Direct from the Stasi ‘Aussie style’ – Mick Raven
6th March 2021
The Australia-first program will roll out to the nation’s 67,000 hairdressers and barbers.Supplied: Hairdressers with Hearts
Hairdressers across the country to be trained in recognising domestic violence and elder abuse
A hairdresser on Bribie Island, north of Brisbane, has had her dream of running a ground-breaking domestic violence program in salons across Australia come true after launching a course that links abuse victims with professional services.
The Australia-first program will roll out to the nation’s 67,000 hairdressers and barbers who will use the sanctity of their client-hairdresser relationship to potentially save lives.
Hairdressers with Hearts (HWH) founder Sonia Colvin has already helped more than 200 victims turn their lives around by seeing the signs of abuse in her salon and reaching out.
“I’ve had clients say to me, ‘I don’t know why I’m telling you this’ or ‘I can’t believe I just told you all that’, and while trends may come and go in this industry, what stays the same is the unique client-hairdresser connection,” Ms Colvin said.
“Our industry can make a huge difference to some of the nation’s most vulnerable, whether we are hairdressers and barbers based in a salon, working remotely or in rural areas, in multicultural or aged-care communities, or providing mobile services in people’s homes.
“We are not domestic violence or elder abuse workers — we are the link, and with the correct resources and appropriate training, we can do our part.”
Ms Colvin started the program three years ago but had battled to get federal recognition and funding to help train apprentices around the country to look for “warning signs”.
But from today, the non-profit organisation has joined forces with the Red Rose Foundation, Caxton Legal Centre and the Centre Against Domestic Abuse to train hairdressers and barbers in city and regional salons.
The stylists would also be trained to look for signs of elder and financial abuse.
‘People tell us their secrets’
Albany Creek salon owner Arren Heeley was the first barber in Australia to do the HWH training.
“I have been a barber for 23 years now and what we get told sometimes is amazing; there is something about sitting in the chair and they want to tell us their story,” he said.
“The amount of people we do speak to on a daily basis — you spread that across a year and it is unique the fact people do come in and tell us their lives and their secrets, things they would not even tell their friends.
“They feel safe — it is a safe place and I think it is going to save lives and I hope it does.”
“The training gives us the ability now — instead of going home thinking about what we should have done — it is giving us the ability to do something about it now, putting them in contact with the right people.”