Pauline & Kath
Pauline had worked as a medical receptionist for 12 years when a change of management forced her out of her job. After suffering from anxiety and mental health-related issues, Pauline began abusing alcohol and was facing court on serious drinking and driving-related charges. At this time Pauline sought help from our mentoring program as she was struggling to meet her community corrections requirements and appointments, and was facing the likelihood of a custodial sentence.
My Legal Aid lawyer advised me to get a mentor because at the time I was having quite a few problems and having trouble getting to my appointments. It’s had a huge impact on me. I don’t think I could have walked through the whole court process without their help. Without having that support, I would have probably breached (the court order) a few times and maybe have ended up in a worse situation.
I’ve been fine for the last couple of months. The last time I went to court even the magistrate himself said, “I can see a remarkable change…you have really made a big turnaround and I’m very impressed”. And therefore, he’s given me a Community-Based Order.
Kath’s there for me. She will often just contact me and take me for a coffee. You know, it’s just a good thing.
I had always done volunteer work in my local community but I was keen to work with the broader community. When I saw the ad for the mentoring program I thought it was something I could do.
I thought if Pauline did some voluntary work, it would be good to show the judge that she’s willing to give back to the community, but it would also be very good for her to be doing something for other people, as she sees other people doing for her. She followed up completely independently and went to the voluntary work on a regular basis, which was amazing.
When I first met her she could hardly get out of the house and at the end of six months she was going out and helping other people.
“It’s had a huge impact on me. I don’t think I could have walked through the whole court process without their help.”
“When I first met her she could hardly get out of the house and at the end of six months she was going out and helping other people.”
“Susan is like a friend. She makes me feel mentally more equipped to deal with everything. I’m a lot more positive about it.”
“I go to court with her and I’m the only person there supporting her. So I think that’s my role. Just to let her know that she is not alone in navigating the complex and emotionally draining court process.”
Susan & Julie
Julie was facing court on minor shoplifting charges, dealing with the Department of Human Services in relation to her four-year-old son and coping with managing additional court appearances both for a family violence intervention order and at Family Court in relation to her ex-partner when she was referred to the mentoring program.
I was in a violent relationship for six years. I just didn’t know where to go, who to turn to. They always say you have to leave but they don’t understand it’s not always an option when you don’t have anywhere to go. I didn’t know anything about any of the support networks at all. I had no one I could ask for help.
I had a very minor shoplifting charge, which was the result of the family dramas.
I got involved in the mentoring program with Susan and a month into it my partner tried to cut my throat in front of my son and beat me up in front of him and that brought things to a head.
Susan’s like a friend, a big sister, but there’s no blood relation there and that’s made it easier. I couldn’t tell my family any of this. She makes me feel mentally more equipped to deal with everything. I’m a lot more positive about it. I think everything will work out.
I see my role as filling a gap in Julie’s life. She doesn’t seem to have friends who haven’t fallen into the same traps that she has, so I go to court with her and I’m the only person there supporting her. So I think that’s my role. Just to let her know that she is not alone in navigating the complex and emotionally draining court process.”
The court can impose so many conditions on an individual woman without actually seeing what that does to the rest of her life. Julie has made some poor decisions and I don’t want to minimise that – but it’s hard to say that anyone else wouldn’t make those same decisions if they were in the same boat. This is someone who is caring for her son while overcoming heroin addiction, juggling court appearances, and doing whatever she can to keep them both safe from her violent ex-partner. I have a lot of admiration for her.
She’s smart, she just needs a couple of breaks and her life will be totally back on track.