Kyogle Family Support Services Inc. (KFSS) have worked alongside individuals and families dealing with family abuse and violence for nearly 25 years now. Based on a strategy of self-determination and early intervention programs, KFSS offer a range of services including, Supported Parenting Groups, Family Work initiatives, NDIS Support Co-ordination, Centrelink access, a Community HUB, Community Gardens, Referral Services, Muli Tucker shop and the Bonalbo Food Panty.
Kyogle is reported to be the 4th highest in NSW for hospitalisation due to interpersonal violence, with the ABS showing that family and domestic violence remains at unacceptably high levels with serious health, community, and economic impacts. Drought, fire and COVID 19 in the recent past has resulted in an increase in demand for family domestic abuse and violence support services due to the financial, emotional, psychological and physical strain on more individuals, families, and the community.
KFSS received the NRCF Recovery and Resilience Grant this year to help facilitate a peer-based mentorship program with women who have experienced family abuse and violence through the verbatim play “It All Begins with Love” by Rod Ainsworth.
The play was a powerful reminder that domestic abuse and violence is a serious and frightening issue among families and relationships in our Northern Rivers Community.
Key objectives of the play were to promote resilience and regeneration, and shape long-term generational outcomes by the whole of community challenging violence and not excusing, accepting, dismissing or hiding it. It was also important to learn how to recognise, respond and refer people, friends and family who may disclose issues of violence.
Six local women performed to an impressive crowd on a weeknight in mid-winter. With the playwright’s permission KFSS changed the pronouns of one of the characters to represent the LGBTQ community, indicating that comparable rates of family abuse and violence are evident in that sector of the community.
Designed to create connection through shared experience, listening, feeling supported and empowered to talk, many people have benefited from this project with mentor/mentee relationships resulting in team building, peer connection, skill development and further educative pathways.
As a result of the play’s success, KFSS plan to continue the mentorship program and action additional advocacy for F&DV services as a part of disaster planning into the future.
“We hope that the play starts some valuable discussion because that’s the value of art – to make the private very public and to start a conversation about what it means to be living here and now.” – Rod Ainsworth, Playwright
According to KFFS Service Coordinator and Family Worker, Lea Hine “the process was incredible! It gave way to deep memory, expression and emotion – we were mentors and mentees equally. The things we thought long buried came so easily that we were often unprepared, but what resulted was a space to unpack, sort, sift, leave behind and leave for another time.
By week 8 we had been triggered, we knew our vulnerabilities and our limits, we were safe to perform, to bring our knowledge, our experience and deliver, very powerfully, the impact that family abuse and violence leaves on children, adults, and community.
Kyogle did not disappoint. On a cold night in June, in the largest hall in town, 150 people attended to bear witness to and show their support in making family abuse and violence something that should not be hidden. This is how we create generational change.”