Rebecca grew up in Sydney with her mum, dad and younger sister. As a child she grew up in the Salvation Army, which gave her a strong foundation and passion for doing what is ‘right’ and ‘just’ by those who are marginalised in society. Deep down she always had a passion for social justice however didn’t realise that she could turn that into a career until the age of about 21. She put it off for a few years but eventually went back to University and studied Social Work.
Rebecca’s first student placement and subsequent job was at a trafficking and slavery safe house in Sydney and it was here that her passion for seeing women live in freedom - both physically, mentally & emotionally really grew, as well as her passion for social justice.
It’s been almost 3 years since Rebecca graduated her Social Work degree and is now the Team Leader of a Women’s Service in Darlinghurst that seeks to increase safety, choice and belonging for women and transgender women who work in low end brothels in Sydney - women involved in street- based sex work, women who are homeless and women escaping domestic violence…..
My day to day... Never looks the same - which I love! I tend to get bored easily and I can definitely say that my job is never boring.
The service I work at has a drop-in element which means that the service is open for 4 hours a day where women can come in as they please. Along with this we also provide one-on-one appointments in the form of case management and counselling.
Generally, my day involves meeting with staff, debriefing with volunteers who assist with the running of drop in, spending some time in drop in, meeting with women one-on-one to assist with things like housing, health, legal issues etc. and attending meetings. Every Friday involves doing outreach into brothels around Sydney with another staff member (who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese) with the aim of providing hygiene packs and informing women of the support we can provide if they need it.
The heart behind my work is.... That the women who access our service would come to know and believe that their value and worth isn’t dependent on their current circumstance, what they do, what has happened to them, the labels that have been placed on them or where they are going. All humans have inherent worth and value regardless of these things and everyone has unique strengths within them.
If I were to make just one difference in the world it would be...To be a light in darkness. To bring hope where there is no hope, joy where there is despair, love where there is hate, grace where there is shame. Bringing the opposite attitude or spirit to what was originally there.
The most rewarding part of my role is… There are so many aspects, but I think it comes down to all the little things. When a client says that the space ‘feels like family’, or ‘I have hope now’ or ‘I have a place to belong and feel safe’. Those little comments are pretty incredible. The times where clients finally get housing or are granted a visa are pretty great too, but those comments that come from feeling safe and finding belonging and worth always get me.
The biggest challenge of what I do is... Working within systems that often perpetuate disadvantage. There are often so many systemic barriers that stop women being able to move forward even if they want to and it can be very frustrating to work within. I think also the stigma that many women face on the daily is challenging because we are trying to work against that. If only people would realise that just because someone looks different to you doesn’t mean that you are any better than them or that you can treat them any different.
To me purpose means... Doing something that I am passionate about, that makes an eternal difference for someone who is so much greater than I am.
In my experience vulnerability is... Hard, but worth it. Vulnerability is where true connection is found. I am blown away by how much courage is shown on the daily through women who allow us into their lives by being vulnerable. When you are vulnerable you risk rejection and judgement but without it you miss out on true connection, belonging and joy.
Belonging in community is important because... We need each other. We weren’t created to do life alone. A community that is a safe place where people can belong is where healing takes place. There is so much joy to be found when you are fully known and accepted.
I am most proud of... Not giving up ha! That probably sounds worse than it is. I just think there is power in sticking it out and simply continuing to show up. I really love my job, but it has its challenges like any job does. There have been days that I want to quit and other days where I have serious self -doubt, but that’s where community is important. Having people around you who can speak truth into your life. Also knowing what to do to look after yourself and having good boundaries so you can continue to do what you love is important.
It is important that we view all people as... Equal and worthy of love and belonging. When we see behaviour we don’t understand or people who are different to us we often act out of fear and judgement. However, if instead of this we moved in and put our own agenda aside and simply listened to people’s stories I believe that this fear would turn into understanding. Deep down I really don’t think people are all that different to one another and it is a beautiful thing when you get to hear someone else’s story and connect with someone who you never thought you would.
Styling, Photography & Creative Direction by The Unfold (Hannah Darkins)