New funding to support grassroots’ programs for vulnerable women

Fri, 25 Nov 2022

Two organisations offering different approaches to supporting vulnerable Victorian women will be able to take important steps in their service provision thanks to grants announced at the Melbourne Women’s Fund (MWF) awards celebration.

The MWF Signature Grant of $75,000 will help the Tradeswomen Community Foundation implement a job readiness and entry program for unemployed women experiencing disadvantage in the Brimbank, Banyule and Dandenong local government areas.

And the MWF Nurturing Grant of $40,000 will help You Matter with a capacity-building role to support its provision of furniture and household items for women and children escaping family violence.

At the 2022 MWF Grant Awards Celebration at the Melbourne Town Hall, there were three finalists for each of the Signature and Nurturing grant categories: the six organisations represented at the event support women and families across mental health, addiction, legal advice, family violence, unemployment and disadvantage. After presentations from each organisation, MWF members voted on who would receive the grants.

Tradeswomen Community Foundation CEO Janet Cribbes said the Foundation had run a pilot program in the Wyndham municipality that is the forerunner of the enlarged project for the three other council areas.

“We picked Brimbank, Banyule and Dandenong because unemployment in those three areas is double the national average,’’ she said.

The program will help overcome some of the barriers preventing girls and women becoming part of male-dominated industries. Sometimes these barriers can be a lack of career information for schoolgirls, and in other settings, a poor workplace culture. But these circumstances are made worse for women who are in vulnerable domestic situations or living with disadvantage.

“The two things we’re doing is instilling some confidence and resilience among the women,’’ Janet said.

The Foundation can access two apprenticeship engagement officers to help those women who are ready to take the next step in a trade role, if it is a pre-apprenticeship of a full apprenticeship.

“We have strong partner readiness, and we have a few hundred of those, who are site-ready. I’m sure in the next iteration, more partners will come on board,’’ Janet said.

She said there were 65 different trades that could be considered, ranging from the traditional trades to newer opportunities, in manufacturing, solar energy and horticulture.

“There’s a breadth and depth we can offer,’’ Janet said.

You Matter has only been a charity since May 2020, but has become an important provider of “havens’’ for family violence survivors, enlisting more than a 100 volunteers to support its operations.

Co-founder and CEO Maxine Gross said her organisation was part of a collaborative network that worked with family violence agencies. Once those agencies had found social housing or rental accommodation for women and their families, You Matter stepped in to provide donated furniture and household goods to equip the new home.

You Matter calls these “havens’’ and the word choice is deliberate: it is designed to communicate so much more than just a roof over someone’s head but to create a “home’ that’s safe, comfortable and welcoming.

The Nurturing Grant will be used to help build You Matter’s capacity, with the creation of a Service Co-ordinator’s role. Maxine explained that the original intention was to have one paid operational role and the paid CEO role, but it had become clear that the operational role needed to be divided between someone supervising You Matter’s warehouse – where many of the furniture and household goods are stored – and the other service role. That will also enable You Matter to measure its impact on the women they support, built on the positive feedback from many clients who have moved in to the ‘havens’.

“This grant means the world to us,’’ she said. “The Melbourne Women’s Fund is a wonderful organisation, and it’s so good for us that all those people in that giving circle support a grassroots organisation.’’

The Melbourne Women’s Fund is a giving circle that brings members together to support non-profits in Melbourne that address issues undermining the quality of life and futures of women and their families. The MWF is a charitable fund account of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.