This article contains information about domestic violence and trauma, which may be triggering to readers with similar experiences. We encourage you to use your discretion as to whether you should continue reading. To seek support please phone Safe Steps (24 hour Domestic Violence Crisis Service) on 1800 015 188.
When young mum Tracey first came into contact with Windermere she “had lost everything” and believed she would never see her three children again.
Tracey had fled from her alcoholic husband, who had been viciously abusive and was threatening to kill her.
Tragically, she had also been separated from her children 8 year old Tyler, 6 year old Tanya and 14 year old Jared. Following a violent incident, Tracey fled her home with just a plastic bag of belongings and nowhere safe to go. She left without her children because she could not provide for them and wanted to protect them from her husband’s anger.
“He would have hunted us down if I’d taken the children. He would definitely have found us if we went to stay with a friend or relative,” she says.
Eventually Tracey found her way to a women’s refuge. Over several months Tracey made police reports about the welfare of her children. They were eventually removed from her husband’s care and placed into the foster care system, but as result of her trauma Tracey was not in a position to care for them.
Battling depression and anxiety, Tracey spiralled into a pattern of drinking and drug taking which led to her being hospitalised.
At this point Tracey had hit an all-time low. She had no home and had no hope of every seeing her children again.
Eventually Tracey’s sister, with whom she had been estranged for many years, invited Tracey to live with her temporarily. “I was terrified. I wasn’t sure it would be permanent but I wanted to give it a go,” she says. Around the same time Tracey received the news that her husband had unexpectedly passed away.
Soon after Tracey moved in with her sister she was referred to Windermere’s homelessness support services by WAYSS. At the time, given how hopeless she felt about her situation, she did not believe anyone would be able to help her or that she would be able to remain in her sister’s home for the long term
“I had no hope in the world, I had nothing. What did I have to live for? I didn’t have my kids. I had lost everything,” she says.
After listening to Tracey’s story, Windermere case worker Marcus referred Tracey to receive urgently needed trauma counselling. As a result of the counselling Tracey started to recognise past childhood traumas and a pattern of abusive relationships in her life. ”I’ve never responded to any counsellor before, but she was just different. I responded very, very well,” she says.
Importantly, Marcus also assisted Tracey to ensure she was officially named on lease documents for the house she was sharing with her sister. This later proved to be a vital step towards regaining custody of her children, as Tracey was able to legally show that she had successfully transitioned to long term housing.
Marcus also encouraged Tracey to attend a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program with Anglicare. At first, Tracey was extremely resistant to this, feeling that the program would not be able to assist her.
However, Marcus’ persistent encouragement over several weeks enabled Tracey to commit to the program.
“Marcus never gave up on me. I’ve never had that from anyone in my life. It was something that I needed,” she says.
Tracey describes her initial commitment to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation as “scary and confronting”. To attend the program she had a long commute via public transport three times a week over the course of a year.
Once she committed to going, Tracey never missed a session. She was determined to overcome her drug and alcohol problems. With the right support and through her hard work she is proud to have now been clean for almost two years.
Windermere also assisted Tracey to request to receive updates from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding her children. Tyler, Tanya and Jared had been separated from each other and had all lived in multiple foster care homes.
Marcus supported Tracey to negotiate with DHHS to initiate contact with her children and to send them presents. Part of this process included working with Tracey to manage her anger and become more confident and self-reliant.
Then came the day Tracey never thought would happen. Her eldest son Jared was given permission to visit her for a weekend. This was the first time in over two years that she had seen any of her children.
Jared’s initial visit was a success and Windermere assisted Tracey to go through a lengthy court process to be awarded custody of Jared.
Following this, Windermere also worked with Tracey to regain custody of Tyler and Tanya. When the children were able to move in with Tracey, a range of vital learning and developmental supports were organised for Tyler.
Windermere also provided emergency funds for Tracey’s children to receive trauma counselling and purchase essential school supplies.
“It was such a relief to have my kids back and know that I can look after them again,” says Tracey. “I never thought I would see them again. I owe my life to Windermere,” she says.
It’s been a long hard road, but Tracey hopes that others in similar positions will be able to draw hope from her story and reach out for help.
Windermere offers confidential counselling and intensive homelessness support services for families and individuals experiencing sexual assault and family violence.
For more information:
Call: 1300 946 337
If you need urgent help
Safe Steps (Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service)
24 hour telephone crisis counselling, information, referral and support for women experiencing domestic violence.
Phone 1800 015 188
24 hour counselling and support service for people impacted by sexual assault or family violence.
Phone 1800 737 732
** If you are concerned for yours or someone else’s immediate safety call 000.**
Visit here for a range of after hours support services here.