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Melissa Histon-Browning: Westfield Local Heroes 2018

How a trip to Nepal inspired Melissa to help women at home

The $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant has enabled Got Your Back Sista to host new workshops and activities that the organisation has not been able to provide due to funding.

These programs are centred on mindfulness and meditation to assist women who are in abusive relationships to learn how to cope with ongoing anxiety and trauma. Since the introduction of the new programs and workshops, there has been a rise in attendees, due to the ability to have more women join these new groups.

Melissa Histon-Browning is fighting back against domestic violence and empowering women and girls to build confidence and wellbeing.

Inspired to take action after witnessing the horrors of sex trafficking while on a trip to Nepal, Mel founded Got Your Back Sista in 2016 to help local women experiencing domestic violence.

Two years on, the charity assists women and children all the way from Taree to Lake Macquarie and the Upper Hunter to thrive and live independently after escaping abuse.

“I came back from Nepal really wanting to do something positive, and I realised I could do the most good by helping the women who are being abused in our own backyard,” Mel says.

Mel and the team work in tandem with service providers from across the region to deliver household items and furniture, counselling and mentoring to help women who have escaped a violent relationship and who are trying to set up a new life for themselves.

As volunteer CEO, Mel is involved with everything from telephone triage, fundraising, liaising with other providers and speaking at public events to raise awareness in the community.

She is also responsible for organising Got Your Back Sista’s self-defence classes, which have helped more than 100 women gain self-confidence and new skills.

“The classes are all about giving women a sense of empowerment. When I see someone come out with a smile on her face, walking a little bit taller with her load lightened, that is wonderful.”

Mel says she is happy to have been voted a Westfield Local Hero by the Newcastle community, but “it takes a village to make a charity and it wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers who have supported us”.

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

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