AUSTRALIAN of the Year Rosie Batty was guest speaker at the opening of the Clothes4U boutique in Nepean Highway, Rosebud, Tuesday 21 July.
The campaigner against domestic violence towards women and children described the service as a perfect add-on between those needing help and welfare agencies. She said she wished it had been around when she was struggling with a young family and limited resources. Now she planned to bring in her own unused clothes to donate to the needy.
The not-for profit boutique is run by women volunteers who provide clothing to those in need to give them confidence and to boost self-esteem.
The venture came about a year ago when a group of women got together to decide how they could best contribute to their communities. More specifically, they wanted to help underprivileged women and girls.
“Many agencies help women in need, but we decided to create a unique service that would help women gain self-esteem and confidence,” president Veronica Whittaker said.
“We provide good quality clothing and accessories to clients, taking into account their body shape, likes and dislikes, and the reasons they need clothing.
“Our services are free and clients get to keep all clothing and accessories.”
The Mornington Peninsula faces many challenges, they believe: Housing is largely unaffordable creating homelessness, the work force is less educated and less skilled that in other parts of Victoria, unemployment is 7.6 per cent whereas the national rate is 5.9 per cent and, over the years, this has created inter-generational welfare dependency.
Clients include abused women, single mothers, refugees, parolees, the mentally ill, homeless and students.
Clients need clothing for various reasons. They may be attending court, interviewing for jobs or work experience, rental interviews, DHS meetings, funerals, Centre Link or school meetings, or are unable to afford clothing.
Other programs focus on dressing VCAL and VET students for work experience.
This includes dressing girls who are leaving school but who lack not only appropriate clothing but the knowledge of how to dress for interviews.
Clothes4U also helps prepare candidates for job interviews. “We help them with all aspects of the interview process,” Ms Whittaker said.
“We make up ‘essential packages’ containing shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and brush, deodorant, soap, and hair brushes. Often our clients lack some of the basics required for good hygiene.
Recently, the group joined forces with the Rosebud Community Information Centre to distribute food through Second Bite on Mondays. They give away warm winter clothes to anyone in need – free of charge.
“These people are severely disadvantaged and marginalised,” Ms Whittaker said. “All these clothes are donated by our volunteers and their friends. Occasionally, we receive clothing from retailers, however, we never have enough of what we need and are forced to purchase more.
“Our clients come in all shapes and sizes and their need for clothes also varies: from more formal for job interviews to casual everyday clothing. They also vary in age groups from 16-over 60.
“We do not have a steady income which means we are constantly trying to raise money at a grass roots level.”
Clothes4U recently moved to larger premises at 1355 Pt Nepean Rd, Rosebud. “This gives our clients a better experience, however the shop requires a complete renovation/makeover and our rent is $18,000 a year,” Ms Whittaker said.