Lisa Harnum Foundation and the men’s Purple Nail tribe

Hills Independent
“I was surprised and really happy the Foundation had finally been recognised in the community, at the end of the day we are the only agency in the Hills specialising in supporting women and children who experience domestic violence so it helps to raise our profile,” Aileen said.

By Lorna Gordon

Aileen Mountfield had been working as chaplain for the Wesley Missions for 10 years and had been running a program for women who had experienced domestic abuse when she stood down from her position.

While she wanted to take a break from chaplaincy, she still had a strong urge to do some thing to help women and children who were experiencing domestic abuse, and when she told her friends this, they encouraged her to go for it.

She decided to set up an organisation called The Lisa Harnum Foundation after Lisa Harnum, a 30-year-old woman who died as the result of domestic abuse by her fiancé, Simon Gittany. Aileen chose Lisa’s name, determined that she would not be forgotten, and would stand as a safe place for all the people who have suffered domestic abuse.

The foundation has been encouraging men and boys to paint their ring finger on their left hand purple to show a commitment to putting a stop to domestic violence.

The foundation was set up in 2014 in response to the threat of domestic violence and abuse in the Hills area. While the Hills is seen as an affluent area and many people are shocked that this type of service was required, sadly, our community is not immune to it and Aileen wanted to raise awareness as well as provide assistance.

“The more we talk about it the safer it is for women to take that first step, because people know it’s out there and help is available, it’s not hidden like it was years ago.”

Initially the foundation only provided an outreach service with case workers helping women who had been affected by abuse. This advocacy is still a core part of the foundation and Aileen explained how this works.

“The case worker will work with a woman, we provide a physical presence for them at court, information in regards to Centre Link and housing. We fill in where the gaps are, we want the women who come to us for assistance to be able to stand on their own two feet while we walk beside them.”

They don’t work in isolation, looking towards other services for help that they can’t offer. They have links to criminal lawyers, psychologists, health professionals and of course the local police who they work very closely with.

“We link in with the police and are very fortunate that we have an excellent super intendent in Castle Hill who is very supportive. There are high instances of police being called out to DV situations in the Hills so we want to have that close association with them to offer our assistance as well.”

As well as offering advocacy services The Lisa Harnum Foundation also has a residence which can house two families and have set up Safe Spaces in Castle Towers, Rouse Hill Shopping Centre and Macquarie Shopping Centre.

When a woman reaches out to them and are able to go to a shopping centre they will arrange to meet with a case worker who will then escort them to the Safe Space, which are in a secure part of the centres.

“If a women call our 1300 number the call goes to case worker’s mobile. If the case worker feels it’s safe she will arrange to meet the woman at the shopping centre where she can access help in the safe room. They are very well hidden and set up like a lounge room to help make the women more comfortable.

“We felt that many women who experience domestic abuse will receive at least a small amount of money to buy groceries, so a trip to the shops wasn’t going to be out of the ordinary, where visiting an office could be difficult.”

As well as offering practical assistance, Aileen came up with idea of starting the ‘Purple Nail Tribe’ for men. The boys and men were to have their left ring finger pained purple to instigate a conversation with other men and standing up to men who speak badly about their partner. This imitative has been used when giving talks in schools and Aileen has big plans for a second phase.

“We want to develop a 12 month pilot, and hope to get the assistance of the police youth liaison officer, to provide an educational tool for teachers and students at high school. We need to raise these issues with our kids, because educating them about domestic abuse and what can be done to stop it is the best way to break the cycle.”

Aileen and the board of The Lisa Harnum Foundation were given the Hills Shire Australia Day Award for Community Group of the year.

I asked Aileen what it mean to be recognised in this way.

“I was surprised and really happy that the Foundation had finally been recognised in the community, at the end of the day we are the only agency in the Hills specialising in supporting women and children who experience Domestic Violence so it helps to raise our profile.”

Our new mayor has been very supportive of the Foundation as well, having taken the time to speak to Aileen after presenting her with the award and attending the Hills Domestic Violence Network meeting.

None of this work would be possible without the donations they receive from the public, however, like most charities, they have been hit hard over COVID and lost out on many of the opportunities they would usually have to fundraise.

As well as helping with financial donations, they are looking for volunteers to provide support for the women.

Aileen told me that volunteers could be taking the women to medial appointment or court appearances if an AVO was required, she felt that the positions would suit mature women who would have the time to sit at court if it was necessary and they would be fully briefed about how to manage the court support.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, the Foundation can help. The website is www. lisahf.org.au and the phone number is 1300 732 848. All communications will be handled with discretion and complete confidentiality.

Main image: Aileen Mountfield works tirelessly for victims of domestic violence. Picture: Mitcy Photography by Nancy.

 

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