but the pleasure of choosing them.”
Command Warrant Officer Gary Fuss, who is also the Albatross White Ribbon Ambassador, said he was very proud of team’s work.
“In my White Ribbon role I’d visited some of these refuges before, and I spoke to the team before their initial visit about some of the tragic realities these women and their children face,” Command Warrant Officer Fuss said.
“The Team could have gone for IWD and then congratulated themselves for their good work, instead they came away determined to do more.
“They give their own time and money - and in this case their own clothing - trying to find small ways they can improve the quality of life of others.”