Benalla supports Share the dignity

By Simon Ruppert

The Benalla community is once again supporting Share the Dignity's annual #itsinthebag Christmas Appeal.

With drop-off points located in Fokus Footwear/Strictly Feet, Future Direction Fitness, the Benalla Grocer and Midland Boat Sales it's never been easier to support the appeal.

Share the Dignity is asking people in the Benalla community to spare a thought for women and teenage girls experiencing homelessness, sleeping rough, or seeking refuge in domestic violence shelters.

The campaigns are run by local ‘Sheroes’ who promote and organise a town's efforts to collect items for the bags; in Benalla, our local Sheroe is Diane Cann, owner of Midland Boat Sales.

“We want to give local women and girls doing it tough over the holiday season a reason to smile and feel cared for, as well as restoring some of their dignity by providing them with handbags filled with essential hygiene products, as well as a few extra little treats,” Ms Cann said.

“In Australia, domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children, and most women leaving a violent relationship move out of their home.”

According to :

● Each year 1 in 42 women aged 15 to 24 will access a specialist homelessness service;

● In 2017 more than 2200 women were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out;

● Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence;

● Two million Australians are currently living below the poverty line with many women and young girls experiencing period poverty on a monthly basis, unable to afford sanitary items.

This is the fifth year Share the Dignity has run the Christmas campaign, and Ms Cann is hoping for the biggest response ever.

“We’ve been blown away by the support this collection receives each and every year, and we’d love the community's support to show these women and girls that they are in our thoughts this Christmas.”

The It’s in the Bag campaign has a simple premise:

● Donate a handbag in good, used condition that you no longer use;

● Fill it with items that will make a difference to the daily life of a woman experiencing homelessness, domestic violence or period poverty;

● Be sure to include the essentials such as pads and tampons, roll-on deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner and soap; and;

● Add the little luxuries like lip balm and new socks, a magazine, anything that would make a woman or teenage girl feel special.

Ms Cann said that while the charity was Australia-wide, local people were prioritised.

“Firstly we distribute the bags in the local area,” Ms Cann said.

“Then any that are left are sent to other areas of north-east Victoria. After that, all the north-eastern areas send their extra bags down to Melbourne to support their effort.”

Individuals who donate bags are encouraged to pop a thoughtful note into the bag to show these women and girls that someone cares and that they matter.

The campaign will run from November 22, through until December 7 and bags can be dropped off at any of the Benalla locations listed above as well as all Bunnings stores.

The local Share the Dignity volunteers will collect the donated bags and distribute to shelters and charities, ensuring that these lovingly prepared bags are available for women and girls in time for Christmas.