By Joanne Warren
The 2021 Sahssi30 walk, with over 400 participants, reflected the growing understanding that we as a community need to take action to support our local frontline services and address the growing rates of domestic and family violence.
The energy around the Sahssi 30 walk began this year with a fundraising dinner in June, coordinated by local business owner Liz from White Earth in collaboration with Glenda and Belinda from Babylon and John from Salty Joes.
This fabulous gathering promoted the Sahssi30 walk, gave an insight into the work of SAHSSI, Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven and Illawarra, and generally was a celebration of community activism raising over $3000.
The first Sahssi30 was in 2017 when, transitioning from my career as a teacher to part-time work, I felt that I had the time and skills to coordinate an event to raise money for women escaping family abuse. During my 23 years at Vincentia High school I gained a deep understanding of the complex lives of children and the importance of a strong community safety net.
Sahssi30 aimed to get the community involved through a network of friends to support a walk along the coast of Jervis Bay from Huskisson through the base at HMAS Creswell and into Booderee National Park and return. A spectacular 30kms. This simple concept has had a groundswell of support and raised over $35,000 in its first three years. Sadly, like many community events, Sahssi 30 was cancelled due to Covid last year.
There have been many conversations over this time and it is these conversations with friends, family and colleagues that are an important part of the process of social change. We cannot continue to ignore the alarming statistics that show Shoalhaven rates of domestic and family violence assaults are increasing. The two-year trend has seen a 14.4% increase and 10.4% higher rates of assaults than the NSW average.
Last year, SAHSSI assisted 462 women and children through the specialist homeless and domestic violence service and 506 men and women through The Homeless Hub. In Australia, domestic and family violence is disturbingly common and it’s one of the main factors that triggers homelessness among vulnerable women, children and men.
Coupled with an increase in domestic and family violence assaults in the Shoalhaven, we have also been experiencing an increase in the cost of private rentals and a decrease in the available rentals on the market. Lesley Labka manager of the Women’s Refuge reported that a recent online search for real-estate showed only 19 properties to rent in Nowra, 6 in Huskisson/ Vincentia and 13 in Sanctuary Point, and none of these classed as affordable housing.
With so little affordable housing available, this can act as a deterrent to women wanting to leave abusive or unsafe relationships.
With our Covid safety plan in place, Saturday 14th August turned on spectacular Bay and Basin weather and local community members came along in their best purple and orange walking kit to walk and talk and share this amazing community event.
Many thanks to everyone who walked, donated, volunteered, promoted the event and any other contribution. It was humbling to hear the stories of support given to people by Sahssi over the years and the impact that this has had on the lives of women and their families within our community.
There are still some donations to be tallied but at this stage it looks like over $30,000 have been raised for the refuge and many in-kind donations of goods were also received.. A big shout out to the team at Sahssi and the women's refuge. The work that they do to create a safe and nurturing place for women is a beautiful thing. The constant battle for funds and resources must be exhausting and I am glad our community can ease that burden a little by raising funds and awareness.
We were blessed with sensational weather and managed perfect timing pre lockdown later that day. With amazing community who turned up and followed all the Covid rules. With friends, family and community volunteers giving their time so generously and with the best morning tea ever courtesy of the CWA and friends.
With our world so uncertain I hope that everyone is well supported during the coming weeks and feel that you can reach out if you need help.
I wrote this for a calendar put together by the beautiful Anandii for the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women and it sums up why this event is so special:
It is the simple things that are often the most powerful. A community comes from the everyday acts of kindness, connection and routine that builds a sense of safety and belonging. Community strengthens and nurtures me. Our collective response to the needs of women and children who are not safe in their own home defines us. In a year when many may have turned inwards for self-preservation, Sahssi30 is a celebration of the power of community to drive change.
Joanne Warren works at Vincentia High School in the yiliga-miraral Wellbeing Team, filling the gap of service provision in the Bay and Basin. Besides zipping around on her treadle, Jo has been the Public Officer for the Huskisson Heritage Association for 3 years, co-convenor of the Bay and Basin Amnesty Group for 6 and coordinated the Sahsshi30 walk now in its 5th year. Jo is also part of the Shoalhaven Greens team bringing hope to the community for a progressive council after the 2021 council elections.
Feature image: Orange and purple banners flying in the wind on the beach ready for this year's Sahssi30 walk. Photo supplied