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Getting back on track - Naomi's story

Getting back on track - Naomi's story

18 October 2018

When Naomi moved from Indonesia to Australia on a marriage visa, she was taking a huge leap of faith. She was in her mid-twenties, she had never traveled overseas before, she had no friends, no family and spoke no English. She relied entirely on the support of her husband and his family to get by.

Naomi and her husband owned a restaurant together. She worked hard, everyday, driven by her passion for hospitality. But what started as a loving marriage quickly turned to a violent one. She became fearful for her life and so, one day, summoned the courage to flee with just the clothes on her back.

For a while, she stayed with a friend in her two-bedroom house with her friend’s two children. Although the living arrangements were squashy, it worked. But after two years, the kids were getting older and were no longer able to share a room. It was time for Naomi to leave, but once again she found herself with nowhere to go.

Naomi moved from house-to-house but had no secure, long-term place to call home. Before long, she was experiencing homelessness.

“I couldn’t believe I was in this situation,” Naomi says.

“I had come to Australia, left all of my family and friends behind, and now I was completely alone; I had no money and nowhere to live.”

Naomi went to Unison Community Housing, where she was able to secure temporary accommodation at Homefront, the Mission’s crisis accommodation service for women over 25. While there, she applied for affordable housing and eventually secured a place in St Kilda, run by Launch Housing, just a short walk from Women’s House.

This is where things started to change for Naomi. She joined Outlandish, our eco-social volunteering program that assists women to identify their strengths and interests and the potential for work, study, training and further volunteering.

“I was recovering from an injury so I was not working at the time, but I wanted to get out of the house and do something,” Naomi says.

“It was the first time I had volunteered in a group. The women in the program were the first real friends I made in Australia.

Through the program, and with the support of workers at Women’s House, Naomi applied for funding to study a Certificate IV in Community Service.

“I don’t have any formal education in Australia so it’s very hard to get a job,” she says.

“I could have got a casual job in retail but the income is so unstable, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to cover my rent each month.

“Tif (the Outlandish Program Coordinator) and Robbie at Women’s House were so supportive.

“I was so anxious and nervous about studying but they saw the potential in me. They helped me to apply and they continue to check in on me and see how I am going.”

Naomi currently studies full-time with the hope of building on her base-level degree to secure an esteemed position in Community Services, where she wants to help other women with a similar experience to hers.

She says that although the Australian Government does not offer a lot in the way of financial support, it is just enough for her to survive. She is grateful she has the opportunity to focus on her study because, with English being her second language, the course requires a lot of her focus and energy.

“I have found ways to get by. I rely a lot on support services. I often go to Women’s House for free meals, and I volunteer at the local church in return for groceries,” Naomi says.

“I know that it’s not forever. One day I will have the qualifications I need to get a job and be completely independent.”

Naomi’s story is one of many we hear at Sacred Heart Mission. While Naomi alludes to the range of supports she needed - whether through government or not-for-profit - to get her life back on track, it was her unique strength, resilience and courage that enabled her to not only survive but prosper in the face of family violence, poverty and homelessness.

For many others, the limited support offered through Centrelink and Austudy provides barely enough money to survive, let alone lead a fulfilling life.

Anti-Poverty Week 2018

During Anti-Poverty Week (14 - 20 October), we are calling on the Federal Government to increase programs like this so that more people like Naomi have the best chance to achieve safety, security and independence.

You can support the Raise the Rate campaign here: https://www.acoss.org.au/raisetherate/joinus/

Please note: Naomi kindly agreed to share her story with you, but requested her name be changed to protect her safety and privacy.

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Sacred Heart Mission respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate our services. We pay our respects to the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal peoples, and to Elders past, present and future.
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