Join in ... at the Haven

Julie McDonald invites you to volunteer with the Women's Information Service at Murray Bridge Community Centre.

If you’re a woman in the Murraylands, no matter what kind of help you need, there’s a place you can find it.

When the Haven set up at Murray Bridge Community Centre in 2019, it was mainly for women living in violent or abusive relationships.

But there was more to it than that, Women’s Information Service volunteer coordinator Trish Griffith said.

“We set up with a focus on safety, but (also) finance, legal advice, parenting, connecting in your community, employment, training...” she said.

“If you’re stuck and don’t know who to speak to, have a conversation with us.

“We’re not counsellors, we’re not lawyers – we can’t give you legal advice – but we certainly can refer you on and help people find the right service for them.”

The service relies on volunteers like Julie McDonald, but needs more of them.

Information sessions for people interested in volunteering will be held online at 10am on July 20 and 1pm on August 11, and at the community centre at 1.30pm on July 30.

  • Secure your spot: Call 8303 0590.

When did you first get involved with the Haven?

I started before COVID hit ... probably February last year. I worked at the community centre in Mannum and quite a few women came through there with problems that couldn’t be dealt with at the community centre. So I knew there was a need.

What do you get out of your involvement?

You get joy from helping other people. If you can point them in the right direction, it’s nice. Usually you don’t get feedback, but I’ve had two people come back afterwards and give me really nice feedback. You don’t often know what the result is because it’s very confidential – we don’t take names … We get a lot of support from the city office (of the Women’s Information Service) – they don’t just leave you on your own. They give you so much information and training. Once you’re doing your shift, there’s lots of support from the girls at the community centre as well. It’s not difficult at all. If you don’t know, there’s somebody else who does.

What is your fondest memory of your time with the Haven?

There was one (woman) ... She was in an unsatisfactory relationship and we were able to help her leave it. She wanted help to start the process. She was really scared. Luckily she’s ended the relationship now, so she’s a lot happier.

What do you spend your time doing at the community centre?

(Women in need of help) will see reception at the Murray Bridge centre, and they’ll call us out. We have a separate office so we can keep it confidential. We sit down and talk and see what we can do for them. There’s no timeline; we can sit as long as they want, grab a coffee, they can come back again ... If you haven’t got people through, you’ve got things you can busy yourself with. You have a little bit of admin to do: we do have an email account, and we get info about different meetings and things. We can hold information stalls and attend events.

What is your goal with the Haven?

I’m just hoping to help somebody to a better life, I guess.

Why should people volunteer with the Haven?

Women usually like helping other women. It’s a good place to do that. You get good training, a good foundation and lots of help, so that makes it easier.

  • Get help: Visit Murray Bridge Community Centre at 18 Beatty Terrace between 9am and 4pm on weekdays, call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098 at any time or, in an emergency, call 000.

  • More information: Visit officeforwomen.sa.gov.au or call 8303 0590 to secure your spot at one of the upcoming information sessions, online on July 20 or August 11 or in person on July 30.