Mother, Grandmother, Masters student and family violence survivor advocate. Andrea shares her story.
Andrea was a Unison transitional housing resident. She now lives in a stable, affordable home and is studying for her Masters in Criminology at RMIT, having completed her Law Degree.
But life has not always been good for Andrea. Five years ago, domestic violence led to Andrea and her three children escaping their family home. Her partner emptied her bank account leaving Andrea and her family homeless.
Andrea’s priority was to keep her girls safe. She could not find any suitable or affordable accommodation, so made the difficult decision to split the girls up. While the girls stayed at friends’ houses, Andrea eventually ended up sleeping in her car.
Andrea shared how it was for her then, “I was so stressed and concerned for my children’s physical and emotional welfare. We had to separate, but I also needed to have them close to me. I made sure we all caught up for a meal so we could at least have times when we were all together and connected during this horrendous time.”
Through all this Andrea was studying Law. She managed by often going to McDonald’s in the middle of the night to utilise their Wi-Fi. It had been her decision to go back to study which escalated the violence at home leading her to flee with her children.
“Study kept me moving forward when everything had turned to sh*t. However, when I was living in my car things got really bleak. My parking fines piled up, and I couldn’t pay them. I felt hopeless and couldn’t see how I could fix the situation. In the back of my mind I knew I was just holding on.”
Alarmingly desperate, Andrea contacted Unison. A transitional home was available in Avondale Heights and within a couple of days her life changed. “I got my children back. We hadn’t been “normal” ever, and now we were a normal family. We were safe, we had barbecues in the backyard and the kids had friends over; and I continued my study at home, not in my car.”
Unison’s transitional housing management program provides safe and affordable short to medium term housing - it acts as a stepping stone to more permanent housing. People living in transitional housing are also supported to find and establish secure housing.
“I am so grateful for the assistance I received. Bec, from Unison, was amazing and absolutely went out of her way to help and support me with everything I needed at that time. Our house was a life raft and an anchor for my girls and me.”
Andrea and her family soon found long-term housing and were able to move into their own apartment.
Today, Andrea is settled in a lovely home with great neighbours. Her daughters have grown up and have homes of their own; and Andrea beams with pride when she talks about her three beautiful grandchildren.
Drawing on her lived experience, Andrea wrote a submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, hoping to assist other women in similar situations.
If this article has raised issues for you and you would like to talk to someone, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website lifeline.org.au.