Rocky woman’s mission to combat domestic violence
THE SIGHT of domestic violence victims facing their perpetrators in court is one not many could bear to stand. For Louise Hayes, it gives purpose.
Even after a nearly 11-year-long career as a domestic and family violence prevention worker for Legal Aid, her determination to break the cycle of abuse - particularly in younger generations - remains unwavering.
"When I first started it seemed that there was an opportunity and a need. It was really because the whole idea of social justice and making a difference is important to me on a personal level."
Under a new program called Love Bites, Ms Hayes now also dedicates her time to high school visits across Central Queensland raising awareness of the crippling social issue.
It is hoped programs like these will further prevent victims from a lifetime of domestic violence.
"Trained facilitators deliver the program to high schools and talk to kids about what domestic violence is, about what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like."
Sexting, sexual assault and harassment, along with where students can turn to for help are also among the list of important topics discussed.
"We've had some real success stories, every time we've visited a high school, we've had young people come forward with questions and concerns," she said.
"We've had some really good feedback from students and even staff later on after students have confided in them. I think that stuff, the early intervention is really valuable."
Despite her many weekdays visits to Rockhampton's domestic violence court, the opportunity to support a victim through some of their darkest moments is one she would not trade.
"For me, it's going to court and speaking to the aggrieved and letting them know what's going to happen and being that support system for them," she said.
"That can be a harrowing time for these people. The other party is quite often in the court and having to face that person and be in the same vicinity as them, that's a scary ordeal.
"It's the little things we do but having someone there to advocate for them is really crucial."
Despite the region's increasing rates of domestic violence over the past decade Ms Hayes could not confidently say what had contributed to it.
"I don't think you can judge the statistics. It's hard to tell with all the work we put into domestic violence and whether all our public awareness campaigns are what's inspired the increase," she said.
"But it also comes down to public awareness and if neighbours are making that call. Maybe in the past they didn't."
Ms Hayes will next month host a webinar for those working in the domestic violence sector.
Those who wish to participate are invited to join Legal Aid's free legal information webinar by clicking here.