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Old and unused mobile phones are being repurposed to help save the lives of women at risk of domestic violence, thanks to a new pilot program at Mater in Brisbane.
The Mater Safe Phone Project launched this week as part of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.
The project calls on Mater staff and members of the community to donate old phones so they can be repurposed into a lifeline for people at risk of domestic and family violence to call for help in an emergency or to access support services safely.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in six women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15.
Mater Mothers’ Hospital Social Worker Leanne, who asked for her surname to be withheld, said it was common for people experiencing family and domestic violence to have their phone taken, broken or tracked.
“If we identify a patient at risk of domestic or family violence, we can provide them with a phone only they know about so they can call for help when they are in danger,” Leanne said.
Mater Digital Relationship Manager Graham Crocker said it was relatively easy from a technology perspective to return the discarded phones into a useable state.
“Many of us have an old mobile phone sitting in a drawer at home,” he said. “It could be used to save someone’s life. Your old phone could be someone’s safe phone.”
Leanne said the team regularly met with patients, mostly women, in dangerous situations.
“A woman may present to the emergency department following a domestic violence assault. In other cases, a woman may disclose domestic violence while she’s in our care for other reasons,” she said.
According to Leanne pregnancy is a known risk factor, and domestic and family violence situations are often revealed by patients at Mater Mothers’ Hospitals.
“Domestic violence may be identified through routine DV screening tests conducted by a midwife during a woman’s antenatal care and also at other times when a woman presents to hospital for care and is seeking safety,” Leanne said.
“But we have had incidences in which a woman has presented to the Pregnancy Assessment Centre reporting that she is concerned that her baby has stopped moving.
“It has turned out that the baby was fine, but the woman needed a legitimate reason to tell their partner that she needed to go to hospital to get checked out, when she was actually seeking safety at hospital.”
The Mater Safe Phone project is a practical and easy way that we can all take action against domestic and family violence, Leanne said.
“When domestic violence is detected, Mater’s social workers may discuss a safety plan with the woman which could include advice on sourcing emergency accommodation, storing important documents in a safe, accessible place and having a bag packed and ready to go if they need to flee quickly.
“Having a working mobile phone is crucial to putting a safety plan into action,” she said.
Members of the public can drop their old and unused phones in collection boxes at Mater Mothers’ café on level 5, or the café on level 3 at Mater Hospital Brisbane.
Mater Foundation and Big W are donating phone chargers and cables to assist patients who access the Mater Safe Phone project.
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