St Louis Life Stories: At 89, there’s no stopping Helen Oxenham

Helen continues her life’s work raising awareness about the impact of domestic violence with home care support

Helen has been advocating for women experiencing domestic violence in Adelaide for over 40 years. She opened up the first women’s shelter in Christie’s Beach in 1977 selling lamingtons to raise money. At 89 years of age, she is still fundraising and standing strong for women’s and children’s rights.

Growing up in Cork, Ireland, she was one of six children. Her family life was impacted by domestic violence. Helen and her siblings often witnessed their mother being abused at the hands of their father. Sadly, Helen’s mother passed away at only 59 years old. This event inspired her to speak out on behalf of women subjected to domestic violence, in an era where women had far less of a voice than they do today.

Helen hasn’t stopped lobbying for the protection of women and children for the past 45 years. She was awarded an Order of Australian Medal (O.A.M) in the 2020 Australia Day honours in recognition of her dedication.

Her current project is called a Place of Courage, a space for all individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence. The Place of Courage provides a haven for quiet reflection, and community gatherings including vigils, marches and community education. It is the first dedicated public art space in Australia to recognise the impact of domestic violence. It’s a space for survivors of DV to gather strength from each other and support one another.

Today, Helen continues to lobby for the rights of women and children working tirelessly to raise money and keep her community initiatives going. Her work ensures these safe places for women not only continue to be a refuge, but also a place for women to support one another to heal, and to become advocates for other women.

St Louis Home Care helps Helen to continue her life’s work

Helen is a busy woman. On a daily basis she is dealing with all aspects of running an organisation. Many people rely on her to continue raising awareness of the impact that domestic violence has in the community.

Her activities include managing a very full dairy, attending meetings, arranging support, launching fund-raising events, managing social media platforms and more.

At 89, she’d handed some of the responsibilities to her daughter who is helping her run her projects, but she is still very much involved. She needed help at home to stay on top of her very busy schedule and home care was the perfect solution. Helen applied for a home care package which began one year ago.

Home care is there to help and support you to live the life you want to live. The services that are included in your home care package are chosen by you. Home care services include things like home maintenance, cleaning, cooking, transport and gardening. They also include more intensive health support such as help with medication, doctors’ appointments and post hospital respite care.

The services that make up a home care package are chosen and led by you, and tailored to your needs and lifestyle. After a home care package has been approved and allocated, you’ll be allocated your own home care coordinator who is dedicated to ensuring your home care package delivers to your needs. Your home care coordinator will create a home care support plan together with you, with the services that you want included. This will depend on your needs today, and what you want to achieve in six months or one year.

In Helen’s case, her home care plan was developed to support her to run her organisation and projects.

The home support services that are included in her home care plan help her in the following ways:

  • Stay on top of the large amount of paperwork, letters and communication she has to deal with every day
  • Running her diary so that she doesn’t forget her regular engagements and meetings
  • Preparing for her meetings so that she is has everything she needs when she arrives
  • Supporting her to continue coordinating and promoting events for fund raising
  • Staying active and connected on social media
  • Arranging transport to her appointments and meetings - sometimes our carers will take her directly or Helen will use taxi vouchers which are funded through her home care package
  • Purchasing a computer to use at home and stay connected online with her community
  • Teaching her how to use the computer and find her way around online comfortably

When we were developing her initial home care plan, we asked Helen as we often do of our new home care clients, “What are your goals for the next year?” Her response was “to take a day off”!

Home care is more than just “caring for you”, it can be about helping you grow as a person

Helen is an inspiration to many women. Her passion and genuine concern for the wellbeing of women and children in her community, to protect them from the devastating and sometimes fatal impact of domestic violence, keeps driving her to do the tireless work she does daily.

We’re proud to be able to offer support to Helen, to know we’re doing a small part in helping her cause. She has the support of her loving husband and daughter to continue her work. And she has St Louis helping her at home to stay on top of her busy schedule.

If there’s something we can all learn from Helen, it’s that you’re never too old and it’s never too late to pursue a passion, start a project or learn something new.

Is there something you have always wanted to do but didn’t have the time? Is there a new interest you’d like to pour your energy into? With our help looking after things at home, it will free you up to get creative!

Call the St Louis home care team in Adelaide on 08 8332 0950, or St Louis home care in Victor Harbor on 8552 1481. Find out how we can help you achieve a goal you’ve always dreamed of, but never had the time or help, until now.

The Place of Courage

We DEMAND a future free from domestic violence
We aim to provide a place of comfort and HEALING
We promote COURAGE to speak out and raise awareness
We want UNITY and harmony for everyone

Founder Helen Oxenham (O.A.M)

Read our other life stories about how home care has helped our clients continue learning and growing with some home care support:

“St Louis opened up my world” - how home care helped Robert do things he never thought he would

How a home care package allows author Robert Moore to get on with what he loves most – writing!

Want to learn more?

Helen oxenham