Manuela Whitford is an incredible Gold Coaster creating a safe space for people experiencing domestic and family violence through her not-for-profit Friends with Dignity.
After working in prisons and coming to understand the prevalence of domestic violence, Manuela knew she had to do everything in her power to make a difference. And make a difference she does.
We sat down for a chat with Manuela about the ripple effect of domestic violence and how we, as a community, can do our part to help.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I settled on the Gold Coast when I emigrated from South Africa ten years ago.
What do you love most about living here?
Having the best of both worlds, working but always feeling like I’m on holiday. The relaxed lifestyle, being close to the beach and the gorgeous hinterland. We’re spoilt for choice really.
Tell us about Friends with Dignity…
Friends With Dignity is a national not for profit organisation assisting men, women and children who have been displaced by domestic and family violence. It is community based, relying on volunteers and the community to take action in making a difference to someone seeking a new start in life.
How did you come to create such an incredible organisation?
I had been working in the prisons and was shocked at how many women were in some way affected by domestic and family violence. Without any options they would simply just return to what they knew, I was horrified to think that some women were committing crime and seeking refuge in prison. Having done some research, it was horrifying to think that so many people were at risk in their own home, a place I consider safe. To think that people stay in abusive relationships because of material things, I had to do something in my capacity to make a difference.
Why is this work so important to you?
It’s important as we all have a duty of care to each other. It’s easy to say it’s always someone else’s issue but it’s not! The ripple effect that any violence has on not only the victim but their families, friends and community is extensive. I emigrated from South Africa due to violence and there was no way I was just going to sit back knowing the statistics and do nothing.
What would you say to anyone who might be experiencing domestic violence?
Reach out, tell someone, there is hope and you are not alone.
How can people help or donate to Friends with Dignity?
People can join as volunteers, host work place drives, assist with events. Whatever your talent is, we would love to have you on board. Visit our website www.friendswithdignity.org.au.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Too many to mention but must say Burleigh is very high on the list
Café: Goji Cafe in Clear Island Waters, although I love supporting most local and never disappointed with a great coffee along our lovely coastal roads, this one is just a walk down the road and it also stocks dog ice cream.
Restaurant: Edgewater Dining
How does your time off usually look: I’m always quite busy as I really do have some level of FOMO, so my weekends, if not helping with a sausage sizzle to fundraise are consumed catching up with friends, gardening, love a day on the beach, movies and if there’s time a relaxing day at home with the family and fur babies.