Left to right – Kay McGrath OAM (Co-Chair Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council), Dianne Fletcher (Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council), Rebecca McGarrity (Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council), Sonia Colvin (Hairdressers with Hearts), Rachel Durdin (Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council) and Faiza El-Higzi (Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council).
By Matt Owen
Domestic violence and elder abuse isn’t only physical abuse, it can be emotional, controlling and/or financial. This is important. It isn’t only physical.
How many of us actually make a difference to people’s lives? That was the question I asked myself after interviewing Sonia Colvin.
I immediately thought of doctors and health workers, they make a difference. Police officers certainly do. Paramedics, educators and firefighters do.
But then my next question was, how many people really make a difference to people’s lives and don’t get paid? I started to think of not-for-profits, soup kitchens, volunteers, Busy Fingers (and other similar op-shops), and of course, Bribie’s own Butterfly House who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to those in need. Thank you to our amazing volunteers and not-for-profit organisations. Our community is great in this area. And of course many people do it in an informal way as part of a friendship or as part of a family.
As a hairdresser, Sonia Colvin has helped nearly 200 victims of domestic violence and elder abuse.
All while working full-time in her own hairdressing salon!
What is Hairdressers with Hearts? It is a programme that equips the 67,000 hairdressers and barbers to identify potential cases of domestic violence and elder abuse and to provide appropriate resources for the relevant professional support services. It is important to note that the programme does not train hairdressers to be domestic violence professional workers or to provide professional advice. It is about early prevention and providing support. When you think about it, it is genius.
After all, there is something unique about a salon environment, people feel comfortable and they talk: and pretty much everyone needs a haircut right?
So if the 67,000 hairdressers and barbers each play a role and even if they can help 100 people each, that means that 6,700,000 Australians would get the help they desperately need. Does this totally solve the problem? Probably not, but it is going to change lives. It is going to make a difference to people’s lives.
Despite this, Hairdressers with Hearts has struggled to get funding and Sonia works from 4am everyday (before her salon opens) and attends countless meetings (at her cost) in her role with Hairdressers with Hearts. Her team of volunteers have a similar level of commitment. How has such a worthy cause struggled to get funding? I have no idea, but I do know it that isn’t right.
Domestic violence and elder abuse is one of those issues that as a society we have not been able to get under control. It has actually got worse during COVID. More financial pressure means more fighting, more control and more stealing: all from loved ones which is the real sad part.
Not many things make a stomach churn like hearing of extreme domestic violence - which leads to one death per week in Australia. One death per week. Let that sink in. One life is lost per week due to domestic violence.
The harrowing stories of Alison Baden-Clay, Hannah Clarke (and her poor children) and locally, Adelle Collins gives you shivers down your spine. Deaths of young women at the hands of their current or former partners. Not good enough. No excuses. This is not acceptable. It is a disgrace.
How in 2020, can this still be happening? How could it ever happen?
Queensland media legend, Kay McGrath, who is Co-Chair of The Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Prevention Council, mentioned in our interview what a complex issue domestic violence is and how it requires generational change. After this discussion with Kay it gave a real understanding of domestic abuse. It certainly is not a simple issue. The link between Hairdressers with Hearts and The DFV Prevention Council is that Sonia Colvin was recently inducted into their honour roll. A fantastic recognition for Sonia’s hard work.
After speaking with Kay it got me thinking at a higher level. What can be done? How about more power to the police? How about laws to support the victims and the police? How about a Royal Commission into Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse? How about more grassroots funding? Advertising campaigns? More severe punishments? A Minister with a Portfolio of Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse? Private sponsorship? I’m sure this has all been brain-stormed before, yet the problem still exists. Time to think outside the box just as Sonia has.
This issue needs all of these approaches and more, and in fact some of them are happening and will need to continue to do so.
Hairdressers with Hearts is an amazing initiative. For goodness sake, we need an organisation or the government to get behind this programme because it is early prevention, it is non-invasive and it is the right thing to do in this fight against domestic violence and elder abuse.
It is a travesty that Sonia does not have the support to focus full-time on Hairdressers with Hearts. As good as a Hairdresser she is we all know her time is much better in a role with Hairdressers with Hearts.
I cannot think of a more deserving cause for funding: think about the funding promises in the current State Election, the sports club grants, roadworks, the list goes on, and on, and on.
And once Hairdressers with Hearts is off the ground, how about all other frontline workers getting something similar. After that it can be time for all apprentices as part of their training? A school programme for every student in Australia? A parenting course for new parents? If every Australian is aware of these issues the situation can only improve.
The issues of domestic violence and elder abuse are as important as any other in Australia. It needs to change and it shouldn’t take a generation to do so. It is 2020, not 1970. Previous approaches just haven’t worked.
Every Australian needs to be educated with early prevention the key and zero cultural acceptance. Punishments must be severe and swift. Too many of these cases have a history of reoccurring harassment like stalking.
Sonia, you have my vote for Australian of the Year. Our community is proud of you and your team at Hairdressers with Hearts. You are making a real difference; we have to get the rest of the country behind you.
To listen to our podcast interviews with Sonia Colvin, Kay McGrath and this article visit www.islandandsurrounds.com/podcast-listen or listen on Spotify or your favourite podcast platform.
For further information visit www.hairdresserswithhearts.com.au