Yvonne Keane on making a dif­fer­ence for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims.

HAV­ING GROWN UP IN AN ABU­SIVE HOME, THE AD­VO­CATE AND LOCAL MAYOR CHAN­NELLED HER EX­PE­RI­ENCE INTO HELP­ING DO­MES­TIC VI­O­LENCE VIC­TIMS BY LAUNCH­ING A WOMEN AND CHIL­DREN’S REFUGE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Dan­nielle Miller Visit facebook.com/the­sanc­tu­aryshel­ter.

Iwas only four years old, yet I still re­call that day vividly. Mum told me to pack a few toys into my lit­tle suit­case. She picked me and my sis­ter up, and we left our house with only the $20 she had for a taxi. As we drove away, my fa­ther chased us down the street in a drunken rage. I re­mem­ber he threw a milk car­ton after us. I can still see the milk spill out onto the road.

The vi­o­lence didn’t stop im­me­di­ately. My fa­ther would oc­ca­sion­ally find us and at­tack my mum. When I was five, she mar­ried David, a won­der­ful man who is my dad in ev­ery way. The day David con­fronted my fa­ther was the day he fi­nally left us alone.

Grow­ing up like that changes you. I had seen my mum bru­talised on a daily ba­sis, and I had been this tiny lit­tle thing try­ing to stop my fa­ther hurt­ing her. I have al­ways felt an urge to save peo­ple, to do the im­pos­si­ble.

Last year, the board that I chair opened The Sanc­tu­ary, a refuge in north-west Syd­ney for women and chil­dren flee­ing vi­o­lence. Our shel­ter man­ager rang me one af­ter­noon and said, “We have our first woman com­ing in. I know your story – I know your mother was 17 when she had you. I’m go­ing to talk, be­cause if you talk, I’ll cry. And if you cry, I’ll cry. And I need to re­main calm. Yvonne, she’s 17 and she has a six-week-old baby. Congratulations, you just saved your mother.”

This was the most full-cir­cle mo­ment of my life. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I cried for six hours.

When I walk through our refuge it is the small de­tails that have the power to move me. On the day we ran I had to leave be­hind a cro­cheted blan­ket my grand­mother had made for me; it wouldn’t fit in my suit­case. We had a group of local women cro­chet blan­kets for each bed in our home for the women and chil­dren to keep. Hav­ing some­thing

spe­cial of their own, that has been made with love, will be more val­ued than most peo­ple re­alise.

I’ve done many things I’m proud of. I started my own busi­ness, I founded a char­ity for deaf chil­dren after my son was born with a hear­ing im­pair­ment, and I’ve been in­volved in local and fed­eral politics.

I’m just a girl from the sub­urbs who never should have achieved all of this. But I’m grate­ful for ev­ery mo­ment.

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