Not Now. Not Ever.

Not now, Not Ever. It’s a slogan that we’ve been hearing in ads on the tv during the month of May as well as “do something”.

What does this all mean?

May is the month Queenslanders come together to say “no” to domestic and family violence. As a community, we must work together to end domestic and family violence.

It’s also the month that I’d like to recognise some absolutely incredible people who are actively “doing something” and making a difference. Simone Patterson along with her husband Nigel, at their own expense, privately purchased a rural retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland and in April 2016 they opened The Sanctuary Refuge.

The aim of the refuge is to provide crisis accommodation in the form of refuge, safety, comfort, nutrition and counselling to women and children in trauma. They offer safety and security for women who are victims of domestic violence, as well as those suffering from homelessness or other trauma in their lives. They provide housing for women, children and their pets. Simone and her team work in many areas of rehabilitating these women and children and raising awareness that domestic violence is not ok nor acceptable in our society. The Sanctuary is also working hard at changing long term attitudes towards victims. They advocate better parenting through instilling liveable values such as equity, equal opportunity, compassion, common purpose, recognition and consequence.

Domestic Violence against women costs Australians a staggering $21.7 billion each year – every individual in our community is in some way affected by this – socially, financially, physically and even politically. It reaches into workplaces where employees well-being is impacted as well as into the health sector where death, disability and trauma impact young women at alarming rates. The numbers are frightening with 1 in 6 women in Australia experience physical and/or sexual violence with Indigenous women and girls whose experience is greater by 35 times of that of their Caucasian sisters. 1 in 4 children who are exposed to this violence will require psycho-social support services which offer life-long intervention.

The Sanctuary Refuge was created from a life-long dream of the Founder, Simone who identified a need and acted on developing and growing a place where the most vulnerable in our community could come and transition with support. The Sanctuary connects with additional support services and with investment from businesses and individuals enabling life-changing opportunities for women and children at risk. I was fortunate enough to be given a tour of this beautiful tranquil escape that Simone, Nigel and their many helpers have created and you can’t help but feel secure, welcomed and at peace. Within the Sanctuary, Simone and her team have also created a great play space for the children, featuring a large yellow bus for inside play when it’s raining outside, to give the kids an area outside their rooms to explore and create. I was also amazed at their determination to make a difference in the lives of those they touch daily and that these women in turn, with what little they have, are giving back also.

In the short time, they have been open the Sanctuary has successfully placed more than 101 women and children back into safe community housing with them feeling more valued. They have helped these women and children to re-discover self-confidence, social skills, financial independence, hope, being able to navigate family law issues, live independently with tailored support plans and stability in their lives. They have 138 registered volunteers and NO paid staff. This organisation is run on a 24/7 basis. At any one time, they can provide accommodation for up to 12 women, their children and pets and are currently expanding to include 2 more rooms with a grant provided by IKEA. The Sanctuary takes in those from over 20 kilometres distance away minimum and regularly has requests from as far as Sydney and even Perth for assistance.

They work tirelessly through their vast network of contacts and local support organisations. Simone is a regular speaker on the Community Organisation network and has addressed groups such as Rotary, Quota, Zonta, Probus, Lions and local church groups. They hold regular volunteer inductions, working bees and call outs for specific donations which might be needed such as baby formula, wheel chairs etc. through their local newspaper, The Sun (Tweed and lower Gold Coast) as well as radio station Gold FM 92.5 who are proud supporters. National television broadcaster the ABC is currently producing a program for Compass to air later this year.

Everyone can help and every one of us can make a difference. Volunteers are always needed at the Sanctuary and are pivotal in their continuing work. There’s always something to do from the daily feeding of the animals to helping with the women and children living there. What is needed now is help to finish building a family unit and assistance with setting up a vegetable garden.

Simone’s future plans include further extensions to accommodate more and is looking for anyone who can help with this or with providing a bus to transport the women, children and pets around. Her vision is to also include a transitional house which these women can move to whilst they are waiting on housing assistance.

There is always room for more volunteers so if you really want to make a difference and feel good Simone and her team would welcome you with open arms. Personal gain is never as rewarding as volunteering and giving back. Everyone can make a difference no matter how small and it can be as simple as donating some time to extend a hand and ear to another person.

If you’d like to donate goods they can be dropped off to the trailer at 72 Melaleuca Drive, Palm Beach. This is a registered charity and donations of $2 are tax deductible. These can be made through the Commonwealth Bank Account Retreat for Kids Inc. BSB: 064 480 Account Number: 1047 8994. There is also…/urgent-help-needed-for-wo…/
and where funds can be donated.

Follow the incredibly selfless work of Simone and her team at the Sanctuary Women and Children’s Refuge on face book, or Simone can be emailed at

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