WASH House to run free retreats for domestic violence survivors after Rooty Hill RSL grant

MOVING FORWARD: Sonja Godschalk, Lisa Brown and Debra Coulson from WASH House. Picture: Heath Parkes-Hutpon
MOVING FORWARD: Sonja Godschalk, Lisa Brown and Debra Coulson from WASH House. Picture: Heath Parkes-Hutpon

Women experiencing the trauma of domestic violence will be given a rare opportunity to heal on a free retreat organised by WASH House.

Two three-day retreats, each catering for about 12 women, will be run thanks to a $15,200 donation from Rooty Hill RSL Club.

WASH House manager Debra Coulson said the idea for a getaway came when counselors decided more needed to be done to meet the needs of their clients.

Ms Coulson said the retreats would give women from disadvantaged communities a “chance to be a bit spoilt and nurtured”.

“We’ve always got a backlog and a waiting list of about 30 or 40 women,” she said.

“We talked about what’s actually required...[to give] women access to the resources that they need to have a stronger sense of themselves in the midst of crisis and chaos.”

Participants will have access to yoga and meditation classes, free meals and much-needed time for self-reflection.

“Retreats are by nature really expensive things to access,” counselor Sonja Godschalk said.

“It’s giving women who come from low socio-economic backgrounds a chance to experience this kind of therapeutic work that they never get access to.”

Mount Druitt has one of the highest rates of reported domestic violence in NSW.

Data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows Mount Druitt police responded to more than 940 cases in the last financial year.

There were 2066 domestic violence incidents reported in the Blacktown area during that period.

Ms Coulson said for many survivors, the trauma of their experiences resulted in losing their sense of self.

“The retreat is very much around being able to reconnect with the deep, wise, amazing woman that we all are,” Ms Coulson said. 

WASH House counselor Lisa Brown said the program would also address issues surrounding social isolation for survivors.

“I’m hoping the women will feel brand new when they leave,” she said. “They give a lot, this is a chance to fill up their tank so they can keep giving.”

Ms Godschalk said the program would be a safe place for women to try strategies learned through WASH House programs, before using them in the real world.

“For many this will be the first time away from Mount Druitt, the first time having a holiday away from the kids,” she said.

“We hope it can be a time they can go back to in their minds and hearts, and remember there are other ways to live.”

Ms Coulson thanked the RSL for “showing courage” and backing a program that was “a bit outside the norm”.

The first retreat will be held in early November.

WASH House is looking for organisations to support its programs. Details: www.washhouse.org.au.