In 2009 the Victorian Women’s Trust published the landmark document The Paradox of Service. This important research was the first of its kind in the world. It lifted the lid on the mistreatment of former religious women when they left their orders.
In 2006, we were approached by a former nun who had left her Order after long and tireless service. She left without support to help her transition back into an unfamiliar secular world.
After in-depth research, we discovered that the invisible, unpaid work done by former religious women around the world is taken for granted. These women, who made invaluable contributions as teachers, nurses and community carers, were left with nothing when they withdrew from the Church and were often isolated and persecuted if they made any attempt to envisage a life after their service.
The women whose stories we had heard when conducting this research found it difficult to request any form of redress from their former Orders, as many were still traumatized from their experience after leaving.
To support these women, we set up the Paradox of Service Independent Advocacy Program. It became a practical way to support these women and others like them. The program was designed to extract financial settlements, apologies and Statements of Service on behalf of these former nuns.
In 2014/15, several more nuns received restitution from their former Orders.
We are now in the process of developing a framework model that can show all orders a better way to effect redress inequities more humanely. It will concentrate on telling the story and learning experience of how the independent advocacy program evolved, using background literature and learnings from the process, as well as the stories or the women it helped.
Click below to download The Paradox of Service research report.
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