CatholicCare works across the areas of Greater Melbourne, Geelong and Gippsland, strengthening partnerships and providing holistic support for all those in need. It was in Gippsland that we met Tom*, whose story touched our hearts and highlighted the work that still needs to be done to bring about a truly just and fair society; one where no one is left behind.
Tom is a respected and successful business owner. He is also married and a proud father of three. It is a different life that Tom leads now, one that he couldn’t imagine would ever be possible.
Tom was one of three children and had a stay-at-home mother. His father worked 12 hour days and liked to have a drink to relax. But Tom didn’t know that not everyone’s dad hit their mum and not every child went without breakfast most days. You didn’t talk about such things. Tom never knew there was another way to cope with life or how to treat your family with respect.
Fast forward to later in life and Tom now had a family of his own. Things were going relatively well until Tom lost his job in an industry-wide downsizing. He started drinking and taking drugs again. Tom didn’t know how to cope with his anger and the feelings of incompetence that he couldn’t provide for his loved ones, so he took it out in the only way he knew how – on his family.
This cycle continued for years, until the day he saw fear reflected in the eyes of his son; a look he recognised from his own childhood. Realising that he needed help, Tom found himself in church; a place he hadn’t been since he left home many years ago. Through the renewal of his faith and the care of his parish priest, he found a way to fight and begin to overcome his addictions.
While Tom was proud of his sobriety, he still needed help to control his anger and work through the effects of the neglect and abuse he suffered as a child. Through his parish, he heard about CatholicCare and the counselling programs on offer. He came into one of our Gippsland offices three years ago to seek our support.
The counselling process has focused on managing Tom’s anger, and working on better ways to deal with his feelings. Through hard work and dedication he has been able to rebuild his family relationships and better himself as a father, a husband, and as a person.
‘I found the safe environment provided by CatholicCare meant that I could freely discuss my fears, doubts and concerns,’ Tom says. ‘CatholicCare helped not only me, but also my family. They brought us together in a way I didn’t expect. I realise just how close I came to losing my family… it’s so important to me that my children don’t grow up thinking this behaviour is normal, like I did.’
Tom worked with our counselling team to improve his life and build a strong, positive set of values for his children to learn from. Tom now owns his own business and his children are doing well in school. He has repaired his relationship with his wife and is feeling positive about the future.
CatholicCare works with people like Tom every day. Sadly, the need for our services and interventions grows each year. In regional areas where services are limited, we know we need to do more. Too many people like Tom and his family will fall through the cracks without the help they need to rebuild their lives.
You can help Victorian families like Tom’s to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse and neglect by creating stronger, more resilient families who can better handle life’s transitions and challenges. The journey can be long but with a caring community by their side, we can help families make a positive change.