Chayah Australia, Nicola Di Bona

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The ability to experience the bad and turn it into something positive is a skill local HSC student Nicola Di Bona has in spades … This young woman with the caring heart has created an organisation called Chayah Australia, with the aim of assisting all those who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence …

Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the Port Macquarie area.

Hi everyone – I’m Nicola! I’ve lived in Port Macquarie my whole life, and I’m currently an HSC student at MacKillop College. 

In my free time, I love studying history, playing music, reading, and volunteering in the community.

You’ve been working on an initiative to assist survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence for a little while now. What are your plans?

I am really excited to officially launch this initiative, called Chayah Australia, as well as a petition to the NSW Legislative Assembly proposing mandatory sexual assault education in schools. 

Chayah has been created for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and has three main aspects: awareness, information, and services. Many people lack understanding of the issue, and the only way to combat the frightening upwards trend of assault in society is to raise awareness and spread knowledge. 

Life after assault, for so many victims, is
incredibly overwhelming. Without resources, lasting trauma repeatedly victimises survivors – an unnecessary burden on top of the
experience of assault. This neglect of victims must change.

Why is this issue important to you?

Throughout my life, I have seen the impact of sexual assault, domestic violence, and common attitudes towards these issues. I know firsthand about the isolation, fear, confusion, trauma, and dissociation that follows assault. To feel completely alone, and too ashamed to confide in anyone, is terrifying. 

To feel that there is nowhere you can go for support, and to be constantly plagued by last experiences, is to suffer and spiral into further pain. To feel like you have lost control of your body, what happens to you, and the very essence of yourself is horrifying, and cannot be replicated. 

Many of my closest friends have experienced assault, and I have seen their struggles as they grapple with what has happened. There is nowhere they can turn for advice, comfort, support, and information. 

I want to turn my own hurt, and the hurt of so many victims, into something that will help others and make meaningful, much needed change. 

By banding together, survivors can support each other, strengthen themselves and truly transform their lives. Everyone deserves to be empowered and have access to the help they need. In the words of Alex Elle, “You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage”. 

Because of my own personal connection to this issue, having seen its ability to destroy victims, I feel compelled to spark the change that needs to happen.

What progress have you currently made with your plans?

The online services will probably be very close to launching at the time this interview is published! The Facebook page should be up, as will the online support group. The Chayah support group, for anyone who has been a victim of assault or domestic violence, will have strict privacy standards for the benefit of all members and careful vetting standards, to ensure the group remains a safe, constructive space that caters to the previously neglected needs of victims. 

Taking any action or even looking into getting support can be difficult, which is why the group will be private and have several specialised and unique forums, as well an anonymous question service. Anyone affected can connect with others who understand their struggle, air their problems and gain help and take part in regularly scheduled survivor support groups. 

As studies have confirmed, nothing is more important than solidarity and support, as this removes the stigma and isolation that so often plagues victims. In a monitored, supportive, encouraging sphere, survivors can move forward and blossom in the wake of trauma.

What are you hoping to achieve once you have your charity up and running?

I want every person who has been a victim of assault or domestic violence to be able to access Chayah, with the knowledge that they will be in a safe and supportive environment. I know from experience, and from speaking to survivors, what they need. Chayah isn’t here to reinvent the wheel and was specifically created based on the needs which are not currently being met. 

As Chayah progresses, I hope victims will learn they should not aim to simply survive, but to thrive – to truly live life to the fullest, as they deserve.

How can the community/FOCUS readers support or assist you?

Genuinely, any help or support, no matter how small, would mean so much. An official launch event will be held on the evening of June 29 at the Glasshouse, for which tickets should soon be on sale on the Glasshouse website. This event will be to formally launch and publicise the purpose, services and mission of Chayah and establish its work on strong foundations. 

This charity is for the community and has been shaped by the needs of the community; the launch event will reflect this, and anyone is welcome to attend. 

While Chayah is for everyone, those who have experience with assault are really
encouraged to keep in the loop by following Chayah online, to see any updates and access services.

Where can we find out further info?

Email chayahaustralia@gmail.com

Instagram @chayahaustralia or @nicchava

Facebook Chayah Australia or @nicolachava19

Twitter @chayahaustralia or @Nicki_AD

Check the Glasshouse website for tickets to the Chayah Launch.

Anyone who has any questions, please feel free to get in touch – I would love to hear from you! If you see the petition, any signatures would be wonderful.

Final say …

I want to thank everyone who has supported Chayah so far – from my parents and friends and even strangers. The outpouring of love and unity has been phenomenal. Chayah has made a beautiful impact so far, and I can’t wait to see both Chayah and those it helps blossom throughout time.

Thanks Nicola.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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