It was supposed to be a one-off occasion when members of the HMAS Albatross Command team visited the Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven & Illawarra (SAHSSI) earlier this year.

However, after preparing and sharing lunch with the refuge residents' staff, the team left with the determination to continue to offer support.

Albatross Community Engagement Coordinator Chief Petty Officer Linda Eddington said this connection was vital during these difficult times.

“Australian surveys show domestic and family violence victims seeking urgent assistance has spiked during the COVID-19 lockdown, which began in March," Chief Petty Officer Eddington said.

"People are told to stay home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but domestic violence victims don’t have a safe home to begin with, so more are seeking assistance from organisations like SAHSSI.

“Throughout the year we have worked hard to come up with ways we can continue our support for the local community while maintaining COVID precautions.

“One of the things we learnt during our visit in March was that many of these women and children arrive at the refuge with just the clothes they left home in, so the team decided one thing we could do was to hold a clothing drive.

“The response was truly overwhelming and just when the donations office looked like it couldn’t hold another T-shirt, Maxine Starkey, from the Shoalhaven Defence Families Association’s Kookaburra Retreat, arrived with a car full of baby and toddlers clothes.” 

The donation from Kookaburra Retreat contained so many beautiful baby clothes that the team decided to share them with two other community organisations, the Waminda’s Minga Gudjaga mother and baby program, which provides holistic midwifery care, and Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre.

Albatross paralegal Denise Tucker had the job of working magic on the donations, folding, ironing and even colour coordinating.

“Presentation was a very important aspect,” Ms Tucker said.

“We didn’t want to just turn up with garbage bags of clothes. We wanted to give the women a boutique experience.

"We received some really lovely items and we displayed them in a way that we hoped would provide the women with, not just items of clothing, but the pleasure of choosing them.”

Command Warrant Officer Gary Fuss, who is also the Albatross White Ribbon ambassador, said he was very proud of the team’s work.

“In my White Ribbon role, I’d visited some of these refuges before and had spoken to the team before their initial visit about some of the tragic realities these women and their children face," he said.

"The team gave their own time and money and in this case, their own clothing trying to find small ways they can improve the quality of life of others.”