Heartfelt House marks 10 years helping victims of sex abuse

THERE was no hiding the emotion.

Tears flowed. There were smiles as a cake was cut. And some frustrations were aired.

This was the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Wollongbar's Heartfelt House, an organisation that provides supportto the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

A DECADE ON: Founder and executive director of Heartfelt House Vicki Dobrunz and program co-ordinator Heidi Tornow cut the cake to mark the Wollongbar support service’s 10th anniversary.
A DECADE ON: Founder and executive director of Heartfelt House Vicki Dobrunz and program co-ordinator Heidi Tornow cut the cake to mark the Wollongbar support service’s 10th anniversary. Graham Broadhead

So far, more than 200 women and men have taken the first steps to healing by completing a course at Heartfelt House, and lives have potentially been saved.

And many of those survivors have taken big steps in their recovery by going on to study at university, buy a business or get a job.

Mrs Dobrunz told the gathering of 60 people at the April 19 celebration that, on reflection, she was even surprised she had the "audacity and gumption" to think her idea was possible.

She said Heartfelt House was a place where people could "feel safe to express very strong emotions they have sometimes bottled up for decades".

Heartfelt House's first home was at Summerland House Farm, and its first program for survivors was run in 2006.

In 2008 it moved to its current premises adjacent to the Bruxner Hwy at Wollongbar.

But keeping the programs going has been an ongoing battle. With an operating cost of $150,000, Heartfelt House has to apply for government funding from one year to the next, and is propped up by community support.

Page MP Kevin Hogan said at the event he would "do what I can" to change that.

"We have many dysfunctions as a community, and there is no greater dysfunction than the sexual abuse of children," he said.

He said the "harsh reality" was government funding was never recommended by bureaucrats and constantly required political intervention.



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