The Queen of Hearts: Q&A with Michelle Ellery
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The Queen of Hearts: Q&A with Michelle Ellery

Stories/13 , Issues/Violence
Queen of Hearts Community Foundation, Penrith NSW 2750, Australia
15th Jun 2017
The Queen of Hearts: Q&A with Michelle Ellery
Penrith is the second highest in NSW for reported domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Hear from tour de force Michelle Ellery on her w

Penrith charity group, The Queen of Hearts Community Foundation, run by one-woman tour-de-force Michelle Ellery, is helping to provide a support network for children who have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused.

In her own words, Michelle Ellery is fighting for the people who can’t fight for themselves.

She’s building a network so survivors who’ve undergone some of the worst treatment from fellow human beings can communicate and receive therapy in a warm, loving and welcoming environment.

Speaking to Ms Ellery, I found her and her Foundation compassionate, and indeed warmhearted to all those who seek out help.

How did Queen of Hearts come about?

The Queen of Hearts Community Foundation was set up to create a safe place, to protect kids and to create a support network for victims of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. We aim to help people through their journey towards justice and healing.

Firsthand, I discovered there was a gap in services, with part of that gap being a wait time of eight to ten weeks for individuals seeking services. I’m proud to say that in our organisation we have it down to a wait time of seven to ten days.

You’re involved in a range of services here, from helping survivors of child sexual abuse to women who are facing domestic violence situations, is it hard to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades?

We have a great team here and they’re my rock. For me, I’m overseeing everything from management operations to meeting clients as they’re coming in the door. It is very extensive work.

I need the right team beside me so they can go from one task, or client, to the next. If I had to deal with everything single-handedly I would be dropping balls left, right and centre.

The team comes from a trauma first experience. That means the feelings, the emotions and your experiences all come first. They’re professionals who are really interested in how clients are dealing with things.

Pictured: Michelle Ellery
Pictured: Michelle Ellery
Mentally this job must put a lot of stress on you. How do you personally deal with the stress of it all?

I need to debrief sometimes. That means I’ll need to have a chat with some of my team members, or I’ll seek outside help as well, just to debrief. The pressures of a week can be a lot, but I do get a lot of job satisfaction out of it all.

Sometimes I need to find the balance, if there is such a thing as a proper work-life balance, because I’m always overworking. All in all my family is very important as well so they’re a big source of downtime.

Western Sydney is a hotspot for family violence. Why is it so prevalent in the community?

Penrith is the second highest [in NSW] for reported domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

We have systemic and family situations where children are caught in cycles of abuse. They’re in families where violence is sadly apart of their daily happenings, and to a child it is hard to see that the violence and abuse in the household isn’t okay.

Another big reason why we have these numbers is because people in Penrith are close. They talk to their friends and eventually to the police about their assaults. They’re more open and with this openness comes more reported cases.

How can those in power, those who’re constructing policy, stop family violence in Western Sydney?

I wish I had a magic wand, to be honest. There isn’t a quick and easy fix.

Currently there is a waiting system for services, meaning traumatised people are only going to become more upset and more unstable as they have to wait. Sometimes those people are going into cycles of violence themselves. They experience something and they think it is ok.

We need to stop the cycles. We need early intervention and we need to cut waiting times on services.

While the government and the media shine a light on the topic, from time to time, people always find it hard to talk about things like family violence. We need to make it easier for people to talk on the regular about these things.

Sadly some children in violent and sexually abusive family situations don’t know that their situation isn’t normal and what they are experiencing isn’t alright. We need to get to a place where those children can speak out.

If we can get into schools and institutions and teach from a young age that it isn’t alright to hit someone, or what is and what isn’t appropriate, then maybe we can start to break some cycles.

There could be a big change in schools as well. We need body safety training, to teach children what is inappropriate, and give them an outlet to speak out.

How can members of the Greater Western Sydney community help you?

There are two ways people can help us, and can also help stop these cycles. One is through direct donations to The Queen of Hearts Community Foundation.

The more money we can raise and put back into our services, the more we can do to help the community of Penrith and Western Sydney. We have events and fundraising across the year with that money going back into our foundation.

Another way people can help is a really simple yet incredibly worthwhile act. People can simply listen to someone, make them feel loved and supported.

Listening and being supportive to someone who has been through all of this can make a big difference to a survivor of abuse. Simply saying, “I believe you” and “you don’t deserve this” makes a a big difference to someone who has had incredibly traumatising experiences.

We also take on a lot of students here who’re undertaking work experience and internships. We’re always open to take people who’re looking for experience.

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