Lianne Dean: Respectus

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Lianne Dean: Respectus

Tireless Lianne helps take women and their families off the street

The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Respectus to provide housing and support to local women in the community who are studying and need a place of refuge.

This accommodation will be available in a self-contained unit to accommodate women from the Hunter and Lake Macquarie area who are studying for their HSC.

It’s been three years since a community meeting about homelessness and domestic violence prompted the formation of Respectus, a charity that provides safe and affordable housing to women and children when they need it most.

For the Newcastle charity’s first project, tradesmen donated their time, businesses gave goods, locals pledged money and materials, and about 200 volunteers worked to transform an unrenovated old convent into a refuge called Trisha House.

That’s where Lianne Dean stepped in. “My passion really is for women’s issues, domestic violence and homelessness, and helping women get back on their feet when they’ve hit rock bottom,” she says.

Lianne has spent about 10 hours each week over the past 18 months driving the Trisha House renovation in her spare time.

“I had to make sure all the materials and tools we used were there and took care of all the logistics to make it easy for the people who volunteered,” she says. “I was on the phone the moment I stepped out of my car on the way to work. When I left work, I was back on the phone.”

It was all worth it, she says. “We could take 13 women with children off the streets and out of living in their cars.”

Lianne says one of the main reasons women experience homelessness is gender inequality. “Women tend not to have highly paid jobs or access to large superannuation payouts so when there’s a family breakdown they don’t have the same financial fallback as men."

It’s a “great honour” to be voted a Westfield Local Hero, she says, and the support her nomination received in the local community will kick-start another plan to help women in need.

“It will be supported transitional accommodation for young mothers who don’t have a really good network. Hopefully we can reduce the risk of these women having their children taken away from them and improve the children’s future.”

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.

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