As a teenage mum I was subject to so much stigma in my home town. Experiencing kindness and respect with Flourish Australia’s Women & Children’s Program validated my feelings that what happened to my son and I experienced was not ok, and motivated me to speak-out against domestic violence.
All my life I’ve been told to just get over the deeply traumatising effects of the violence I experienced in my home and relationships. I grew up without a mum and home life was chaotic which created a lot of mental anguish and anxiety for me, so the idea of parenting my son alone was daunting. With no family or peer support to turn to I felt overwhelmed and reached out to Flourish Australia.
It’s a nurturing environment, where the staff have a motherly vibe and listen with genuine care. I’ve warmed to one of the other mums called Larissa, and finally feel safe to share my pain and let it all out. It became real to me that I had been living with domestic violence once I found myself surrounded by trustworthy people who show up for me when I need them. This safe space is what family should feel like and has been grounding for me mentally and emotionally.
Finding the freedom to be myself was life changing and kindness was the key
After just three months of throwing myself into everything this program offers, including courses in parenting and life skills, my mental health improved and my self-esteem soared. I’m a completely different person, no longer just surviving but thriving and drawing on my lived experience to advocate for something to be done about domestic violence.
I once found myself talking wildly about it with Flourish Australia’s CEO Mark Orr not realising who he was. He engaged with the conversation like we’d known one another for years. That’s what’s so unique and wonderful about Flourish Australia’s whole approach, every person is equally respected and valued for what they bring to the table.
Being shown patience and kindness has helped me to realise how much we all need the guidance of a caring mum. It was challenging to connect with what a mother’s love looks like when I’d never felt it myself. In my struggle with post-natal depression and becoming a mum in my teens, I felt I’d lost my whole sense of identity. The team reassure me it’s ok to feel the way I feel and show me ways to manage my mental wellbeing so that things can be ok for me as well as my bub.
Having Larissa alongside assured me I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed at times. Talking it out together helps us to move past self-doubt. Just hearing the Flourish Australia team members say ‘you’re a great mum’ was a huge confidence-boost.
Without the support we’ve found here, it would be very easy for my baby and I to fall through the cracks.
So many single mums are doing their best to cope with mental health issues, so I’m speaking up for more of this sort of support to be made accessible for more women.
I’m living proof that the opportunity to be part of a fully-supported program like this can completely turn life around for survivors and their children. It’s so much more than a bandaid. I want better things for my life and my children now. I hold stronger values and have learned healthier ways of doing life and relationships.
Flourish Australia saved us with their kindness and changed the course of my family’s future. God knows where we’d have ended up had they not taken us under their wing and modelled such a caring support system. I like to believe that together, we’ll be the ones to break the cycle of domestic violence.
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