Robyn is a proud Kamilaroi woman born in the small NSW country town of Collarenebri, who grew up on the Aboriginal Reserve in Collarenebri. She is the Manager of Beryl Women Inc. & has worked as a Koori Support Worker.
In 2015, Robyn was named ACT Woman of the Year, she currently sits on the Domestic Violence Prevention Council and in 2012 named NAIDOC ACT Person of the Year. Robyn feels her biggest strengths is her ability to understand the complexities involved for women and their children who are or have experienced domestic or family violence, her experiences have allowed her to work respectfully with a view to fostering cultural diversity within the organisation and the general community.
What are your hopes for the Refuge in the future? (Robyn Martin)
My hopes for Beryl’s future are that we continue to provide such a valuable service to women and children escaping domestic/family violence, and that additional funding is available to allow us to provide additional programs that support women and children who are still living with violence in the community. I also hope that Beryl continues to be in a position to provide prevention and intervention programs to break the cycle, so that children who have been child clients of the service do not access the service as young adult women with their own children, having the resources to provide long-term, unlimited support that is based on trauma-informed care to assist in the healing process, to continue to work respectfully and to do no further harm to the client.
How do the workers interact with clients? (Robyn Martin)
We’ve seen lots of second and third generation clients. Most have been Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, but I can’t say they’ve all been that. I’ve seen young women coming in who were here as young children when I first started. It’s really, really sad because I later learnt that the perpetrators of that violence had also been children in our service. It raises questions around the crisis nature of accommodation and the level of support we’re giving families. For some women it works really well, for other women, not so much. When I began working at the Refuge we were addressing the immediate needs of families, we were doing some therapeutic stuff but our case management has changed drastically since then. We’re much more trauma-informed and the case management we’re doing is trauma-framed, so we’re getting better outcomes for children and families. There was a five year period where we didn’t have any clients who were repeat clients, from around 2010 until 2014. Trauma is the buzzword at the moment, it wasn’t happening four or five years ago. I think we hadn’t labelled what we were doing as trauma-informed case management until just recently, but when we look at the definitions and at models from America and compare them to what we’re doing here, trauma-informed case management is pretty much what we have been doing. The thing that’s allowed us to work more comprehensively with women is that families are staying in the service for longer periods and it’s taking them longer to leave the service. We’re funded to provide crisis accommodation for up to three months. You can’t do much with women and children who have layers and layers and layers of trauma, often from when they were born, in three months. We don’t want to see women and children, who were child clients, come back to the service in 5 years’ time. We recognise we can’t address every trauma a family has experienced, but we can start them on a process of healing.
Beryl’s actually become extremely specialised around Aboriginal women and I think that’s fantastic. I think we need something similar going on for women with disabilities. Rather than just expecting them all to mainstream women with disabilities and do that, why don’t we realise that in the same way we recognise that Aboriginal women need to be worked with appropriately, and women from diverse cultural backgrounds, we also have older women and younger women’s refuges, we need to get into women with disabilities. So we’ve still got a truckload to be doing.