Newcastle-based domestic violence (DV) support charity Got Your Back Sista commemorates five years of operation this month.
The organisation’s first community campaign at Hunter Stadium in 2016 attracted 500 people.
Since then, it has partnered with the Newcastle Knights, City of Newcastle, nib health funds and many corporate and sporting organisations, including the Hamilton Hawks and New Lambton Eagles, to run annual events.
A new video documentary is also in production to support its awareness goals.
Now, a commemorative function for clients and supporters will take place at Got Your Back Sista’s Village HQ at 15 Elizabeth Street, Tighes Hill, on Wednesday 17 March from 5.30pm.
Founder and CEO Melissa Histon said tremendous community support, but also a disturbing community need, had contributed to the growth of the charity in that short time.
She started Got Your Back Sista as the charitable arm of the Sista Code movement to tackle one of the important issues identified by the members of the movement.
From humble beginnings – Ms Histon ran the charity from her home for the first year – it has gone on to support more than 500 females.
“Our vision is to see women and their children happy, thriving and living independently after escaping the trauma of domestic violence,” she said.
“We give a hand up for them to begin again and live independently.”
The first person the charity helped was an indigenous woman with a two-year-old daughter who had been living in someone’s garage after fleeing her violent partner.
The woman managed to find her own house to rent so Ms Histon organised furniture, bedding and utensils to cook with.
“When women and children flee domestic violence, they often leave with just the clothes on their back and a few personal items,” she said.
The support provided by the charity has broadened from helping to set up a safe home to programs that empower, and support the health and well-being, of survivors of DV.
“With the help of a new, in-house case worker, we support women to rebuild their lives – by improving their confidence, their self-esteem, their life skills and employment pathways,” Ms Histon said.
The assistance includes workshops and a support group, self-defence classes, the Love Bites program, cooking and nutrition classes, as well as a Certificate ll in Retail Skills and a Computer and Admin skills course.
Educating and engaging the community to spread the message domestic violence is never OK is another aspect of the charity’s work.
“The pandemic has seen reports of increased DV, so it is more important than ever that we work to support women while working towards the ultimate end goal,” Ms Histon said.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world free of violence?”
Ms Histon said she was grateful for the tremendous support from local people and organisations.
“Voluntary board members Belinda Smith (chair), Alexandria Joy and Chad Watson do much behind the scenes, as did the late Meg Purser,” she explained.
For information on programs and support visit www.gotyourbacksista.com