Employment, Families

Standing Strong helps 160 Gold Coast women leaving violent relationships

Written byAlex Lally
Published on23 Nov, 2023
Standing Strong program, woman sitting in car in Australian outback

Standing Strong, a pilot employment program for women who have left domestic violence, is celebrating supporting 160 Gold Coast women on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25).  

The Standing Strong program is an Australian first funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women 

It was launched on the Gold Coast in October 2021 and is delivered by not-for-profit organisation, Social Futures. 

Standing Strong Program Manager Fiona Halligan said the program helps women impacted by domestic and family violence reclaim their economic independence by working towards securing stable, ongoing employment. 

“We also work with participants to look at changes they can make to improve their wellbeing and talk about local term goals,” Ms Halligan said. 

“They may choose to return to study or do volunteer work. We have worked with many women from diverse backgrounds, including First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” Ms Halligan said. 

“We have supported women to secure 51 jobs, while another 28 women chose to go back to study and re-train for new careers. Others want to re-enter the workforce by first volunteering for community organisations. 

“It takes time for women to regain their confidence and recover after leaving a domestic violent relationship. Our priority is to empower them,” she said. 

“Standing Strong is a holistic program that looks at every aspect of women’s lives and their needs including the needs of their children, transport, training, further education and community supports.” 


One woman’s story, as told by her support worker 

This woman came to us, referred by a domestic violence support service after leaving a violent relationship. 

“She’d come to Australia on a visa with a wealth of professional knowledge and experience from her home country. She was working casually in hospitality, earning just enough to cover her rent and some basic needs, so money was tight. Her long-term goal was to stay in Australia and to study.. 

“All her family lived overseas, she had limited friendships in Australia, but had a desire to stay… She was really determined to stay in Australia and start a new life. She is a very intelligent woman with a lot of drive. She wanted to prove to herself that she could be independent – and independence and freedom meant a great deal to her. 

We linked her to the appropriate domestic violence support services for her specific needs. 

Another first step was to look at other job opportunities with her. Through a housing support workshop, she was able to gain access to new free clothing for job interviews. It came from the charity, Thread Together – a charity that distributes new unsold clothing to people in need. 

When she was trying on clothes, she met another woman from our program there and made a good friend. 

She was relentlessly applying for new jobs, but she kept getting knocked back. She was starting to lose hope. 

Standing Strong continued to provide support and also gave her vouchers to help with her finances – to get her through the week. 

She enrolled herself in courses to increase her skills and employability. 

We were working with another employment service, which she managed to secure an interview through. She was successful in securing the full-time position that paid much more than her casual job. 

She was very, very happy, and of course, that was also a great feeling for me. 

When she left the program, she felt financially stable; she had secure housing and employment. 

 She is in a good place.