By Pauline Marlborough OAM
Upholding the dignity of women and promoting their participation in social and public life has been put into practise by the Catholic Women’s League Western Australia (CWLWA).
Over the last three years particularly, the organisation has concentrated on supporting women who are struggling emotionally, physically and financially – fulfilling Object 3 of our national constitution.
During the lockdowns and restrictions of COVID, it came to the attention of CWLWA that there was a significant increase in domestic violence.
This promoted CWLWA Social Issues Convenor, Lynne Buzzard undertake research to find agencies that support women and children.
At the CWLWA State Conference in 2021 Debra Zanella, from RUAH, presented statistics of homeless women over 55, the fastest growing cohort of homelessness.
The following year, Jane Armstrong from Homelessness We Care Perth (HWCP) presented a disturbing picture of the desperate plight of “Street Friends”; again, this pointed at the homeless women over 55, and many over 70.
These powerful talks presented CWL members with the sad and desperate lives of fellow women.
We needed to commit fully to ‘Object 3’ to uphold the dignity of women.
With this in mind, we invited Michelle Blakely, the architect and founder of the ‘My Home’ project in WA to address the State Council of CWLWA.
The overview of the ‘My Home’ project presented a plan of building 18 units on unused government land in Congdon St, North Fremantle.
The plan for CWLWA was to work with various organisations to provide bedding, furniture, kitchen and laundry essentials and utensils for small homes, complete with gardens, paths, outdoor settings and solar panels.
St Patricks Community Support Centre would take responsibility for management of the property and tenants.
The homes are built close to train and bus transport, with cafes and a number of Catholic parishes nearby.
As the building of the homes was nearing completion, CWLWA invited Rotary WA’s manager of the inventory of homewares and furnishings for the My Home project, Kay Durrant, to a State Council meeting.
On behalf of the members of Catholic Women’s League WA, President Pauline Marlborough presented Kay of Rotary with a cheque specified by CWLWA to cover the cost of all bedroom linen, towel sets, kitchen and laundry essentials and utensils, small smart televisions, washing machines, microwaves and some furniture for all 18 units.
In the following weeks, members of CWL branches laundered all the linen and towels, attended two workdays to make beds and set up kitchens and laundries ready to be used; floors were vacuumed and washed and benches wiped clean and finally, a massive amount of packaging was removed.
An artistic member of CWL Attadale donated 18 of her paintings which now adorn the units, and CWL Margaret River supplied 18 bags with toiletry essentials.
We thank God for giving CWLWA members the opportunity to participate in provisioning homes for 18 homeless women over 55.
We realise “but for the Grace of God there go I” Now, because of adequate housing and security these women, who have been made homeless, will belong, participate and be accepted in the wider community.
More projects are currently in the pipeline for the My Home Project, and the CWLWA is looking forward to continue to work to “uphold the dignity of women and to promote their participation in Social and public life.”
Pauline Marlborough OAM is State President Catholic Women’s League WA.