Cici arrived in Australia from China on a partner visa ten years ago. Her hopes for love and security were replaced by fear caused by domestic violence. She made the brave decision to leave the relationship.
“Once I did, I had no support and no idea how to access help due to my language barrier. I had nowhere to go. I became homeless and lived on the streets,” said Cici.
Life on the streets of Sydney is tough, tougher still if you have minimal English and limited support. Living rough took its toll. In wanting to get off the street, Cici found an opportunity to work in a brothel giving her a roof over her head and some financial independence. It was never Cici’s ideal situation, but she felt safer.
“There were good and bad things about working there, but more and more I was becoming overwhelmed and stressed. I felt so alone. I didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
Cici found that someone to talk to at BaptistCare HopeStreet Women’s Services. It was here she met her caseworker fluent in Mandarin, who spoke her language and understood her.
“From then on, I went to Women’s Services, sometimes just to talk to my caseworker or attend the weekly English classes,” said Cici.
At other times, Cici received support such as food and hygiene packs, or simply went there to feel safe. “I always felt safe. These spaces are hard to find, but so important. It always felt like home,” said Cici.
Jess Davidson, BaptistCare HopeStreet Women’s Services Manager said that like Cici, all women are welcomed to the safe, non-judgemental space.
“Women have access to casework, counselling, support with sexual and mental health, and a place to just be, knowing they are accepted for where they are in their journey,” said Jess.
“Our English classes are in demand. When you look at language skills for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds that are working in the sex industry, about 50% of workers identify they have low to fair English skills. It’s definitely an area that can limit how people can access support services and the choices they have available to them,” said Jess.
After many months working with her caseworker, Cici moved into her own one bedroom apartment. With stable housing and improved English, Cici has flourished. She’s involved with other social groups, she’s a regular at her local coffee shop, she’s adopted a dog from a shelter she named Lucky, and has made friends at the dog park.
But perhaps most importantly, Cici feels like she has a home, a place where she belongs, where she is an equal in our society.
Cici is now in a healthy and safe relationship with someone that supports her and doesn’t judge her.
“Cici has an incredible strength and has shown this in how she has applied herself. She’s worked hard to get where she feels she needs to be,” said Jess.
“At Women’s Services, we see every woman as an expert in her own life. Our role is to walk beside women, support them in their journey with the goals and dreams that they have” said Jess.
Your generous support helps to provide vital services that empower women in our communities in their choices and opportunities in life, such as English lessons and access to caseworkers. Please send your gift today to help other women like Cici.
*indicates name change, images for illustration purposes only.