The real gift is in the giving

This Sunday Australia celebrates Mother’s Day, and many of us will be giving (or receiving) breakfast in bed, flowers and cards. While most of us think of Mother’s Day as the day to honour and acknowledge our own mother, the history of the day reminds us of the importance of thinking beyond our own families.

The second Sunday in May was declared “Mother’s Day” in the United States in 1914, some 40 years after it was first proposed by activist Julia Ward Howe as a mother’s day for peace, and campaigning in the early 1900s by Anna Jarvis to continue the work of her mother who was a peace activist following the US Civil War.

However, gift giving for Mother’s Day in Australia began in 1924 when Mrs Janet Heyden started a campaign in Sydney to collect presents for lonely and forgotten mothers in Sydney’s Newington State Hospital.

Whilst we strongly encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate your own mother this coming Sunday, we also ask you to think of those mothers who are experiencing disadvantage and do not have family to support them. In particular, we ask you to take a moment to think of those women experiencing domestic violence - the single largest driver of homelessness for women.

Current statistics tell us that 1 in 6 Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by current or former partner; and 1 in 4 has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.  On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.1

Not only does this violence impact women themselves, it has a catastrophic impact on their children.  More than two-thirds of mothers who had children in their care when they experienced violence said their children had seen or heard the violence.1

What is ACU doing to help?

ACU Engagement is currently working with community partners to develop opportunities for staff and students to support agencies working with women who have experienced domestic violence.

In NSW we are working on a partnership with Mary’s House, a shelter in the North Shore of Sydney supporting women and their children who need help because of domestic violence. We hope through this partnership to support these families by providing resources and educational/skill development activities.

In Victoria we are working on a partnership with Impact , a completely volunteer charity committed to making a difference to Victorian women and children fleeing extreme violence at home. ACU’s Prof Margot Hillel OAM is a member of the Board of Impact and we are grateful to Margot for the introduction to Impact and for the great work she is doing with this organization.

Each year, in preparation for Mother’s Day and Christmas, Impact volunteers pack ‘Bags of Love’ which are given to women living in shelters around Melbourne. On Sunday 14 April, 405 volunteers gathered at Caulfield to pack more than 1500 Bags of Love and 92 House Bags which have been distributed to the shelters ready for Mother’s Day.

Professor Margot Hillel OAM, Chair of Academic Board, and Professor Sandra Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement), joined over 400 volunteers packing Mother’s Day “Bags of Love” for Impact.

Professor Margot Hillel OAM, Chair of Academic Board, and Professor Sandra Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement), joined over 400 volunteers packing Mother’s Day 'Bags of Love' for Impact.

What can you do to help?

While we are still formalizing our partnerships with these organizations, there are things you can do to support women in need on Mother’s Day (and throughout the year). For example:

  • register your team for an ‘ACU toiletries packing day’
  • donate gifts for Impact’s Christmas Bags of Love
  • register as a volunteer with Impact (or other organisations in your area who support women experiencing domestic violence)
  • let us know of organisations in your city/state that we can explore partnering with

We wish you, your mothers, and all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day.

1 Statistics from:

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