A SMOKING ceremony and a welcome to country marked the official opening of Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault Wimmera Counselling Services.
Representatives from health, justice and social services throughout the region helped celebrate the milestone on Friday.
The event was at 1pm at the counselling service’s Horsham office at 25 Roberts Avenue.
Wimmera elder Jennifer Beer led the ceremony, with assistance from Barengi Gadjin Land Council staff.
Speakers included Barwon CASA chairwoman Jenny McMahon, chief executive Helen Bolton and Horsham Rural City councillor Pam Clarke.
“This is a vital source for the Wimmera,” Cr Clarke said.
“Sexual assault is an issue that has affected so many members of our community, for so many years.
“Before a service like this became available, people just had to deal with it themselves.”
Barwon CASA Wimmera Counselling Services provides professional support and therapeutic counselling to people who have
experienced sexual assault, either recently or in the past.
Chief executive Helen Bolton said help was available for men, women, teens and children throughout the Wimmera.
“All our services are provided free of charge,” Ms Bolton said.
“It is the right of all victims of sexual assault to be supported as they move towards recovering from the traumatic impact it can have on their lives.”
Wimmera Superintendent Graham Kent said the service also bolstered the work of police, particularly the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation teams.
He said Barwon CASA staff helped ensure victims were emotionally supported.
“We anticipate this centre will continue to work closely with us,” Mr Kent said.
The service is opposite Horsham Police Station. Staff also provide
outreach services in Stawell, St Arnaud, Nhill, Dimboola and Hamilton.
Since Barwon CASA won the contract for sexual assault services in the Wimmera last March, it has treated 124 people. One hundred were women; 24 were men.
Ms Bolton encouraged people to call 5381 1211 for more information.
The organisation also operates a 24-hour sexual assault crisis line, 1800 806 292.
Mr Kent said people could call Horsham Police Station on 5382 9200 to reach Horsham police’s specialist sexual assault team.