Stacey Ross (pictured left, with fellow The Centre for Women and Co. colleague Kate on the right) is the CEO and Changemaker for The Centre for Women & Co., a not-for-profit organisation that educates, supports and empowers women and their families across the Redlands and Logan region. The centre provides a range of specialist Domestic and Family Violence and Women’s Health support services.
Stacey started working in the community sector when she was a teenager volunteering with a youth centre in Browns Plains.
“It sparked my passion to help people realise their purpose,” Stacey says.
She went on to study Human Services at university and, in 2012, started working at Logan Women’s Health and Wellbeing Centre. In 2018, the centre merged with Working Against Violence Support Service (WAVSS) to form The Centre For Women & Co.
“We recognised that we could work across the regions together to provide holistic and high-quality support for women. That’s where our motto comes from – Stronger Together,” Stacey says.
In October 2018, Stacey became CEO of The Centre for Women and Co (CFW). Since the amalgamation, the organisation has become a one-stop shop for women’s holistic services, ranging from community education programs, like wellness workshops (the next round starts 10 June) and the Be Ready Program, designed to work with women moving into the workforce, right through to crisis support, where people can link in with specialists domestic violence workers. The centre also offers specialist trauma informed counselling services in the Redlands and Logan for women experiencing domestic and family violence, children and young people experiencing domestic and family violence counselling, or women’s holistic counselling, which is a therapeutic support to help women move through their trauma and heal.
“Women come in for a range of reasons. Some might come in because they don’t feel safe, or to just connect with us and access free services and specialist therapist to unpack and work on any area of their life. We walk alongside them to work through it, which is something really special,” Stacey says.
The court support program provides information on court processes to both men and women attending the Magistrates court in Cleveland or Wynnum. Additionally, the court workers provide support to women experiencing domestic and family violence who have court proceedings.
“For a lot of women, this is their first point of contact with domestic and family violence – I can’t begin to comprehend what that process would feel like, let alone without any support. The court worker meets them on arrival, goes through the application and, if they want, can sit with them. If the worker sees a woman is really struggling, they can refer them onto other services,” Stacey explains.
“We have a male who supports men. It is a really incredible service.”
The organisation also offers the Men’s Program in the Redlands. This program addresses abusive behaviour of individuals who perpetrate domestic and family violence, providing them with opportunities to change. Unfortunately, this program is well-above capacity, with a long waitlist for the program.
The centre is also part of the Queensland Government’s Integrated Service Response (ISR) which brings together community services working alongside families experiencing domestic and family violence to ensure people receive quality and consistent support, and forms part of the state government’s approach to the recommendations in the Not Now, Not Ever report.
The team in Logan are part of the High-Risk Team (HRT), which consists of officers from agencies such as police, health, corrections, housing and domestic violence services, collaborating to provide integrated safety responses to victims and their children.
“In Logan and Beenleigh, there has not been a single loss of life for any client in the High-Risk Team since it’s inception in January 2017. That is incredible – these clients were identified as being in imminent risk of death,” Stacey says.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Stacey says there has not been a massive spike in requests for their services yet, but they are preparing for it.
“When we are able to open our doors, and women can leave their homes, we are expecting to see a big increase – all services across Queensland are preparing for this when reopening.”
Preliminary data from surveys of front line workers across Queensland shows that the loss of jobs during COVID-19 means perpetrators are at home more. Unfortunately, this gives perpetrators more opportunity for violence. There is also more time for perpetrators to use drugs and alcohol, which can lead to violence.
“From what we are hearing, and what the state-wide surveys show us, physical violence is increasing and becoming more severe. We know that perpetrators are using COVID-19 as an excuse to not let women leave their homes or are keeping their children away from them and manipulating the situation. It plays so heavy on our heart.”
There is an intense feeling of anxiety from front line workers around what is going to happen when doors reopen.
“We were already at capacity, especially with our service in the Redlands. That was before COVID-19. How do we support our teams to continue to do this important work when it’s probably going to get worse?”
The CFW team is Stacey’s number one priority.
“We have practices to ensure they have mental health and wellbeing supports in place but there is only so much they can do. Our teams are like firefighters – they are facing this stuff day in, day out. We always try to ensure they had a good work life balance but now it’s completely immersed. The teams are extremely experienced in how they do this really difficult work.
“I am extremely passionate about supporting my teams through this time and trying to reduce burnout. In preparation for a spike in our services in the future, I am encouraging all staff to take leave now.”
For people who need support or guidance, Stacey recommends to reach out and get in touch with the centre.
“If anyone wishes to speak to our team, they can call 3050 3060 and speak to the receptionist, who can talk them through their options. If they would prefer, they can also jump onto The Centre for Women & Co. website and complete a referral form themselves, it’s that easy” she says.