Community immersion project helps women to regain confidence in themselves, and each other

For many of us, getting out and about into the local community is a common daily experience. For women who have experienced homelessness, mental ill health and family violence, navigating community areas and building relationships with others can present a challenge.

Thanks to a grant from the City of Maribyrnong, we were thrilled to run the McAuley Community Immersion project, to support former and current residents of McAuley House Footscray to build connections with the local surrounding community, as well as with each other.

This project complemented the wider Skills for Life offering run from McAuley House Footscray, supporting women who have experienced the trauma of family violence and homelessness to recover through community connection and social inclusion.

Throughout the year, women immersed themselves in the Maribyrnong community and surrounds, with a varied and exciting schedule of activities, designed by women, for women.

The activities ranged from competition at the local bowling alley, a scavenger hunt through Footscray’s Op Shops, a visit to the Footscray Community Arts Centre and seeing the blockbuster Barbie movie at the Sun Theatre.

Brydie, McAuley’s Social Inclusion Worker, who facilitated the project alongside McAuley House residents, saw women gain in confidence and strengthen their relationships with one another in real time. She said, “There were many clients who shared similar reservations about going out into the community and possibly beyond their comfort zone, but they were brought closer by this collective experience and supported each other to take steps into unfamiliar territory together.”

One woman’s confidence grew so much that she took it upon herself to carefully plan every detail of a group outing to Portarlington, including planning transport, and researching cafés to visit. All who attended had a wonderful time – but also had a boost of inspiration seeing another woman successfully challenge herself.

Looking back on the project, one woman said she enjoyed, “being able to go into the community and experience ‘normal’ things.” Another saw the benefits of “building connection with other women and having fun.”

Adding to this, Brydie said, “Not only did participants build confidence in their local community and beyond by getting a lay of the land and experiencing what’s on offer, but they also built confidence in themselves and each other.”

The final excursion of 2023 was a visit to the Peninsula Hot Springs, just a few days before Christmas. For many women at McAuley House, this can be a difficult time, spending the festive season away from loved ones. The excursion was a welcome distraction and a fantastic way to finish off the year.

We’re so grateful to the City of Maribyrnong for supporting this important work, and understanding the importance of community and connection in recovery from homelessness and family violence.