I have written previously about domestic violence (here), and in this post, as with that one, I wasn’t actually at the event I am writing about. In fact the occasion itself is now some weeks past, but I waited to write it till I could get some pics of the event (thanks a lot Megan for sending them to me, plus passing on other information about the evening). The AGM of the Southern Domestic Violence Service is held each year around this time. I (and many others of us) have worked with SDVS over quite a few years, both as a health worker, and with CHO. It is one of my favourite organisations – barring the actual need for it of course – for its positive, innovative, compassionate and creative work, its willingness to collaborate with all manner of organisations and groups (like Health back in the day, and CHO now), and the great staff and management.
I could not go to the AGM, which I like to do, but this year I had another activity on at the same time, so I missed the opportunity to see the special appearance there of three of the original workers at the first women’s shelter in existence down south. Getting the service going all those years ago – it was officially opened by Don Hopgood on 11 November 1976 – when there was almost no social acceptance of the need for it, took a lot of guts and determination. Helen, in her speech at the AGM said that at the beginning of the shelter “we were described as whores, bra-burning bitches, lesbians who just needed a good fuck, with siege mentality” and went on to say that people wouldn’t talk to her in the street, and made fun of her at the football club. They would ask when she burnt her bra today, and she would reply that today it was her knickers she had burnt, because she and the others would not be silenced, or intimidated, or made to stop the work they were doing. And so that service and others like it emerged, and women got help and support from them. I was speaking just yesterday with a community woman who moved out of a vicious domestic violence relationship into one of Adelaide’s women’s shelters 30 years ago, and she told me it was the happiest time of her life. She was treated so well and was so relieved to be safe from danger and cared about for that 6 month period. The support they receive lives on for many women and their children in many ways.
The three originals who attended the AGM have all led great lives. Helen, central to all that happened, is 85 now, and still as passionate and committed to a good life for all as she ever was. Molly has recently retired from many years working for Housing SA (where she was very supportive of lots of community programs, including Community Foodies, when she was the manager at Housing SA at Noarlunga), and Judith was a nurse and has led a very interesting and active life also. Helen has recently had heart surgery, so the fact that she could attend was very special. The three activists sang ‘Don’t be too polite girls’ for those present – what a special thing for all. I am very sorry I was not able to be there, but wanted to thank the staff at SDVS for their work in the present, and to thank all those who have gone before us and got the show on the road (such as Helen, Molly and Judith), for their contributions, their strength, their creativity and determination, and for all that they did to make a difference to us all.
Have a listen to the song (an internet version sadly, not the version pictured here) here