Anglicare WA Christmas Appeal 2023
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Christmas is
Not Always Merry

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Chris Thomason Chaplain

Christmas is a time to celebrate, a time for families to get together. For those of us who identify as Christians, it is also a time to remember the birth of our Saviour - a time to reflect on what it means to be Christian.

Most children feel excitement and joy at the thought of Christmas Day and finding out whether the toys on their wish list are hidden under the tree. However, when violence occurs in the home and the family is separated, children often find themselves in a war zone. They can feel angry or sad that dad hurt mum, but they can also really miss and long for dad because, before all this, he was their hero.

Children who have witnessed violence can experience a storm of emotions and feelings that they do not understand or know how to express. These can grow stronger at Christmas when they see pictures of happy families; suddenly Christmas does not feel so merry. In fact, for many families, the violence they live with will increase at Christmas.

Through Young Hearts Child Counselling Service, Anglicare WA helps these children find joy again. Young Hearts helps the whole family – the kids, Mum, and Dad because we know that to stop the cycle of domestic violence, everyone must play a part.

Recently our Young Hearts team worked with a family of five; Pam* (mum), Steve* (dad), James*, Tommy*, and Flynn* who are 9, 7 and 5 years old. Steve had been abusive towards Pam since they met. This intensified with Steve’s increased drinking and a Family Violence Restraining Order was put in place to protect Pam and the boys.

The boys had been separated from their dad for around 5 months and had shown signs of being affected by their dad’s behaviour.

What would the Christmas wish list look like for these boys? A shield for James to protect Mum and his brothers when Dad gets angry? Noise-cancelling headphones for Tommy so he could not hear the arguments? Or a bike for Flynn to ride away? We need to change this story so children like James, Tommy and Flynn know that violence and abuse are never okay.

Our Young Hearts program has been operating across Perth for nearly 10 years. It was designed to fill a gap in our response to the growing rate of children witnessing or experiencing family and domestic violence across Western Australia. Unfortunately, after 10 years the need for this service continues to grow as violence in families continues to rise.

The Young Hearts program has evolved to become one of the leading services in our state that helps children understand their experiences, express their emotions, and heal from the trauma caused by family and domestic violence. Yet there remains so many children without any support. Young Hearts now operates as far south as Albany, and our wish is for Young Hearts to support families in the far north as well.

This year we have seen the media filled with stories about women just like Pam who have died because of family and domestic violence. Many, many more continue to live in fear and need help to find the safety they require to ensure their children can grow up safe and well, and free from violence.

Young Hearts provides that lifeline, and you can help us by making a gift this Christmas. Just head to Anglicare WA.

On behalf of everyone at Anglicare WA I wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

* Names have been changed

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