Member for Darling Range Tony Simpson and Member for Armadale Tony Buti put political differences aside to launch Friends of angelhands at Parliament House last week. Robyn Molloy attended the event where founder Ann O’Neill, who recalled the day her ex-partner killed her two children, highlighted the need for funding for the not-for-profit group.
Standing in Parliament House with bipartisan support is something angelhands founder Ann O’Neill said she could only dream about 10 years ago when her organisation was in its early days.
But as life has dealt her cruel blows, she knows the importance of providing an organisation that facilitates recovery from extreme trauma.
She takes up the story of how she was married by the age of 18, had two children and then separated.
“It wasn’t a pleasant marriage, it wasn’t a good relationship,” she said.
“I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with it but to cut a long story short we separated in 1992 after having the typical 2.2 children and the goldfish and all those usual things.
“I learnt to live a very different way in the 18 months that ensued, he assaulted me, stalked me, harassed me, intimidated me, he isolated me, he degraded me in ways that I never knew was possible.
“And in that time period nobody thought it was serious enough to help me.
“I obviously needed a psychologist because this man obviously loved me, he didn’t drink, he didn’t beat me day in and day out, he didn’t do drugs.
“No one within my social network asked me if he did any of those things and what police knew about wasn’t considered serious enough.
“The RO (restraining orders) magistrate was the only one that considered it serious enough to issue an interim order, which he contested and I acquiesced under pressure from my social circle and his lawyer.
“He couldn’t work driving a petrol tanker with an RO which I was told was my fault – I was even stopping him working/earning money.”
In 1994 she recalls one of the worst weekends in Perth’s history.
“There was a lady in Dianella shot through her car window on the Friday by her ex-partner and I remember being very distressed about this news,” she said.
“Then on the Saturday night there was a lady in Northam who stabbed her five-year-old in the throat with a pair of scissors and I was even more distressed by that news.
“Little did I know that in the wee hours of Monday morning my husband would come into my home, take my children’s lives, attempt to take mine and then take his own in the same room in which I lay.”
In the aftermath, Dr O’Neill, who lost her leg as a result of her injuries, said no one really knew what to do for her or how to help her on the path to recovery.
In the seven years between the horrific event and her starting angelhands she came to realise that victims, their friends and families, of family and domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent incidences suffered the ‘same residual of trauma and unresolved trauma’.
Angelhands offers a range of support and education services.
Dr O’Neill said because of the volume of people needing help in WA funding for angelhands was urgently needed as well as volunteers and corporate philanthropic partners.
She said this year in WA there had had been almost 35,000 offences against the person reported to police and 66 homicides to the end of March, highlighting the need for angelhands.
“Our demand totally outweighs our ability,” she said.
“We have a 10 to one ratio at the moment, we have .4 of an FTE until the end of June and we have a great volunteer base that supports our work but fatigue is something we all need to manage in our organisation.
“We have a bit of a motto ‘we lead by being human’ we don’t lead by being corporate professionals.”
Visit angelhands.org.au for more information on programs and how to help.
If you or someone you know is in need of information or requires support for sexual assault, domestic and family violence call the 1800 RESPECT support line on 1800 737 732.