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"Has there ever been a moment in your life that has completely changed you forever?"

What does it feel like to have a violent crime change your life?

WARNING: This post has details of a violent crime and may be distressing for some readers.

By NICOLE HABERLY

Has there ever been a moment in your life that has completely changed you forever?

For me it was 8.09am one April morning in 2008 when my daughters, then 10 and 4, were getting ready for school. My eldest daughter was listening to the radio and she yelled for me to come into her room. She was standing there brushing her hair, looking at herself in the mirror. She had heard that an elderly couple had been found beaten to death in their Yokine home and wanted me to know that it was the same street that her Grandparents (my husband’s parents) lived on.

“Mummy, that’s Nanny and Poppy’s street, you better call them and make sure they are okay.”

In a heartbeat our lives changed and my husband, myself and our two young daughters found ourselves on a journey unlike anything we could have ever imagined.

The detectives made me get my husband home from work. I wasn’t allowed to tell him anything. They stood in my kitchen while I pleaded with him to please just come home. At some point I took my kids next door to the neighbours, the police needed to question my husband and I separately before we were able to talk to each other. I remember saying to the female detective over and over again while she questioned me for what seemed like hours, “but we just live in Beechboro,” this doesn’t happen to people like us and telling her she needed to call my brother-in-law, to let him know what had happened. Not until hours later did I find out that my brother-in-law was in police custody as the prime suspect.

We had had the worst few months leading up to this event. In the 8 weeks prior to this day we had buried my husband’s brother who had died of a heroin overdose, his grandmother who had had cancer, and we had joked with my husband’s Dad that we were NEVER setting foot in Prosser Scott Subiaco again.

Nicole and Ann

Suddenly my husband no longer had any surviving family — and unknown to us we had just become solely responsible for planning a double funeral under the worst imaginable circumstances. You would expect that if you found yourself dealing with the sudden, unlawful and violent death of loved ones, there would be practical, emotional, financial and community support — that as a society we would take care of those left behind. Our experience could be nothing further from this.

The media were in a frenzy. There was no respect for our privacy. The explicit details of that day and later the trial and appeal, were on the television, radio and newspaper for all to see, with no consideration given that there were two little girls who no longer had their beloved Nanny and Poppy, and a son that had lost his parents in the most horrific way.

I can’t quite remember at what point I met Dr Ann O’Neill and became aware of Angelhands. I was overwhelmed by the grief and turmoil that had engulfed my once normal life. I was not managing to complete the most menial tasks like get my kids to school or keep my house clean. I was supporting my husband in any way I could – I was trying to protect my girls. I was completely exhausted.

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Angelhands is a not for profit organisation founded by Dr Ann O’Neill to provide support and assistance to those who have been affected by murder or serious personal violence.

Angelhands provides a link to existing support services, peer support and befriending, provides information and an avenue for views to be heard by the government and community, runs Wellbeing Retreats and a once a month Hope and Healing support group, as well as numerous other community education programmes

Dr Ann O’Neill has survived what many would say is the survivable.

In 1994, her estranged husband broke into her home, shooting Ann, then her two children as they lay next to her in bed, before turning the gun on himself. Ann was the only survivor. She lost a leg, however just seven months later she returned to full-time study in honour of her children. Only months before they died she had promised them that she would return to education in order to build a better life for them all.

Up until a few years ago Angelhands was run from a shed in Ann’s back yard. We were however lucky enough to secure a private benefactor that gave us the funds to move into our very own office and do the most amazing things with our unique organisation like pay Ann a wage after 10 years and set up numerous programmes and support groups within our community.

In 2011 we won the city of Perth $10,000 scholarship, that we used for Ann to attend an overseas conference, with a view to bringing an international conference to WA. Perth Convention Bureau worked with us and in 2012 we took our bid to host the World Society Victimology International Symposium in the Hague and we won. I cannot believe that as a result of my journey and my hard work our State will be hosting a conference with potential benefits to those affected by crime all around the world.

As a Community Organisation we face many challenges on a daily basis. Homicide is not sexy. It’s confronting. Everyone loves to read about it, but no-one really understands what comes after and the complexity and intensity of the support required for those left behind.

Funding is our most pressing issue. We do not have any source of ongoing funding. We rely heavily on donations, sponsorship and grants. At present we have funds to keep us running until the end of this financial year. We struggle with sustainability, what do we have to sell to make money? Who wants what we’ve got? We are currently running our raise 50k in 50 days campaign….
We need your help to keep our organisation running.

Nicole Haberley grew up in a close knit family and has two daughters to a long time partner. She worked at Centrelink for 16 years and loved it because it enabled her to deal with people and ultimately help empower them and make their lives better. Nicole became involved in angelhands in 2008. She wants to empower, educate and inspire people.

angelhands provides free support for traumatised men, women and children with fellow peers, programs and places after an experience of murder, assault, home invasion, culpable driving or violence. We assists people regain trust and hope, whilst promoting healing and full trauma recovery.

To provide this unique program angelhands relies on benefactors, sponsors, grants and donations in order to be able to provide rounded service that will allow the clients to benefit. To make a donation, visit the angelhands fundraising page

Please share to raise support of the work Angelhands are doing. 

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