A new safety hub has opened in Mount Gambier to empower at-risk women and children with information that could one day save their lives.
Established by the Women’s Information Service (WIS), The Haven at Mount Gambier Library brings together resources from a wide range of specialist services aimed at creating a community of well-informed bystanders to keep families safe.
The Limestone Coast hub joins other WIS outreach sites in Murray Bridge, Gawler, Mount Barker, and Whyalla, and is a place where people can gain face-to-face information, support and referrals to local agencies and services from specially trained volunteers.
They have been mentored by Safety Hub Project Officer Sonya Mezinec (pictured) who has helped set up The Haven over the past eight months from her base at Centacare’s Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service.
“People often only start looking for information when they’re in crisis,’’ Sonya said.
“The Haven gives them access to crucial information to help them make informed decisions earlier to improve their lives.’’
Trained by WIS, The Haven volunteers can provide information on housing and legal matters, family dispute resolution, counselling, multicultural resources, drug and alcohol supports, and warm referrals to specialist domestic violence and other services. People can also ring in to access information and advice.
“There is so much we can learn as a community, particularly around coercive control and psychological and financial abuse,’’ said Sonya, who has worked in the domestic violence sector for the past 12 years.
“The more informed people are about those red flags in relationships, the better equipped they will be to help themselves and others.’’
The Haven opening was fast-tracked by the State Government in response to COVID-19.
The information hubs have been located in areas of greatest need, determined through direct feedback from domestic and family violence roundtables with participants from the sector and the community.
Sonya hopes more safety hubs can be established in surrounding areas, and has met with other local government regions to explore replicating the model.
“It’s important for people living in regional communities to have access to safety information when they are often at the greatest risk but the furthest from help,’’ she said.