RizeUp: The power of collective support
Oct 29, 2023
In 2012, in the heart of Perth, a woman, her baby, and her three older children began a journey that would forever change their lives.
The violence in their family home had escalated, leaving the woman with no choice but to take a desperate leap into the unknown. She had tried to escape the clutches of her violent partner before, but each attempt had ended in painful failure. This time, though, it had to work. It was her last chance.
Leaving her old life behind, she fled, bringing only her handbag, a small backpack, and her children. She had told her perpetrator that they were going out for lunch, for to have taken anything more would have alerted him to their escape. They traveled by train across the country to the Gold Coast, where they sought refuge at the Gold Coast Hospital.
In a serendipitous turn of fate, a staff member at the hospital reached out to Nicolle Edwards – the woman who would eventually go on to found RizeUp – to ask if she had any clothes to pass onto the family in need.
“I remember receiving that call,” Nicolle says, “and I couldn’t shake this haunting question from my mind: ‘How could this happen in our beautiful country?’
“What could drive a woman to feel so unsafe that her only option was to jump on a train and cross the nation with her three young children and a baby in tow?”
Nicolle rallied her friends and family, and by the end of the first week, the family had settled into safe accommodation, with everything they needed for their new beginning.
This was the catalyst for a powerful movement that would change everything.
Founded in 2015, RizeUp is an Australian charitable organisation with a unique approach.
“We partner with front-line specialist agencies and the community to provide tangible, life-changing support for families affected by domestic and family violence,” Nicolle says.
While some may believe that reaching safety is the end of the story, Nicolle paints a different perspective. As she points out, reaching safety is just the beginning of a much more complex journey.
A revealing July 2022 report by Dr. Anne Summers, aptly titled 'The Choice: Violence or Poverty’' found that many survivors found themselves returning to a violent partner because, shockingly, it appeared to be a better choice than homelessness or being plunged into poverty.
The report identified a significant policy gap – while there were measures in place to encourage women to leave their violent homes, practical support for these women once they did so was sorely lacking. This often meant survivors found themselves trapped in a cycle of destitution.
“We know the challenges a woman faces to leave, and the consequences when she does,” Nicolle says. “That’s why our focus as an organisation extends beyond safety. We’re about providing practical strategies to ensure women and children have the resources they need to not only survive, but to thrive.”
Turning houses into homes
At the heart of RizeUp’s mission is their flagship ‘Homes Program’, an initiative that recognises the importance of a safe and nurturing haven for a violence-free life.
“It’s about transforming a simple dwelling into a warm and welcoming home,” Nicolle says.
Every residence that RizeUp touches undergoes a personalised transformation, meticulously tailored to meet the individual needs of its tenant.
The Homes Program is a collaborative effort, uniting RizeUp with a dedicated team of corporate partners, supporters, and volunteers. Together, they work tirelessly to fully equip these homes with brand new furniture, household supplies, and even toys for the children.
Nicolle emphasises that every item chosen is infused with care and consideration, ensuring it aligns with the family’s individual interests.
“The Homes Program isn’t just about offering furniture and supplies,” she says. “It’s about equipping them mentally and physically for the long road ahead.”
Remarkably, RizeUp has a policy that their team never meets the families they assist. As Nicolle passionately affirms, “Maintaining the utmost respect for the privacy and self-respect of those seeking help is paramount.”
Currently, RizeUp furnishes a minimum of six to seven homes per week. Since their inception, they have transformed more than 2,400 houses into sanctuaries of safety and healing.
But Nicolle says their impact is not just about the numbers, but in the voices uplifted and the stories rewritten.
“Our mission is to give a voice to those who may feel silenced and burdened by the complexity of domestic and family violence,” she says.
Their Trauma Recovery Hub and YESS Programs provide essential resources for recovery, giving victim-survivors a chance to heal and offering children a stable, nurturing environment.
They also have a Thrive Program, which Nicolle says “exemplifies our commitment to long-term change,” empowering women to rebuild their professional lives and embrace newfound independence.
The power of collective support
RizeUp places a strong emphasis on collaboration to maximise the organisation’s impact, working closely with partners to streamline resources, improve support networks, and provide a more comprehensive range of services for those at high risk.
Nicolle affectionately refers to her community of over 1000 volunteers as ‘Rizers’, and says they work together to leave a lasting impact on the lives of victim-survivors.
“Our volunteers are not just supporters – they are changemakers, reshaping lives and narratives,” she says.
Donors also play a big role, providing RizeUp with the means to offer safe spaces and empowerment programs that guide survivors towards rebuilding their lives.
“Their generosity is a lifeline for those trying to escape the darkness of domestic violence,” Nicolle says. “It’s not just about financial contributions – they offer hope, and that hope transforms lives.”
This collective force of community support is the foundation upon which RizeUp’s impactful work is built.
Reflecting on this collective spirit, Nicolle shares a cherished African proverb.
“‘If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you go together.’ It’s this ethos that drives our passion and commitment to collaboration.”
How you can help
If you’re eager to support RizeUp's mission, there are several ways to get involved.
“Whether it's a financial contribution, the donation of goods, or dedicating your time and skills, every bit of support helps,” Nicolle says.
For those in need of RizeUp's services, Nicolle wants you to know that you are not alone.
“Reach out for help from frontline agencies like 1800RESPECT. Here you’ll discover the support, resources, and hope required to break free from the cycle of violence and rebuild your life.”