The Glen for Women, a Community-Based Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center, Opens

The songs of the bellbirds fill Coral Hennessy with peace.

DISCLAIMER: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains names of deceased persons.

They echo around a scenic rural landscape at Wyong Creek on the central coast of New South Wales.

“Exactly what people need to heal,” said Ms Hennessy, a woman from Malyangapa.

Today, the 4.45 acre property is home to the state’s first Native community-controlled residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for women.

The Glen for Women is a decades-old dream that will open admissions applications this week.

Glen for Women president Coral Hennessy says the new center “means a lot”.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

The 20-bed facility will house 80 to 100 clients each year, with a focus on local Indigenous women.

During their 12-week stay, the women will lead their activities, including a spinning circle, sports and art.

carry the legacy

Ms Hennessy said her daughter, who struggled with alcohol addiction, died at the end of 2020.

“There never seemed to be the right place…so that was one of the reasons I had a Glen center model rehab done.”

Ms. Hennessy is president of The Glen for Men, as well as this new women’s branch.

His passion for improving lives through drug and alcohol rehabilitation is a legacy of his late brother Cyril, who founded the nearby men’s center in 1994.

The name was in honor of his son, Glen, who died after a battle with drug addiction.

Other staff and board members reveal personal stories on similar themes.

Some of their children died, family members imprisoned and their own childhoods traumatized by drug addiction.

A group of five women smile at the camera
The staff and board members of The Glen have their own stories of being affected by addiction.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

“Kids see things they should never see, so we hope to break that cycle for men and women now,” said Gayle Savage, Wiradjuri’s wife and board member.

Biripi woman and board member Cheryl Bailey has been sober for 27 years.

“[The Glen] changes people’s lives forever – if they want to,” Ms Bailey said.

The couple wept in pain as they reflected on their past and in pride at the triumph of building a better future for women and their families.

The woman looks out the window at the greenery
The federal government has spent $9 million for the establishment and operation of the drug treatment facility.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

Fill the void

Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (NADA) CEO Robert Stirling said the center would address a gap in treatment.

“NADA is thrilled that The Glen for Women is about to become a reality – a culturally safe place for Indigenous women to address alcohol and drug-related harms,” he said.

Glen for Women’s director of operations, Kylie Cassidy, said she had already been inundated with calls from women.

The first wave came just after the federal government pledged $9 million in 2019.

An empty bed and desk
The first cohort of women will be admitted to the rehabilitation center by the end of April.(ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright)

“More recently, when we know we’re about to open…we’ve had regular phone calls,” the Wiradjuri woman said.

The first cohort of rehab “fraternity” is expected to be admitted by the end of April.

That’s when The Glen can “love [more] people come back to life,” as Ms Cassidy puts it.

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