I WAS LIVING in Melbourne with two young children, aged just five and one, when the dreams—or should I say nightmares—began. Every night as I shut my eyes I’d see my babies and I being thrown out onto the curb. These nightmares seemed to be on rotation. They were frightening. Utterly frightening. Because they seemed so real.
I knew exactly why I was having those nightmares. My marriage had recently ended and so had the dual income I had been relying on. My work as a seasonal theatre producer was not going to keep our heads above water—or keep the lights on, the heating connected or the children fed—and we were just days away from being evicted from our $680-a-week house. I couldn’t even afford to pay for a removal van.
That’s when a close girlfriend tapped me on the shoulder. She could see that shock had rendered me mute and, worse still, helpless. I felt like I was living in a cloud; struggling to make even the simplest decisions. This wasn’t me. I was usually alert, confident, in control. Where had that woman gone?
I don’t like to think where I’d be today if that friend hadn’t given me a hand up to secure another lease (she also helped pay for that van), or if the sympathetic female real estate agent who heard me crying at the other end of the phone, and let me end my lease without penalty, hadn’t been so, well, sympathetic.
That was almost 10 years ago and it’s not something I discuss readily, not because I’m embarrassed, but because to revisit it awakens something in the pit of my stomach. Once you experience this kind of helplessness, no matter how successful you become, it’s difficult to shake it off completely.
Harbour-side views aside, Geelong is a world away from that street in Coburg, and perhaps that’s why I was surprised to read that the lack of affordable rent was such a big issue in both cities.
Recent figures released by the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) showed that, like all of Victoria’s regional cities, Geelong’s rental market is all but off limits for a single person on Centrelink, a single pensioner, or a single parent on a low part-time income.
The latest ABS statistics tell us that a good number of people currently battling to keep a roof over their head are women. Women who might have lost a job or a significant relationship. Women who might be dealing a mental illness. Women raising their children alone on a single income.
As a woman, and a leader of women, I find this so unsettling.
Geelong is experiencing some of the greatest need—Vinnies Victoria has recorded an almost 70 percent rise demand for financial welfare support in the past three years. To say that such statistics chill me to the bone is an understatement. Thankfully, time has healed my own heartache, but my heart goes out to my adopted home town.
That’s why I’ve signed up for Vinnies Victoria’s first-ever regional Vinnies CEO Sleepout, right here in Geelong. Every dollar raised by this event will go towards funding Vinnies’ Geelong core service, the home visitation program, where volunteers visit people in their homes with hampers, food or fuel vouchers, and assist with school fees, medication and more.
That’s not all, either. Volunteers also provide the greatest gifts of all—a listening ear and a gentle hand up in times of crisis.
Take it from me. I know just how valuable these gifts are.
This Thursday I’ll be bedding down on a piece of cardboard for one night at Geelong’s iconic GMHBA Stadium, but I can’t do this alone. Will you support me, by offering a few dollars towards my campaign, to support this great town of ours?
Jac Bowie is CEO of professional women’s network, Soar Collective, and boutique wedding planning business Darling Don’t Panic. Jac also coaches and trains women in small business.