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My 6-year-old was asked to model for Target. A great opportunity but the photoshoot was taking place back in the Macedon Ranges where we previously lived in complete terror with the violent thug but I was NOT prepared to let MY pain be my daughter’s problem.

A small child is sitting on the knee of a woman, both smiling at the camera.Emma and her daughter Amelia

I didn’t sleep the night before with anxiety - physically vomiting and a very upset tummy before we left - but I focussed my mind and we set off. 

We made it to the venue and did the shoot - then I decided to put this demon of trauma to rest once and for all - so drove back to the actual house that had been our prison, our life of violence, so many assaults, the place that featured in so many of my nightmares.

My legs were numb - but I got out of the car, stood by the gate and faced the house.

I decided we’d left the place with fear, anxiety, trauma and Ill health and none of those had a place in our lives anymore - it was time to return them to the source.

I then blew everything we were returning into a balloon and released it.

It was such a powerful experience - I instantly felt stronger and we’ve both slept like babies since. Resilience leads to empowerment.

A small child is dressed as a nurse in a uniform with brightly coloured accessoriesNurse Amelia

About Emma Gierschick

Emma is Children with a Disability specialist. She is a White Ribbon Advocate, was listed as one of Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence 2018 and winner of the Inaugural Kingston Council Woman of the Year Award 2019.

Emma uses her own experience as family violence and cancer survivor plus parent of a disabled child to advocate for increased support, information and awareness in the community. 

Recognised by the Australian Financial Review as one of the top 100 Women of Influence in 2018, Emma has been a leading voice presenting to parliament, the Royal Commission into Family Violence and is a sought-after advisor to MPs, service providers and local government – including Kingston Council where she serves on the Kingston’s Family Violence Working Group.

A well dressed woman is holding a potted roseEmma Geirschick, inaugural Kingston Woman of the Year Award 2019

A survivor of family violence and breast cancer, Emma is the sole parent of a young daughter who has Down syndrome & an intellectual disability.

Emma is an emerging national voice, highlighting the multiple vulnerabilities of children with a disability and the challenges people living with cancer face in a family violence situation.

Emma is developing a Special Needs Assessment Template for practitioners to use to strengthen prevention and early intervention for families in the future. It specifically targets any considerations a family needs to make for a child with additional needs.

Emma's intention is to build recognition for children with a disability facing family violence.

Emma is highly regarded for her presentations, where she weaves her personal journey and case management background into staff training & leadership development workshops.

Emma was a keynote speaker at the 'Launch of the Preventing Family Violence Action Plan' for Kingston Council on 27th March 2019 and is presenting at the Child Inclusive Practice Forum in Darwin 4 June 2019. 

A well dressed woman is holding an award plaque.Emma Geirschick with her Kingston Woman of the Year Award plaque

How my new career was born

It's 1 am when suddenly without warning the door bursts open, the doona is violently ripped off me and I am simultaneously dragged out of bed and across the floor. Seconds later I am picked up and physically thrown across the hallway sliding down the wall into a crumpled ball on the cold tiles. I huddle my body close as vile abuse and threats are being spat into my face in this frenzied attack. 

I pull back with all my strength, trying to reason and plead through tears of terror as I am being dragged towards the front door where I am about to be thrown out. No keys, no car, no phone and semi-naked. 

I am alone, I am terrified, I’m on a rural property – and I am pregnant. 

Sadly this event was not a one-off. Any consideration for my pregnant state was dismissed and when my unborn baby was given a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, this seemed to make the violence justified. 

My precious baby was completely dehumanised, often referred to as ‘that **** thing’, ‘it’, or ‘that deformed thing’. The words ‘Why was I still pregnant’ where repeatedly screamed at me culminating in ‘we can only pray that ’it’ is stillborn’. 

A migrant with no family, I lived each day in servitude and terror, praying to whoever may listen and protect my daughter, to keep her alive long enough - for at least 24 weeks when Dr’s could take over and keep her safe. 

Miraculously her birth at 38 weeks was straight forward, she was placed in NICU and we were blessed to be kept as inpatients for 3½ weeks. However, this reprieve from violence and abuse was short-lived. I had 4 more violent physical assaults within the first 2 weeks and I covered Amelia’s newborn ears upon discharge as we were screamed at all the way home and I was menacingly threatened ‘that she will just have to get used to it’. 

The next 20 months were hell. Entering the world of disabilities, being a new mum and navigating daily abuse or violence. It was a torturous prison. 

I slowly squirrelled money away, packed belongings in old nappy boxes and began negotiating for services to help us once we got out. 

The day of escape, our car was at capacity. Sitting on my doona, my head pressing against the roof of the car, my knees against the steering lock, I had visibility through just one mirror made worse by the pouring rain.  

I made numerous calls as I drove pleading for services to help us. I tried to regulate my heartbeat and peppered the silence with reassuring self-talk of safety. Terror was an inadequate description. 

Once safe I began researching supports for my daughter and to my horror discovered that despite the National public outcry about family violence - children with a disability had been completely overlooked in all State and Federal Government reports or inquiries. 

I committed myself to change this, to put a spotlight on the ‘invisibility of disability’. And so my work was born.   

Pink roses in a white potThank You Roses for the inaugural Kingston Woman of the Year Award 2019

Emma’s work citations

The Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Family Law & Family Violence 2017
The Victoria Disability Action Plan 2017
The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence 2016
The Federal Children's Rights Report 2015

You can connect with Emma on LinkedIn

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