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Lija helps to bring about Change for Sam

Remembering Samantha: Lija Matthews is collaborating with local service providers to support the legacy of her friend Samantha Fraser, who was murdered last year.

FOLLOWING the tragic death of Phillip Island resident and psychologist Samantha Fraser in July 2018, a group of passionate community members and service providers have been working to develop a strong family violence strategy to prevent such tragedies in the future in Bass Coast.
The Change for Sam strategy is led by a steering group comprising community members, Gippsland Women’s Health, Bass Coast Shire Council, Victoria Police, Bass Coast Health, Gippsland Primary Health Network, South Coast Primary and Community Partnerships, and Family Safety Victoria (Orange Door).
Lija Matthews is one of Sam’s friends who is representing the community on the steering committee.
“I knew Sam for five years. She was the first person I met on the Island. We met at the kinder our kids both attended and Sam invited me out for coffee. We went for a walk along the beach and talked and laughed, and that was it – we instantly became firm friends,” she reflected.
The work of the committee has the blessing of Sam’s parents, who endorsed the use of Sam’s name in its title to make sure the community remembers her.
Lija is passionate about her involvement in the initiative.
“The aim of this strategy is to prevent family violence, particularly against women and children in the Bass Coast area, and to coordinate current services and resources to better respond to incidents of family violence – something Sam cared about deeply,” she said.
“I’m doing this so no one else has to go through what Sam went through. I feel like I’m representing Sam’s voice, so I can make sure that what is planned, matches what she would have wanted.
“Even knowing what Sam was going through, I could only support her as a friend, and many times I felt helpless. Being involved with this initiative means I can support my friend in a very tangible way. We all agree that some things have to change.”
Lija hopes the Change for Sam initiative sparks more conversations about family violence and violence against women.
“I hope we can bring discussions about family violence out into the open; name it, so people feel like they’re ‘allowed’ to talk about it. Since Sam’s death, I’ve become aware of so many women who feel ashamed about being in a situation of family violence – but they have done nothing wrong,” she said.
“As a community, we need to find a way to talk about family violence so information can be shared and connections can be made, making it easier for women to get help.”
In 2017-18 there were 523 incidences of family violence with Bass Coast ranking 15th out of 79 municipalities. The reported incidences of family violence in Bass Coast is approximately one per day.
Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child, who is also part of the steering committee, agreed that easier access to services locally was vital.
“Agencies and services working to respond to family violence in the Bass Coast area are widely dispersed and they often work in isolation of other agencies, making access to services difficult,” she said.
“There has been excellent progress at a policy and service level across the state and we have recently seen the excellent Gippsland Orange Door established in Morwell – sadly, it is 193kms away from where Sam Fraser died. We know from women who access our services that they are often unable to travel to services that are located so far away.”
According to Lija, this was the case for Sam. Friends who knew of Sam’s situation tried to help by providing information they had searched for, but many services were located outside the region, making them harder to access.
“Services were also fragmented. Women have to go to a number of different places to get different support. Family violence can affect so many aspects of a woman’s life. It means a woman may need supports like legal services, intervention from the police, assistance with alternative housing, financial support, and counselling for herself and her children,” Lija said.
“Trying to access these services separately can be too overwhelming or too dangerous for women who have to account for time away from home or explain their absences to abusive partners.”
Part of the Change for Sam Strategy will be to develop a comprehensive, coordinated prevention and response program across Bass Coast Shire, including a place where services can converge and be available in one place. The start of this centre will be initially located in Bass Coast Health’s Phillip Island Health Hub.
According to Ms Child, “Some key organisations have done some great work individually on prevention, but we need a more coordinated effort so that everyone sees it as part of their remit. Prevention is about calling out unacceptable behaviour.”
The steering committee has secured funding through the State Government from Family Safety Victoria to appoint a coordinator to support the steering committee implement its action plan.
The committee is also providing proposals to the State and Federal governments which will improve prevention, service response, system coordination and alignment, and provide practical support.
This will include the engagement of additional family violence case managers, brokerage funds for crisis accommodation and support for co-located family violence facilities.
If you are in immediate danger from family violence, call 000. Other crisis services available are:
1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) – for family violence and sexual assault counselling 24/7;
1800 015 188 Safe Steps – for 24/7 crisis support; and
5671 3278 – Bass Coast Health Family Violence Support (Monday to Friday).

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=27945

Posted by on Mar 19 2019. Filed under Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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