MAF’s rapid response rescues women facing domestic violence

A partnership with Miyalk Domestic and Family Violence Shelter helps women to flee dangerous situations in Arnhem Land, but MAF’s ability to respond quickly can be a life saver.

MAF Arnhem Land pilot Chris Coffee was flying healthcare workers between communities on a routine charter when he received a call requesting the immediate extraction of a woman believed to be caught in a dangerous domestic violence situation.

“I got a call from our Ops team who had received a call from the crisis shelter, and they just said that this lady’s partner was out hunting, and she needed to be evacuated immediately,” Chris said.

The MAF Flight Ops team at Gove airport cleared Chris to fly at once and managed to arrange another flight for the healthcare team at the community.

“In this situation we already had a pilot on the ground, so that worked well,” said Sam Armstrong, MAF Reservations Officer. “We also had another plane at the time coming by a bit later that we could divert to the community to then pick up the workers later on.”

East Arnhem Land covers an area of approximately 33 000 square kilometres, and many homelandands are far from any services.

Natalie Morreau, Acting Manager of the Miyalk Domestic and Family Violence Shelter in Nhulunbuy, appreciates MAF’s commitment to rescue women in need of help, despite uncertain circumstances.

“Even at short notice, when we do have extractions that need to happen, they do what they can to make that happen,” said Natalie. “They’re flying into uncertain situations sometimes. We try to mitigate circumstances as much as possible, but they don’t know necessarily what’s happening in community.”

Domestic violence affects communities regardless of culture or country.

The shelter and its clients operate on tight budgets, but partnering with MAF makes it possible to fly clients to safety in an area roughly the size of Belgium. Once the rescued women are ready to relocate to a safe community, the shelter tries to use MAF’s scheduled RPT flights whenever possible.

“It’s not just evacuating women from unsafe situations, but also transitioning them back into safe community,” Natalie said. “Women escaping domestic violence often have limited resources, so we regularly rely on MAF’s RPT flights to return women to their identified safe community.”

“We service all of East Arnhem Land, not just the Gove Peninsula. It’s a really big area, and the reality is, we wouldn’t be able to cover all the charter flights if that’s what we had to do, with the budget that we have.”

Chris reflects on his latest rescue mission and how these flights embody MAF’s core business.

“‘Help, hope, and healing,’ it’s sort of all three,” he says. “I find it’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s also a rewarding experience that I wish we never had to have. It really is an area where in people’s darkest hours we can be there to get them help.”

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