Mobile van to provide support to children in regional Victoria traumatised by family violence

Sally Goldstraw has a vision to take Art Therapy to isolated areas giving children who have experienced family violence a place where they can just be themselves. Find out more about this innovative project in a story just posted by Charlotte King, ABC News.

Charlotte King about 2 hours ago

A mobile art therapy service for children traumatised by family violence will roll out next month in regional Victoria as part of a national-first pilot. Police callouts for family violence in the Bacchus Marsh area have doubled over the past five years and local services have been unable to keep up. A van, which will provide therapy through art, dance, movement and music, will initially focus on schools but is open to expanding elsewhere.

Two women, Sally Goldstraw and Elizabeth Jewson from WRISC in Ballarat, sit next to a van.
Photo. Sally Goldstraw and Elizabeth Jewson say children can be themselves in the therapy van.


“[Children] can be themselves in there, and they’ve got someone there to help contain what happens for them,” project manager Sally Goldstraw said.

“They can eventually get to the point where they can talk about the really hard stuff that’s happened for them.”

More than 480 family violence offences were reported in Bacchus Marsh between 2015 and 2016, double the figure from five years ago.

A painted wall in regional Victoria part of a mobile art therapy service for children there.
Photo The mobile art therapy service for traumatised children will roll out next month.

Sharon McArthur, who works with maternal and child health nurses for the local council, said support workers had been unable to match the demand. “We’ve had very limited services, so they’ve had to travel outside the municipality to access supports like family violence supports and solicitors,” she said. “I’m hopeful that we’re really going to make a difference to women and children in these situations [and] that we can secure some long term funding beyond the pilot period.”

Local school already referred 40 children

While most family violence services strive to be inconspicuous, the mobile therapy van will be covered from top to bottom in a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

“We thought about the children and what would be attractive for them. We’ll have safety planning in place, but I think no longer should we be silent and ashamed,” Ms Goldstraw said. “Children have a right to services and we’re going to try and do it a little bit differently.”

The front of Darley Primary School in Ballarat.
Photo Darley Primary School has already referred 40 students to the mobile therapy service.


The van is currently undergoing modification, with an extended chassis to accommodate a number of upgrades such as air conditioning, heating, lighting and bookshelves. Elizabeth Jewson, executive officer of Wrisc Family Violence Support, which operates the van, said the project was unique.

“The therapy won’t be different to what we’re doing now, it’s just how we’re doing it,” she said.

“We know that isolation is a risk factor for family violence, and we also know that country areas have trouble accessing services.

Audio 2:45 Listen to Charlotte King’s story on AM


“So [the van] really addresses that, because it takes the therapy space to isolated areas.” Darley Primary School principal Simon Cornock said the school had already referred a list of 40 children to the mobile service. “The biggest thing we’ve noticed in the past few years is just that generational poverty that’s started to impact on families,” he said. “The kids just shouldn’t be involved in any of this.They shouldn’t witness [family violence], and then they shouldn’t have to play the games that some families get them to play in terms of covering it up.”


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