by Angela Powditch, North Coast of NSW.
As featured in The Country Web 2017 Annual.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home’. And ‘home’ is where my story begins …
I am a single mum with two young children aged five and six years. I live in rural NSW in a seaside village. I am also the victim of domestic violence (DV) and financial domestic violence (FDV).
My situation has taught me: you never know how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong!
I have risen through adversity and taken on a new outlook and desire to pursue a career in human rights. I am on my way! I am in my third year of law at Southern Cross University and will complete my degree at the end of next year after I finish honours. I plan to roll out a FDV program over the next year. In the meantime, I am working to educate others and advocate for victims of FDV.
Last year I found an opportunity on the internet that I really wanted to pursue: a one month International Human Rights Law Course at Oxford University. I knew it would provide unmatchable experience and the credits would count towards my Australian law degree.
Before applying I spoke to Deb, a good friend I have known for 20 years, and said I was interested in applying but wondered: Would I really have a hope of getting in? If I did who would look after my kids? How would I afford the $20k for course costs plus airfares etc? Deb simply said I should go for it and if I got in she would take long service leave and fly up from Sydney with her family to look after my kids. So I did … and you know what? I was accepted with 69 others from around the world! I rang Deb and she said, ‘Great! I’ll lock in my time off work and come.’
I then had to raise the money for the course. I contacted media outlets and had articles in the papers advising I had a GoFundMe account set up and would appreciate any support. I also knocked on doors at my uni and was awarded a one-off scholarship, the SCU Associate Alumni Scholarship, and the rest I was loaned by the Australian Government through OS Help—a loan available to eligible students enrolled in a Commonwealth supported place who want to undertake some of their study overseas. So with the help of family, friends, strangers and colleagues alike my dream became a reality!
And as you could imagine, it was the experience of a lifetime! One night we had a formal dinner in the Great Hall (the grounds were used to film parts of the Harry Potter movies). Guests included judges, United Nations staff, law students and a Danish diplomat, who were all pursuing the same course. I kept pinching myself, thinking ‘plus there’s me from my little seaside village’.
The study regime was intense, as were the exams. But I think, as well as the interesting subject matter, the most striking thing was the genuine humility amongst the students and the ‘rock stars of the human rights world’ that I met who taught there or conducted lectures, such as David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and Justice Richard Goldstone who was nominated to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela.
As a result of my Oxford study, I had a blog published on the Oxford Human Rights Hub that explains how much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the impacts of FDV (http://bit. ly/2mQjquo).
I feel compelled to use my experience to help others and to ‘pay forward’ the kindness shown to me. From the worst time in my life, which resulted in deep depression, I can honestly say with God’s help and supportive family and friends, I have survived and endeavour to make my children proud of me; a living example of Eleanor Roosevelt’s words.
As such, since my return from Oxford I have been actively involved in advocating for human rights through a number of national organisations (on a volunteer basis) such as the LGBTI subcommittee of @Australianlawyersforhumanrights and The Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders. I have also completed the National Rural Women’s Coalition’s e-leaders Advocate & Influence Program with 19 other rural women selected from around Australia.
If you’ve been affected by FDV and/or have tips for establishing my program, or you would like to connect or collaborate with me, I would love to hear from you at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Domestic Violence Support & Resources
– Family Relationships Advice Line: 1800 050 321 or familyrelationships.gov.au
– 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732 1800RESPECT.org.au
– Daisy App: Download on Google play or App Store
– Men’s Line Australia: 1300 789 978 mensline.org.au
– Lifeline: 131 114
– MoneySmart: moneysmart.gov.au
– White Ribbon: whiteribbon.org.au