By CHARLOTTE BRENNAN
28 October, 2020
Local Charity Support the Girls Australia (STGA) provides homeless and low-income women with bras and feminine products at their monthly Bra Gifting events at Southport Community Centre.
The service with a smile attitude at Support the Girls Australia’s Bra Gifting event created a safe and friendly environment. Photo: Charlotte Brennan
Attendees to the event are women and girls marginalised by their current situations, which include living on a low income, being affected by domestic violence or abuse, and being homeless.
The women hear about the event through friends, social media, and via other support services, and can reserve a place at the event through Eventbrite.com.
The monthly event can see up to 100 women be professionally fitted and supplied with bras.
Attendees also receive new underwear, toiletry packs, haircuts, and other pampering services, plus morning tea.
STGA has teamed up with BreastScreen Queensland and NSW BreastScreen so event guests are also able to book free mammograms on the day.
The charity’s CEO and founder Jane Holmes said the bras themselves were important, but said the event also allow a foundation for providing deeper support.
Ms Holmes said event attendees came together in a comfortable and safe space where they were given the opportunity to connect and receive face-to-face support.
“You actually need to mentor people, so that is what our purpose is,” she said.
“The bras and the sanitary products, that is the connecting tool, but it is more than that.”
Founded in 2016, STGA aims to help women in need achieve overall wellbeing through dignity, hygiene and health.
According to the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census, more than 1700 people are believed to be homeless on the Gold Coast, 220 of which are sleeping rough.
Of this figure, around half are believed to be women, which is slightly higher than the national average.
Up to 100 gift bags containing bras, sanitary products, and underwear are given to women on low or no income at the Bra Gifting events. Photo: Charlotte Brennan
Ms Holmes said she built the charity from a “place of understanding” based on her own confronting experiences as well as a 10-year career in crisis counselling with the New Zealand Police Force.
Ms Holmes’ husband committed suicide years ago, leaving her a single mother of three.
She said in in January 2016 she was approached while shopping at the Gold Coast by a 13-year-old girl who asked her for sanitary products.
After buying the young teen some tampons and lunch, Ms Holmes discovered the girl was homeless and was living under a bridge with some older women.
The girl took her to the bridge, where she says she met an elderly homeless woman who had no bra and who had resultant friction wounds.
Ms Holmes told her she would find her a support service that did bras, but discovered no such service existed.
“So that was the birth of Support the Girls; to empower women with bras, because [the support services] I spoke to, they [had] never thought about,” she said.
Ms Holmes said the average woman had between 10 and 15 bras in her lingerie draw, but only really wore a select few.
“How about if you could give one of those to someone who needs it?” she said.
“It resonates; we all take it for granted.”
Ms Holmes estimates that at least 35 to 40 of the 100 women that come to the event each month have a background of domestic violence.
Bras of every shape and size were available for the women after their professional fitting at the Support the Girls Australia Bra Gifting event. Photo: Charlotte Brennan
Single mother and domestic violence sufferer Jessica, whose surname is being kept private for safety reasons, was a first-time attendee at the most recent Bra Gifting event.
Jessica was left unemployed and homeless after fleeing an abusive marriage, and now shares a bunk bed with her two daughters, aged 10 and 13, at her mother’s house.
Ms Holmes said because it cost around $5 for a packet of sanitary products, many women like Jessica chose to feed their children instead of buying sanitary products, but said they shouldn’t have to make that choice.
“I’m a single mum, and my kids come first,” Jessica said.
For this reason, Jessica said she couldn’t afford good quality bras and had therefore never had a professional fitting.
“It’s a bonus coming here, managing to get bras that I wouldn’t normally be able to go out and buy myself,” she says.
“And it’s your breast care, obviously, wearing the right thing.”
Jessica also said she shared one “big box” of underwear and bras with her daughters.
Jessica said she was passionate about helping others, and said an event like the STGA Bra Gifting event was crucial both for getting people together and giving back to the community.
“If you’ve got a group of women that you can sit down and talk with it makes you feel better; you can feel more comfortable than in a one-on-one conversation,” she said.
“I’d do this again, definitely, every time they have it.”
Ms Holmes said her clientele almost doubled in 2018, and said she hoped with a new recruitment of volunteers and new donation points around the country that she would be able to provide bras and other products to thousands of Australian women.
For more information about Support the Girls Australia, visit www.supportthegirls.com.au.