Rising Up to Support Those Affected By Domestic Violence
30 July 2018 at 8:51 am
Nicolle Edwards is the founder and CEO of RizeUp, a community-driven organisation dedicated to supporting women and families affected by domestic and family violence. She is this week’s Changemaker.
Edwards founded RizeUp in 2015. The charity works in partnership with domestic violence services to enhance the service options provided to women and families that have experienced domestic violence.
RizeUp currently has 250 volunteers and Edwards has plans to grow the organisation into a national charity.
Edwards was recognised for her work as recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Volunteer Management Award at the Queensland Volunteering Awards.
In this week’s Changemaker, Edwards discusses how she found her passion for charity work, her plans to make RizeUp a “household name”, and the importance of appreciating your own life.
What is your career background and how did you become interested in the domestic violence space?
I come from a sales and marketing background and I’ve been doing charity work for about six years working in the domestic violence space. It began because I heard a story about a woman who had presented to a Gold Coast hospital. She had jumped on a train in Perth and crossed the country to get to safety because her home was very unsafe, due to being in a domestic violence relationship with the father of her children.
This came to my attention and I put a call out to my friends and family and by the end of that first week we’d all but housed her. It was amazing and probably a big realisation that many people were keen to help, but just didn’t know how to. That was the beginning of my journey basically.
What work are you doing now at RizeUp?
We are in a situation right now where we have quite a large team. We have 250 volunteers and we work from the Northern Rivers of New South Wales right up to the tip of Queensland and inland. We are the only recognised service in Queensland that does the work we do in this particular space, where we’re working with crisis services and refuges to make sure families affected by domestic violence are supported with practical needs like food and all of the other essential things.
How is RizeUp different to other domestic violence charities?
We’ve been described as a groundbreaking service. It’s a really practical response that sometimes we forget, but it’s such an important part of wrapping a family up with so much support and care. It’s also important to generate the commitment from the broader community so they are engaged with the issue of domestic violence.
Because unfortunately, it is so prevalent – one in four Australian children currently are growing up in a house of violence and one in three Australian women are currently affected. And most people don’t talk about it. Our goal for RizeUp is to be Australia’s answer to the revolution against domestic and family violence. We want to become a household name where we are the men’s and women’s voices rising up against domestic and family violence.
High-profile cases of violence against women have featured prominently in the media recently. What responsibility does media have when covering these incidents?
I think there’s huge responsibility on the shoulders of media to make sure they are understanding the importance and the impact of the language they’re using. And then we all need to ask the same questions of ourselves. Are we using gendered language? Are we identifying the four key drivers of violence that is impacting violence against women in our community?
In the media we see a lot more people coming out and obviously there’s a lot of instances of domestic violence. I think a positive out of that is that families are reaching out and seeking the support they require. And I think it’s really important for all of us to make sure we are keeping our eyes on the perpetrators of domestic violence and we’re not shifting our gaze from where the accountability needs to lie.
What does a typical day for you look like as CEO?
A typical day for me might be dropping the children off at school and then going to meetings to drive events and advocacy. It could also be going up to Parliament House, sitting with the minister and discussing what needs to be done. We have a very good relationship with the government.
And RizeUp has a very strong presence in Queensland and the movement of change is being felt within our society and it’s really wonderful to see that. We have volunteer hubs from Gold Coast, to Brisbane North, to Toowoomba, to Townsville etc. We desperately need more volunteers for us to be able to expand nationwide – those interested can email email@example.com or visit our Facebook page for more information.
And there are so many families whose lives have been devastated and torn apart. So as a community, I think it’s our time to make the change and impact the outcome for the children affected.
What do you like to do in your spare time away from work?
It’s really important in this space to appreciate our own lives. My husband and I have a beautiful family and we like to do a lot of things together. For me I like to do yoga and I love to do walking and a bit of exercise, and also just hang out with my family.
It’s all about a bit of relaxation. I don’t get too much time off I’m afraid. We are very busy and my phone doesn’t stop ringing. My husband and I closed our own business down to focus on this completely 100 per cent – I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I want to motivate other people to join in and to realise we all have such enormous capacity to make positive change in the lives of others in our society.