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A day in the life of ...

22 March 2022

A day in the life of ...

Highlighting the rights of women to a life free from violence

Over the coming months, Salvos Magazine will feature different people from all walks of life who are part of the varied work of the Salvos across the country. In conjunction with International Women’s Day on 8 March, below we feature Sonali, Team Leader – Family Violence Programs, in North-West Victoria. 

Salvos Magazine: Can you give us an overview of your role? 

Sonali: One of the two programs I manage is a short-term 24/7 refuge for women escaping family violence. The second is an after-hours crisis response program named NCARS (Northern Crisis Advocacy and Response Service). NCARS provides after-hours crisis intervention support to victim-survivors across Hume/Moreland and the North- East Metropolitan Area who have recently escaped family violence and are accommodated in emergency accommodation. 

The 24/7 high-security refuge provides short-term crisis accommodation and support to adult and child victim survivors escaping family violence. Client stays range between seven to 21 days and can extend further, depending on identified needs. We are a trauma-informed, client-centred service, and we co-case manage with our referring organisation, Safe Steps – Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response centre (

We prioritise client needs based on their safety, wellbeing, and risk in their current moment of crisis. 

Our five units at the refuge usually accommodate about 15 adults per month, plus children. Due to the impacts of COVID-19 and challenges with securing housing, our numbers have dropped by half, with clients staying for an extended period. 

Referrals to NCARS are received via Safe Steps, The Orange Door, specialist family violence service providers in the region, police, and hospitals. Support is tailored and provided through risk management, safety planning, advocacy, incidental counselling, material aid, family violence psycho-education, information, advice, and referrals. 

In a month, NCARS can receive between 20-50 referrals. As COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, we witnessed a spike in referrals as women and children found it safer to reach out for support. 

Teams from both programs support adult and child victim-survivors who have made the risky and crucial decision to leave the perpetrator and have been assessed at a level of serious risk, requiring immediate protection. 

In supporting clients, staff navigate several complex factors and systematic barriers across legal systems, mental health, AOD, homelessness, financial services, migration, and similar. This highlights the enhanced skillset of practitioners across both teams.

Foremost, we provide clients with a safe and welcoming space and encourage them in their journey to healing and recovery, building on their strengths and capacity towards self-empowerment.

It is an overwhelming, stressful, and emotional time for victim-survivors, and, as a team, we make it a point to be wholly present, listen, believe, and holistically validate their lived experiences. All staff ensure that every victim-survivor’s experience and journey is underpinned by inclusivity, warmth, care, compassion, and respect.

Daily tasks

SM: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at work (even if that’s at home!)?

S: Given that I cover two 24/7 programs, establishing my priorities is critical.

I mainly work from the refuge and from time to time from home. Every day looks different. As a team, we meet each morning to prioritise, plan for the day, review the hand-over, and case consult. I immediately action anything critical that is highlighted. I highly appreciate my team and commend their knowledge, skills, passion, and commitment.

I am also involved in several leadership, strategic planning, and collaborative partnership meetings. My role also requires me to manage rosters, submit reports, review referrals, consult with stakeholders, support payroll, HR, and recruitment needs, and oversee property maintenance and management. It does get quite busy.

The team advocates and supports clients in accessing benefits, opening bank accounts, applying for TFNs and Centrelink, and conducting risk assessments and safety planning. They support clients to attend police stations, report breaches, property retrievals, apply for intervention orders, coordinate court hearings, liaise with child protection, GPs, legal services, migration agents, and the like. 

Exit planning from the refuge is another crucial focus. Every effort is made to ensure that victim-survivors make informed decisions and their voices are heard – whether they move to a long-term refuge, private rental, or return to their properties with safety measures in place. 

At times, we see NCARS clients transition to the short-term refuge and further onto Salvos long-term refuges. We appreciate this opportunity to provide ongoing support. 

We strive to embed inclusive practice within the Family Violence stream. We support clients from diverse backgrounds – clients from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities, ATSI, the LGBTQIA+ community, and clients with a disability. We support numerous victim-survivors on temporary visas who receive no income. As someone recently said, “Exclusion is assumed unless inclusion is explicit.” This really stuck with me. 

Challenges and rewards

SM: What’s the most challenging part of your work? 

S: There aren’t enough hours in the day! There are so many reforms taking place within the family violence sector as well as changes within the organisation, so keeping abreast, staying up to date and facilitating change management can be a challenge. 

SM: What’s the most rewarding part of your work? 

S: I love what I do! Being given the opportunity to wake up every day and fight for social justice alongside a like-minded team, under great leadership, is highly rewarding. To work towards establishing a world free from violence is what drives me. I am passionate about supporting women and children experiencing family violence and to witness them regain control of their lives, build on their inherent strengths, and empower their resilience. This makes me smile every day. 

It is such a privilege to witness both my teams place victim-survivors at the centre of their practice, address the gendered nature of violence, manage risk, safety, and ensure perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, contributing to breaking the cycle of violence 

SM: How has COVID-19 affected your work? 

S: Perpetrators use COVID-19 as a control tactic to further isolate and silence women, preventing them from accessing support and resulting in an increase of frequency and severity of violence in the home. This has hugely impacted referrals into our service. 

COVID-19 has also changed the way we work and encouraged a rapid review of our service delivery model across programs – keeping clients’ best interests in mind. 

Specialist family violence practitioners were supported to work from home, access E-vouchers, and provide phone-based incidental counselling. There was a shift in court hearings, Centrelink payments and IVO applications were moved to an online platform, Telehealth has replaced in-person appointments. 

SM: How do you see your work achieving the mission of the Salvos to transform lives? 

S: I hold the Christian faith very close to my heart. It is a privilege to work for The Salvation Army, whose values, and mission (see page 3) reflect my own. I remember whispering a prayer long ago, asking God for the opportunity to work in a Christian organisation where my gifts, efforts, talents, and work give back to him and support his work on earth. This role is an answer to prayer and further confirms his plan for my life – for which I am grateful. Every day I am given the opportunity to work for justice, care for people, build healthy communities, and create faith pathways – thus living my calling. 



In an emergency – 000 

1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) 

Salvation Army services – family-and-domestic-violence/ learn-more-about-domestic-violence/ 

Safe Steps on 1800 737 732 or visit 

Lifeline – 13 11 14 

Kids helpline – 1800 55 1800 

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 


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