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Interview with TEDxSydney x H&R Block’s ‘Grants for Growth’ winner

9 min read

Running a women’s shelter is a lesson in both heartbreak and the strength in rebuilding lives with every day bringing another knock at the door. We caught up with Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter (HKWS)’s inspiring President, Sallianne McClelland, to discuss what it takes to keep the door open and how winning TEDxSydney x H&R Block’s ‘Grants for Growth’ will fuel the future of this small business.

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Congratulations on winning the TEDxSydney x H&R Block’s ‘Grants for Growth’, Sal! Would you mind sharing with us how HKWS plans to spend the grant?

Thank you and for sure! The plan is to invest this in what our work case workers are currently doing with our clients. This includes outreaching to and supporting women who haven’t come to HKWS by allowing us to assign them a caseworker as they go through legal proceedings.

Can you tell us about your journey to being President of the Board at HKWS?

In the past, I’ve managed a multitude of events such as charity functions for women’s health and breast cancer. I got to a place in my career where I wanted to channel my skills into something I’m passionate about, so I joined the HKWS Board as they needed somebody with a background in sponsorship and events to drive their success.

For those who are not familiar, can you tell us a little about Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter (HKWS)?

Seeing the value in keeping it grassroots, rather than government-affiliated, we opened our doors in 2015, as a community movement. Since then, we’ve housed 267 clients, from 18 to 75 year-olds, all from a diverse range of cultures, ages and religious beliefs, as well as pregnant women. The women who knock on our door are educated and highly intelligent: teachers, speech pathologists, nurses, managers, doctors and CEOs. They all share common ground, having experienced terrible trauma in their lives and come to us for support and understanding. We’re proud of the impact we have – but, at the same time, we’ve had to turn away 757 woman due to lack of beds.

It costs $500k to keep our door open, so to help us self-sustain, we connect with the broader community through awareness, education. We’re also looking toward solidifying our future by commencing a capital campaign. However, the sobering reality is, HKWS is in a rented property, so, to ensure longevity – we need a property of our own.

 What does the staff work with on a daily basis?

The women who come to us are in dire need of shelter – both a roof over their head and in seeking sanctuary after their support systems have failed them. We’re more than four walls – we walk beside our clients as they unravel their knot of broken promises. We want to foster confidence, sense of worth, purpose and agency in our clients so that they can create their future.

Our case workers work around the clock to get great outcomes for our clients. They work together with the women in the areas of counselling, employment, health and dental care, financial support, training opportunities, legal advise and safe and affordable housing. Behind the scenes – our talented board adds value through their diverse knowledge base.

Our clients often come from abusive situations and are emerging from the shadow of control. At the same time, they’re working to deal with the damage of wrongdoing. Bruised, burnt or broken, some of our clients come to us having fled physical violence. Others are escaping financial, verbal or psychological abuse – situations like mortgages only being in his name, humiliation and custody or visa-related threats. The effect of all this is that their self-worth has been significantly eroded.

 In our earlier correspondence, you mentioned a successful outreach program - can you tell us more about it?

Our community is incredibly generous; we get calls and cash contribution every day from people asking how they can help. It’s hard to believe that our invaluable outreach program is only possible through various grants and the ongoing support of the Hummingsong Choirs. Our community is so creative in the way they raise money – Asquith Girls High raised $400 through their ‘Luscious Lips,’ initiative – a gold coin to wear lipstick to school. Dave’s Home Brew dedicated $2,500 in memory of a friend, and Action Dance at Thornleigh held a Dance Party that raised $1,800.

What is HKWS’s long-term plan?

Our primary goal is to solidify growth and secure permanent shelter. That means we’re always on the lookout for strong, long and short-term strategic relationships with corporate organisations that want to invest in the future of HKWS.

What’s the most memorable moment in your journey with HKWS so far?

In our first year, a client came to us from an abusive relationship, and we helped her find her footing – from housing to Centrelink and getting a job. A month ago, she knocked on our door again, and this time, she had bags of groceries, plus a $500 cheque she’d saved to give back.

We also ran a ‘Christmas Wrapping Station.’ It’s a way of connecting our clients with the community, without the stigma and shame that often accompanies them. It was so happy and joyful that we’re planning to do it again this year.

‘Do Something!’ Day is coming up – what else have you got planned?

Our next big event is the 2018 Apron Project: ‘Strength is her Superpower,’ which launches on ‘Do Something Day,’ on July 25th. We’re inviting artists across the world to paint, sew and decorate to raise money for our Sydney CBD HKWS launch. We’ve also got a Sydney showcase planned for White Ribbon Week in November, and a NSW Roadshow in February 2019. This culminates in an event at Hornsby RSL Club on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019.

How can our readers get involved?

Every little bit helps because keeping our doors open is all about raising money and awareness. It costs $120 a day to provide services for each woman in HKWS. So, if you’re creating an event or if you want to source a speaker, contact us at

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter (HKWS) is currently also in the running for one of the twenty $10,000 H&R Block is giving away to small businesses. The winners of this grant will receive $4,000 in cash, $5,000 in H&R Block services and $1,000 in Officeworks gift cards. To enter the Grants for Growth competition, visit our Grants for Growth page here. Entries are open from now until 30 September 2018, with H&R Block set to announce the winners on 14 October 2018. Runner ups will receive three months worth of free bookkeeping services.


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