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As a 12-year-old schoolgirl, *Hannah’s life has been forever changed after suffering years of family domestic violence and abuse at the hands of her father.

Now diagnosed with social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, she struggles to make friends and finds it difficult to settle-in to the regular routine of attending school. But while her life will never be ‘normal’, there is a glimmer of hope for a brighter future ahead.

Hannah, her mother and siblings had to leave their home in the eastern states to escape her father’s extreme abusive behaviour. They arrived in Western Australia 12-months ago to stay with family.

Since relocating to WA, she has struggled to integrate into her new school and to make new friends.

She also experiences ongoing trauma symptoms, including having difficulty sleeping, dissociation, flashbacks, and panic attacks.

Hannah was referred to Communicare’s OpenSpace program by the Lucy Saw Centre, an organisation that provides support and accommodation to women and children experiencing family and domestic violence.

OpenSpace is a free counselling and case management service, supporting young people aged 10-24 years in the Rockingham region.

The program provides accessible, timely support to young people who have experienced and been impacted by family and domestic violence and abuse through one-on-one counselling.

When she first came into the program, Hannah was unsure if she was ready for “talk therapy”, so was referred to the Youth Mentor stream – an alternative, soft entry option for therapeutic intervention.

Hannah has since attended seven counselling sessions, which have focused on safety, education, self-esteem and identity, understanding trauma and developing coping strategies.

She also engaged in an OpenSpace Art Workshop for NAIDOC week, where she created Aboriginal artwork, supported and led by a local Elder. Through her art she now feels more connected to her culture.

What had previously been a coping strategy for her, has become a joyous expression of creativity and culture.

Since engaging in this workshop, Hannah has identified that she would like to continue using art as a way of helping her to process trauma and working towards developing coping strategies. Although she has a long way to go on her journey of healing, she’s doing it one brush stroke at a time; small steps towards a future of hope, connection and belonging.

In an era when demand for youth mental health services is at an all-time high, coupled with the ongoing scourge of family domestic violence, OpenSpace provides new pathways and opportunities for our young people.


Learn more about OpenSpace


*Hannah’s name has been changed for their privacy.


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