By Colin MacGillivray
Organisers of community group Love in Action Broadford have praised the town’s willingness to come together during hard times in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group, which helps supply vulnerable families and individuals with food, support, clothing and other household items, had to change its operations to remain compliant with COVID-19 restrictions, but coordinator Barbara Radford said community spirit continued to shine through.
Ms Radford said donations of both money and goods continued to flow even at the height of the pandemic, and Mitchell Shire Council lent its support to keep the community connected.
“It wasn’t the best thing for us to be out there running the show, so council was able to pay a couple of people to come and help us and they did all the pickups and deliveries for us,” she said.
“They have been very helpful and keeping us going properly.”
Ms Radford said lockdown restrictions associated with the pandemic had exacerbated problems for disadvantaged people in Broadford. She said there had been a noticeable increase in family violence incidents in the past year.
“I’ve learned so much about domestic violence since I’ve been involved with Love in Action,” she said.
“I used to think of domestic violence as physical and I’ve learned that it can just as easily be psychological or emotional abuse.”
Ms Radford said victims of family violence had, on occasions, turned up to her house in the middle of the night seeking refuge.
She said police had been good about responding to family violence incidents, but a lack of social housing made it hard for some women to leave abusive partners.
Ms Radford said an increase in the number of women seeking help for family violence could ultimately be a sign of changing attitudes.
“These younger women are already learning with what they’re seeing on the news that there’s more than one sort of domestic violence,” she said.
“It’s the emotional and the psychological, and the words their partners have called them.
“I think one good thing about it is a lot of the women are now feeling they can be open [about it] because of that education, and we have time to listen.”
Ms Radford’s husband Bruce, who also helps coordinate Love in Action Broadford, said a lack of government support for marginalised people during the pandemic had also had an impact on the community.
“Back in the day what was known as CES had two things they did – make sure you’ve got government support, and help you look for jobs,” he said.
“Now with Centrelink, their main focus seems to be making sure you’re not cheating.
“There was one woman who was trying to leave her partner and he called up Centrelink and said she was cheating, and they cut her off without asking any questions.
“It’s been months now and she doesn’t have any money coming into her bank account, so obviously she’s not lying, but nothing has been done about it.”
Despite an increase in the number of people seeking help, Mr Radford said Love in Action had been able to meet the demand thanks to the generosity of the Broadford community.
“That’s one of the things I’ve noticed – that there’s been a change in people’s attitude and their willingness to help during COVID,” he said.
“I met a lady who had been in Holland during World War Two as a child and before the Germans came they didn’t know who lived at the other end of the street. By the end of the time, everyone knew each other and helped each other out, but she said the problem was when it was over they all went back to normal. “I hope, and I’ve got a feeling, that this is going to continue on even after COVID is done.”