Family has forever been the primary economic system from which individuals grow and which provides protection for members. The age old organisation of unions and families was to ensure economic security through rules and practices that codified roles for different members. Before the advent of state based welfare, those who did not have family to support them or who were excluded from the group would struggle to survive. The church played a key role in addressing survival needs and continues to play a pivotal role in our system as large religious organisations form the bulk of the organisations to which state based welfare is outsourced.
These services include very significant levels of Family Service, but despite this, the need for family support was highlighted to us as a critical in areas of disadvantage on the Peninsula.
MPF has funded a small family support service at the Southern Peninsula Community Support Centre for over four years and posited the question, why is this necessary if there are family support services already based in the area?
Again, as with housing and homelessness, it seems to be about how the service is delivered and what the aspirations of the service are. In this case, the service is client led, not time limited, voluntary and outcomes focused. However, those outcomes are within always reach of the client and will change over time. Small successes build long term change, but it can’t be rushed and there will always be steps back as part of the way forward.
As with other programs, we have collected a lot of data and this is informing our advocacy, especially through our work with the State Government and their place based investigation through Working in Place.
One of the key insights is that 90% of families accessing the service are led by women – mothers or grandmothers.
We also support the work of St Vincent de Paul on the Southern Peninsula and their outreach to families in need of immediate support. These are also nearly always led by women. And through our work with schools we know anecdotally that families are mostly led by single mothers or grandmothers.
These local data are supported by the Statistical Analysis of the area done by the National Institute of Industry and Economic Research, which found that in areas of high socio economic disadvantage single women households dominate.
As roles in the traditional family structure change and we navigate options, it is often women to whom the responsibility of protecting and nurturing children falls. We see women carry the burden of disadvantage, women who are disempowered and stuck in a cycle of poverty, despite daily attempts to do the best they can for their kids.
Our work with SPCS has emphasised the need to truly address this underlying feature. Women are silenced but women hold the key to change. We have seen that when they are supported with what they need, they can provide not just the material support their kids need, but the hope and aspiration that is as, if not more, important in these developmental years.
With our local partners we are working on a new initiative to support women in their economic independence. This will be locally led and defined by the women. It will link with local businesses and take advantage of the significant labour shortage that is common on the Peninsula but exacerbated by conditions of the last two years.
In addition to this work, we are also proud to partner with Willum Warrain in support of their Women’s Program.
Willum Warrain is an Aboriginal Community Centre on the Peninsula that has grown in strength and reach very significantly over the last five years. It provides a place for Aboriginal people to gather and belong, to share and grow through culture and healing. The Women’s Program brings women together on a weekly basis providing activities and engagement in response to their needs and ideas. Peer support networks are important in any system and can be especially impactful for women who collectively strengthen the fabric of their families and communities.
MPF is a Public Benevolent Institution with Deductible Gift Recipient Item 1 tax status. All donations are tax deductible. As all operational costs are covered by the George Hicks Foundation, 100% of donations are distributed as community grants.