A LOCAL “guardian angel” for vulnerable and abused women has been honoured for her more than three decades of compassion with an Order of Australia medal (AM).
Griffith Women’s Refuge manager Yvonne Wilson said she was “stunned and humbled” by her inclusion on the Australia Day Honours List, describing her work at the refuge as a “calling”.
She said the role, which she started in 1979, was in equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking.
“We’ve had our share of tragedies; we’ve had clients killed by their partners and seen children traumatised by the most awful violence,” Mrs Wilson said. “But we’ve had so many more success stories.
“There are women who we supported when I started 34 years ago that I still know and are going wonderfully well.
“I’m really happy to accept this award on behalf of all those strong, resilient women and children who have escaped life-threatening situations and made the decision to make their lives better.”
Mrs Wilson is now a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM).
She said her passion was working with women from rural and isolated areas and she has served on a number of local and government committees on domestic violence and homelessness over the years.
She said her role was to support, rather than dictate to, the refuge’s clients.
“We can’t live their lives for them, we can’t make their decisions for them,” Mrs Wilson said.
“But we can empower them to make their own decisions.
“Human beings are so resilient, particularly children, but children can be so traumatised by violence. They start believing it’s normal in families.
“If we can break that cycle, we are doing our job.”
Working with such vulnerable women had radically changed her aspect on life, Mrs Wilson said.
“It’s made me a stronger person but also made me more caring,” she said.
“I don’t judge these people because I haven’t lived their lives.
“People always say ‘why don’t these women just leave’, but it’s not that easy.
“They have to work their way through the emotional side.”
The OAM is a fitting honour for the mum of three and grandmum of nine, who is likely to retire at the end of 2013.
Southern Riverina Youth Support Services executive officer Deb Longhurst, who has had a long professional affiliation with Mrs Wilson, said her commitment to protecting at-risk women and children was “inspiring”.
“Her passion and dedication is amazing and she has an equal passion for issues of rural isolation,” Ms Longhurst said.
“She is constantly pushing for services for the area and because she’s been involved at a high level for so many years, she has the ear of senior people in various departments.
“Her style with clients is honest and forthright. She gives them all the resources and information possible and then gently but forcefully assists them to make a decision.”