Only 2.5% of Australians are Indigenous, yet they are four times as likely to be homeless as non-Indigenous people. It can be devastating, as Suzanne McInally knows. But there is help.
By
Jodan Perry

1 Sep 2016 - 11:26 AM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2016 - 11:26 AM

Six years ago Suzanne McInally and her children lost everything when a deadly flash flood swept through Toowoomba on the Darling Downs, killing four people.

“We had nothing. We had to start all over again,” she says. “Well you know who your friends are when you are homeless.

"The unwanted feeling, it is tough, and sometimes you think, when you have nowhere, absolutely nowhere to sleep, nowhere to go, you think well what’s the point? What’s the point of living if you have nowhere to go.”

But she remembered her husband’s community at Woorabinda and told her children that was where they would go.

There she discovered the Gumbi-Gunyah Women’s and Children’s Shelter, which has been providing accommodation and support for the homeless or victims of domestic violence for 30 years.

Suzanne found a sense of community again, joining the women’s talking circles and arts groups.

“I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “You can come up and talk to the older ladies, and know about our history and stuff. We do painting, some cooking … it’s just someone to talk to and have a laugh, you know, mingle in.”

Janelle Evans, one of the shelter’s case workers, said Suzanne had been going from strength to strength since she started coming to the shelter four years ago and now has her own home and a job.

“We don’t have any experts but we share our skills and we teach each other and it's a place where we can come and yarn and feel comfortable,” she said.

“People are struggling to cope with their own traumas and we need to relearn all of these skills - how to be a better parent, how to be a better person, building resilience and actually thinking about healing and not self-medicating using alcohol or drugs to blacken out the problem.”

But the shelter is in a 90-year-old building that was once the manager’s house when Woorabinda was settled in 1927. There’s a local legend that the building is haunted.

Ghost or not, the shelter is certainly lifting the spirits of the women who use it.

“It makes me feel good,” says Janelle Evans. “I have been to feminist conferences and stuff, and I really like to see how women are equal, as good as men. I love working with women and helping them to build their capacity to be better leaders in their families and to learn skills that may help them.”

The new mayor, Shane Wilkie, says an upgrade is on the agenda to make the building safer for victims of domestic violence.

You can see more on 'The Point with Stan Grant' tonight at 9pm.

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