LIFELINK WINTER APPEAL: Trust at centre of Daydawn’s success
Daydawn Advocacy Centre volunteer David Buchanan and Director Mark Reidy share a laugh. Photo: Rachel Curry
By Rachel Curry
Ask the people who visit Daydawn Advocacy Centre what makes it so special and there is one word that keeps coming up.
The Archdiocesan LifeLink agency’s reputation among Perth’s Indigenous community is such that it has become the go-to place for people who find themselves in crisis.
Daydawn Director Mark Reidy said they met with between 15 and 20 people a day regarding a variety of problems, most commonly homelessness, evictions, family violence, criminal injuries compensation claims, child protection issues, Royal Commission submissions and bill assistance.
Based in the Perth CBD, the centre is primarily a place where Indigenous people can come and feel welcomed. They can also seek assistance through a variety of mechanisms, including access to a tenancy lawyer who can represent them in court.
“Often we get the cases at the end of the line. Daydawn’s there to see if we can assist those that everyone else has given up on,” Mr Reidy said.
“We try to set people up to empower them so they can do it themselves, so that rather than just putting a band-aid on it, we can get to the deeper issues. Then, again, sometimes people come in and there’s not much you can do but hear their story.”
With only two part-time staff, Daydawn is largely run by volunteers and, if you drop in, it’s likely the first person you see will be Betsy Buchanan.
Mrs Buchanan has been advocating for Aboriginal people on a volunteer basis since 1978, when she received a grant from the Attorney-General’s Department to start a community legal centre.
She was approached by then-Archbishop Barry Hickey when he founded Daydawn in 2007 and, together with her husband, David, has been there ever since.
”Everyone knows Betsy always has a positive outcome,” said one Daydawn visitor, who wanted to remain anonymous.
“We know we’ll get the best information; it’s like the little black book. She won’t send you running around to different places, she’ll send you to one place and to people who have solid reputations.”
Mrs Buchanan was raised in the Great Southern and said the discrimination she witnessed towards the local Noongar people there left an indelible mark on her.
After studying law at the University of Western Australia, she set about putting her knowledge to good use and, in her early days of advocacy, she helped many members of the Stolen Generation who were searching for their families.
“People say, ‘Why would I work for nothing?’ In a way, I think it’s the least you can do.”
One example of the injustice Indigenous people can face today is the Housing Authority’s three-strike policy, which triggers a tenant’s eviction after three complaints have been received from neighbours.
Mr Reidy said the policy did not take into account situations caused by domestic violence, when tenants could not stop perpetrators from coming to their home and causing a disturbance.
The policy could also disproportionately affect Indigenous people because of the importance of family in their culture, he added.
If an Indigenous family becomes homeless, relatives will often take them in, creating a crowded living situation which is likely to attract more complaints.
“You’re expected to put someone up in your house. It’s almost like they don’t consider not doing it,” Mr Reidy said.
“They will always try to assist but that can sometimes lead to more trouble. It’s a tsunami of homelessness that’s building.”
The Daydawn visitor previously mentioned in this article had been brought to the centre by this very problem, after being evicted from her home of four years.
She said she took in a couple experiencing domestic violence to try and help them, but they caused $7,000 worth of damage to her Housing Authority property.
“I lost everything. It took me a lot of years to accumulate everything and now I’ve got to start again,” she said.
Mr Reidy said, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, it was more important than ever that Daydawn continue its good work to help people get back on their feet.
“People do have addictions and problems, but there’s a reason they have those problems,” he said.
“In this Year of Mercy, it’s appropriate that the Church is showing mercy and can provide a beacon of hope for them and show them that everyone hasn’t given up on them.”