People can help put a smile on the face of a south-west child who has had a tough year through a neat initiative bursting with Christmas spirit.
The Emma House wishing arch has been installed at Toyworld Warrnambool, where residents can purchase a toy or gift for children who have experienced family violence.
Interim executive officer Ruth said at any one time the domestic violence support agency was supporting about 45 children, but that number could rise up to 120 to 140 during some parts of the year.
“We decided with the help of Toyworld this year we would put up the wishing arch to see if we could get some donations for gifts to support our women and children that are experiencing domestic and family violence this Christmas,” she said. “We have women and children who have fled with nothing.”
Ms Isbel said Christmas was a time when family violence could increase.
“There are a lot of factors exacerbating it – families being together, on holidays, there’s often financial stress, there’s often alcohol in the mix,” she said.
“It can be a peak time for incidents. For women and children who engage with our service it can be a difficult time. They could have experienced financial abuse at the hands of their perpetrator as well as emotional and psychological abuse as well.”
She said the impact of family violence on children was well-documented.
“It impacts emotional, psychological, behavioural, physical well-being and they can experience grief and loss if they have fled their family home and have relocated,” she said. “It can be very abrupt and is often a result of what could have been quite a traumatic incident.”
Gifts for children from zero to 16 are being sought. Ms Isbel said it was important to consider toys that were non-gender specific and non-violent, and weren’t reinforcing gender stereotypes.
“We are really grateful to Toyworld,” she said. “It’s a great way for people also to become aware of our service and what we do so that if they are experiencing family violence of any sort, which doesn’t just have to be physical, it can be emotional, financial, or controlling behaviours they can come to us.”
Gifts can be delivered to Emma House directly, in Kepler Street.