I have moved houses and created a special space in Melbourne to launch Australia’s first South Asian Women’s Wellness Space (Soul House). This page here is dedicated to those who would like to stay or visit us.
For organisations / people who work in the wellness, mental health or women’s support space I have a few links on this page for you too.
What is the South Asian Women’s Wellness Space? (SAWWS aka Soul House)
It’s a large residence on a few acres with 3 cottages amidst lush green gardens by Edna Walling, just one hour from Melbourne CBD. Previously called the fairytale cottage and home to author Paul Jennings (remember Around The Twist?!). The residence is now dedicated to the wellness of women. Pyarfully [with love] I call it the Soul House. It’s a place you can feel welcomed, loved and accepted for you who you are with no judgment or pressure from anyone. Recently I wrote about my Soul House in the Himalayas that helped me tremendously – you can read that here.
If you are a donor/supporter/all: I wrote about the wellness space fundraiser, the reason behind why I am doing this now – here.
You can give other types of support (ie volunteer or donate things / non-financial) here.
Who is it for?
Women who are feeling like they are in need of sisterhood, a nurturing community or who are having a tough time. It is designed for South Asian (Punjabi, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi women) and immigrant womxn however I will not turn women in need away. So all culturally diverse & indigenous women/womxn are welcome to reach out to visit or stay in a cottage.
How much is it?
You pay whatever you feel you can afford to pay, after your stay or visit. You can also volunteer time/skills instead of money if you cannot afford to give.
When can I visit
Just send me a message for when you’d like to visit and I’ll get back to you. One week notice is good. Occasionally we’ll host events, workshops and group meditations – keepy an eye out on Facebook for these or jump on our mailing list. How long you visit is up to you. A short visit, a few hours up to a few weeks. We also are starting an South Asian Artist in Residence program for women which you can apply for here.
What is included?
This space is all about relaxing and focusing on your wellbeing. It’s very different from traditional approaches.
- every day I host a meditation at 8pm (AEDT – Melbourne time), I also opened these up virtually during mental health week.
- dinner together most evenings
- occasionally we will host bold women such as Valarie Kaur and Sukki Singapora who do talks to remind you what’s possible.
- bedding, bathroom and kitchen in your cottage – two women per cottage.
- I am happy to give free access to my Australian Digital Job Accelerator Course to those who stay here & cannot afford the program, this is designed to teach you how to find work online (digital work/freelancing). You can also ask me any questions about finding digital jobs during your stay.
- Through our partnership with Mariam Mohammed’s Money Girl you will get access to the course and community to learn about money management, investing and saving.
- I can match you with people who want to help, over 200+ people have reached out offering all sorts of help – I have a database and can match you based on your needs (possible further accommodation after staying here, food, friendship, babysitting etc)
- Sometimes I can arrange a lift for you to arrive here from within Melbourne, our past residents have offered this to help you if you feel scared to leave home alone – just let me know.
What’s not included
- you will need to buy your own groceries (walking distance shops)
- Wifi can be patchy, so if you work from home I recommend hotspot on your own device.
How do I come to stay?
Call me or this form, if you feel like you don’t want to put details in the form and would rather talk to me first that is fine just say in the form “would rather talk over phone” and I will call you back. If it is urgent in nature please put that in the message (“urgent”) so I can prioritise you.
How long should I stay?
You can visit and then we can discuss when/how long you might want to stay or you can come ready to stay (whatever makes you most comfortable, I know how scary it can be going to stay somewhere without knowing what it will be like). Some people have planned to stay a month and just in a couple of days of being here they feel lighter and have more clarity, others like to stay longer.
What is a toxic home?
After speaking to 100’s of women and speaking at length to women who have stayed here (including my own experience) I realised a few things 1) the word “abuse” is very loaded, many women who have come here have said things like “he’s not abusive, he just hit me once… twice… and threatened to do XYZ”.
Or “but isn’t this normal in all our homes? this is how they show they love us, no?”
Toxic homes are places where
- you rarely feel loved or you are told hurtful things because they say they love you
- someone controls you – this could look like putting enormous pressure on you to marry someone (saying things like I will die unless you Marry X person, we will never talk to you again), controls your money or finances or does not allow you to make decisions on your own (like leave the house when you want to)
- family members use “honor / izath” to shame you into feeling like you are wrong. Ie “you have brought shame to the family by doing XYZ – wearing clothes you want to wear, dating someone you want to date or things like wanting to move out. I wrote about my personal experience of moving out here.
Many women have opened up about their experience of abuse, one special woman is Mariam Mohammed. I recommend reading her story from being homeless, abused to thriving as an Australian Financial Reviews’ Women of Influence and a successful impact entrepreneur. We gain courage when we hear stories of other women who have a similar experience to ours.
What do I bring?
- warm clothes in winter
- your beautiful self.
You can see some photos of the place here.
I received a lot of negative comments about this space, saying it should be for all women and men. I will address one of these points here:
But what about Australian women who aren’t from a culturally diverse background?
I hear you, no one person’s pain or suffering is comparable. Abuse is abuse. What I have learned through personal experience and the data backs this up is that for culturally diverse communities, abuse happens in different ways and is more likely to be considered acceptable/normal (see Vic Health Data on the initial link above). Additionally, victims are treated as if they are the trouble makers by community members and family members/partners behavior is accepted as normal (they carry no stigma or shame as the women are made to)
Simple things like moving out can cause trauma as families “disown” their children for disobeying as there is a cultural expectation to live at home until marriage or things like wearing a singlet – women can be made to feel they are intentionally doing so to attract someone rather than because they simply feel comfortable.
In short, there are many organisations that can offer you support, we are happy to refer you to them.
Is this a religious initiative?
I am not a particularly religious person in the traditional sense though am fascinated by all religions having been raised as a Sikh, although I am very spiritual – people from all faiths or non-believers are welcome. Sometimes I chant mantras as their energy is very healing for me.
You can bring your own practices, we accept everything. Occasionally I will cook for everyone when time permits, when I do dinners are vegetarian because animals are so damn cute alive.
Is this a safe house?
This is not legally a safe house meaning if you have a partner or family member who will come looking for you and harm you – this is not the best place. Although I’ve experienced a fair bit of personal growth, I’m still only 5’2 woman so I don’t make a great defender.
I want to stay here and am experiencing stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression or PTSD but do not have a toxic or abusive home environment.
A few times a year I will host retreats, you can fill out the above form with “retreat dates” and I’ll make sure you receive an invitation to that.
That’s all from me – I hope this answers all your questions, if you have any more please get in touch.
Boring but necessary legal disclaimer in tiny text like they always do:
In staying here you are not legally in my care, you will be subleasing a cottage meaning it will simply be a short-term tenant arrangement. But of course I care a lot about you.