UNIVERSITY of Newcastle staff have been left saddened and surprised at the strong response to the institute launching its first scholarship for student survivors of domestic violence.
UON received 34 "harrowing" applications for the Helen Maslen Scholarship of $5000, which empowers survivors to achieve their educational ambitions and independence.
Director of the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education and Global Innovation Chair of Equity Professor Penny-Jane Burke said additional support from donors meant three scholarships had been awarded - but staff still want to try to help as many of the remaining 31 applicants as possible.
"It's a double edged sword," said Professor Burke, herself a survivor of domestic violence.
"That so many women have come forward to apply re-emphasises the importance of this scholarship and makes visible an issue that touches so many lives in Australia.
"[But] It's also encouraging that women see themselves as candidates for this kind of scholarship after they've been through very difficult situations in which their self esteem was undermined.
"This is a way forward to overcome traumatic experiences and take a step towards something that can be transformative for them and their families - building knowledge and skills to build a better life.
"We take for granted that students have a whole realm of different resources available for them - via family, a partner and so on - to take time out to be a student or return to study, but that is an assumption and not a reality for a number of students."
More than 70 per cent of the applicants were aged between 18 and 34.
Applicants spoke of physical assaults, financial abuse, stalking, intimidation, harassment, threats to kill and constant fear.
Many spoke of trying to leave and returning due to emotional blackmail, low self esteem or nowhere to go.
Many talked about homelessness, living in refuges or government housing.
Others spoke about severe effects on their mental health and seeking help for depression and PTSD and through trauma counselling.
Professor Burke said she hoped the number, size and longevity of the scholarship would grow.
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