Writing tenders and developing resources for The Salvation Army’s Tasmania Division for 15 years allowed Nell Kuilenburg to unleash programs of innovation and creativity, which have had a positive impact across Australia and beyond.
Nell had spent a few years at Anglicare before joining the Salvos, and prior to that she had worked for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. To understand Nell’s heart, however, you have to go back to ‘the very early days, the 1980s,’ Nell says. ‘My first experience working with survivors of domestic violence was when I set up a women’s refuge with my sister-in-law. We had about eight outreach houses, 10 minutes outside of Hobart.’
Nell has recently decided to leave full-time employment with The Salvation Army. ‘I have a husband who has retired. I have four children and eight grandchildren, two of whom are living in Tasmania.
‘I wanted to spend more time with my grandchildren and I still have some part-time consultancy work and I will continue to do the Safe From The Start training with Dr Wilma Gallet. I will also continue as a member of the Start Today Again project UTAS reference group.
As part of her journey, Nell says that ‘I believe that God has opened doors for me and put me in touch with people,’ Nell says. ‘God’s blessed a lot of the things I’ve done and been a part of; I have felt that God has led me in specific directions. Now? I anticipate a little bit of work, a little bit of volunteering with The Salvation Army, and a lot of family and travel.’
It turns out that it was her good friend Ronda McIntyre’s fault that Nell landed in Salvation Army employment in the first place. ‘Ronda told her boss she knew exactly the right person for the job, so I was approached,’ Nell recalls.
‘I didn’t have a formal interview; I had a bit of a chat to the late Major (Dr) Doug Thomas, who was the most beautiful man – a very special guy who was so respected and so respectful. He gave me a lot of space to develop and grow; he didn’t micro-manage me.
‘Major Graeme McClimont was also a big influence; he was on deck when I first started. And it was through Stuart Foster, who was in PR at the time, that I first met Dr Erica Bell.
‘Graeme gave us his blessing to pursue Safe From The Start; he had vision. When he first saw it, he said, “This has the capacity to go national and international.” I said, ‘Don’t; be silly, it won’t go international” – but it did.
‘Graeme believed in me and encouraged me.’
Nell’s life has been greatly impacted by a research quote, by (Cunningham & Baker, 2007) that ‘a child who lives with violence is forever changed, but not forever damaged’… ‘We can do a lot to aid their future prospects; that quote has inspired me for more than a decade,’ Nell says.
‘You don’t have to be a psychologist or a counsellor to listen to the voices of children. You can be a worker or an aunt or a parent. Everyone can be a listening ear, and we can all make a difference.’
* The Safe from the Start project has been developed collaboratively with local communities to address the needs of children aged 0-6 who have experienced family violence, abuse or trauma. Developed in partnership with two universities (UTAS - Assoc Prof Erica Bell/Swinburne Vic – Dr Angela Spinney), the project is evidence based through action research providing ways to work positively with children when exposed to family violence. Safe from the Start has won a number of awards including: the top National Crime & Violence Prevention Award in 2011, Child Protection Award in 2010 and NAPCAN Play your Part Award in 2013.Safe from the Start training has been conducted in all Australian states, New Zealand and the UK with over 1000 people trained, and 750 Safe From The Start resource kits distributed within Australia, NZ, Canada, Singapore and the UK, http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/Global/State%20pages/Tasmania/Safe%20from%20the%20start/2013%20Training%20REGISTRATION%20LAUNCESTON%20Final.pdf
Remembering and honouring Dr Erica Bell www.sarmy.org.au/en/Social/eConnect/Mission/A-great-contributor