Our women’s employment service achieving great outcomes

(This article originally appeared in the Ballarat Courier, was written by Rochelle Kirkham and reproduced with their kind permission).

McAuley Community Services for Women has been offering one-on-one case management support for women who have faced family violence or homelessness in the Ballarat region for the past three years.

Chief executive Jocelyn Bignold OAM said the service’s focus on employment support was a response to what women were said they needed.

“We know women’s economic security is one of the greatest barriers to be able to stay home safely,” she said.

“Their inability to manage their housing financially is one of the factors that leads them to homelessness.

“In Victoria we have put a huge emphasis on family violence but a lot of it focuses on the crisis part and employment is missed.” Findings show employment and financial independence is important in a woman’s ability to leave violent relationships.

“It is a huge confidence boost when women can thrive in a workplace.

“Women are less likely to leave violent men when they are financially dependent on them.”

Ms Bignold said employment also had a positive impact on women’s self esteem.

“It is where women tap into their identities as not just victims; they are professional, thriving, independent people at work, part of teams and respected and valued,” she said.

“All of that is opposite to the experience of family violence where they are hurt and denigrated and belittled and humiliated.

McAuley Works Ballarat Job Mentor Jo Turner

The employment support service, called McAuley Works, offers personalised support with job searches, skills training, resume development, job matching and referrals for vocational skills and training.

Ballarat employment case worker Jo Turner (pictured at left) helps women with interview practice and outfits and building confidence, through to post-employment support.


She also talks to potential employers about what it is like to employ someone who has faced barriers to employment before.

More than 300 women have participated in the McAuley Works program across Ballarat and Melbourne in the past three years.

Ms Bignold said a recent study of 38 participants found 22 were working full-time and all of the women said paid employment helped them stabilise their housing.

“Without that job they either thought they would be in refuges, homeless or they didn’t know what they would have done,” she said.

Ms Bignold said it was important to offer specific support for employment through a family violence lens as it impacted women’s ability to secure and stay in jobs.

“Perpetrators of family violence will often sabotage people’s jobs, they will hold the car key so she can’t get to work or they won’t be there to look after the children,” she said.

“They will tell an employer she is not well or she will be physically injured and can’t go to work.”

Eleven women who are part of the McAuley Works program in Ballarat were also surveyed.

Five had jobs, eight were securely housed, half were from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and eight had experienced family violence and were the ones to leave the family home.

A McAuley House service partner also provides financial and legal assistance and has helped resolve more than$900,000 of debt for 137 women in the past three years.

‘When you match a job with the resolution of debt, you can see how much confidence that gives women,” Ms Bignold said.

“It is not only the resolution of the debt, it is the debt collector is not knocking on their door, it is relief, it means they are more present and able to concentrate on getting a job and meeting their children’s needs.”