Covid-19 update #2 – old stakeholders

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9 April 2020
Message from Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook

Djirra is continually reviewing and changing how we provide services and support as a result of this pandemic. We are working to ensure that Aboriginal women and children who experience or are at risk of experiencing family violence are at the centre of our work – and to stay focussed on hearing, understanding and responding to their needs. Djirra is not expecting women to just reach out during this time.
We are alert to the struggle and the difficulties that all of our people are facing in making contact with services for the health and safety of their families.   
Djirra is acutely aware of the role that we must play to ensure that we reduce the risk of community transmission of the virus. Like many other services, we are developing new ways of working – new ways of responding.
Necessary community lockdowns have made it increasingly difficult for women to safely reach out to Djirra for assistance. Despite this, we are now seeing an increase in demand for our services, and we fully expect this trend to rise sharply as the crisis deepens. The evidence is strong, family violence incidents will rise - our role is to prepare and respond.
More than 45% of our staff are Aboriginal women. As Aboriginal women we have a deep sense of personal commitment and responsibility to our communities and our families. We have been a crucial link into our communities during the pandemic. No amount of innovation can replace the unique role all of our Aboriginal staff have.   
We acknowledge all of our staff, and especially our Aboriginal staff, for it is their cultural connection and enduring commitment that has enabled Djirra to proactively locate and support women.
Much of our support is being provided by phone (often outside traditional office hours) through private messaging and various social media platforms.

We are adapting our service response in a number of ways. We are using new technologies and we are investigating and delivering new ways of working. With the support of different levels of government, we have successfully repurposed some funding to ensure that support is provided where it is most needed. We will continue to do this work with government and other funders and supporters.
While we adapt, the women and children we support are also adapting. Each and every one is dealing at the very pointy end of this crisis. Many women are separated from their family, their children and also their Elders. Some children are caught up in the child protection system with restrictions making it impossible for our mums to meet certain conditions to see their babies. Some of our Elders are in residential care, or other parts of Victoria, and many are self-isolating.
This family separation is causing a great deal of pain, and a deep sense of dis-connection. We must find ways to keep our cultural connection and our spirit strong.
Aboriginal mums are also juggling infection control, while often living in poor quality housing with their children, and having insufficient income and limited access to essential food and medical supplies.
Many of our women and their children have pre-existing health conditions - making them more vulnerable to the virus. This is causing extreme levels of anxiety and fear across our communities.
Women are also adapting to wide spread changes to the service systems that they rely on for their daily needs. Many women and children are forced to live in situations of extreme family violence, and women remain deeply fearful of losing their children.
While we are doing everything we can to remain positive and responsive, we continue to feel very concerned about what might lay ahead. Djirra is trying its best to be as responsive as we can to the minute-by-minute challenges but also keeping future impact in mind. 
To date, the following calls to action have been advocated by Djirra with Government.
We have called for:
  • an urgent allocation of emergency relief funding to support women and children to access accommodation and essential items
  • an expansion of dedicated care packages for Aboriginal women and children to ensure their safety, health and well-being
  • immediate short-term changes in legislation in relation to Aboriginal children in out of home care to ensure Aboriginal parents don’t lose their children to permanent care
  • a protocol to ensure that Police refer Aboriginal women and mums escaping family violence to Djirra on 1800 105 303
  • an immediate release of Aboriginal women in prison on remand, or for non-violent offences
  • additional funding for Djirra’s service continuity plan to ensure that Aboriginal women and children’s safety, health and well-being is prioritised.
We are working hard to ensure that the Government continues to hear our calls for immediate action. Prisons and custody centres pose a significant risk to our communities; many of our people have pre-existing medical conditions. Whilst there are currently no reported cases in Victoria’s prison system, we remain concerned about future transmissions. You can visit Djirra’s website and read more about Djirra’s calls to action as they evolve through this crisis.

We want this message to be clear: Djirra’s office doors may be shut, but we are still delivering high quality services and support. If we don’t have what you need, we will change what we do!
Detailed information about our current services and support options are available on our Facebook, or here on our website, or you can call 1800 105 303.
The COVID-19 crisis means that many women and children are being forced to stay in situations of violence. This is unacceptable. For this reason, we remain committed to hearing and amplifying women’s voices, to ensure that they are safe.

Djirra’s staff have shown extraordinary commitment and strength through this crisis. They have supported many changes to their individual work arrangements and they are embracing new ways of working.
Our staff are very well supported to work from home, with daily wellbeing check points with team members and managers. Staff are regularly reminded about their employment assistance program and well-being support. Significant Cultural support is available via our Aboriginal cultural advisors.
Finally, I want to assure our communities and our supporters that Djirra’s commitment to fighting for our women and children and their safety is at the forefront of our minds. We are continuing our advocacy for system changes and we will continue to celebrate our wisdom and our strength.
We are committed to working in partnership with all our stakeholders and we thank you for your support so far.
We know you share our optimism. We will get through this.
Please take a few moments to reflect on Djirra’s proud journey.
Please watch Our Journey to Djirra produced by Djirra in 2018 – this is very relevant today.
We are Djirra!

Antoinette Braybrook
Click on the image to watch the video.
1800 105 303
Copyright © 2019 Djirra, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
292 Hoddle street - Abbotsford VIC 3067

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