Rachal Mills and Ashley Biermann at the launch of The Salvation Army’s 2021 Red Shield Appeal in Ipswich on May 18.
Rachal Mills and Ashley Biermann at the launch of The Salvation Army’s 2021 Red Shield Appeal in Ipswich on May 18.

‘Rock bottom’: How mum found hope in total despair

AFTER moving interstate to escape an abusive relationship she had been trapped in for close to a decade, Ipswich woman Rachal Mills thought she was at rock bottom.

But things would only get worse.

“For nearly 10 years of my life my day would consist of emotional and physical abuse, causing me to slowly disconnect from my friends, my family and worst of all I began to lose my identity,” she said.

Ipswich Salvation Army officers Rita and Ashley Biermann.
Ipswich Salvation Army officers Rita and Ashley Biermann.

“I had two children at this time to my husband. Both (were) under the age of six.

“After many years of police involvement due to violent behaviours towards myself and my children, police contacted my parents and we were taken to Sydney.”

But the move didn’t help to pull her out of the downward spiral and when she was introduced to the drug ice, she found herself “alone on the street fighting for every meal and clinging on to what was left” of her life.

Ms Mills was no longer fit to take care of her two kids with her parents stepping in while she continued to fall further down a black hole.

“I was broken and was ashamed of who I had become,” she said.

“Although alive, I felt dead inside.”

It was only when she reached out to a case worker from The Salvation Army that she was able to begin getting her life back on track.

Over the next 12 months the Salvos supported her as she moved into her own home, started attending church, enrolled in TAFE and got her kids back.

Now six years on she has come full circle.

Ms Mills returned to Queensland a year ago and now works as a ministry assistant for the Salvos in Bundamba.

“I guess I felt abandoned during my marriage,” she said.

“Then when I left I couldn’t see the damage it had done to me. My parents wanted to remove me from harm’s way. I was not happy about that so I chose to cope in ways that didn’t help me heal at all, in fact it broke me more.”

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As she started to find her feet she began volunteering with the Salvos and then earned diplomas in community services and counselling.

Now in her role in Ipswich she is giving back through the service which helped her when she thought all hope was lost.

“I run a homeless meal,” she said.

“I do a service with them and do activities and just connect with them and build relationships.

“I’m a youth group leader as well and I’m trying to be an officer so I do services at church and I preach. I do a little bit of everything.

“Me being able to recognise the pain that they’re going through helps me empathise with them and be able to assist them on an emotional level.

“You might not be able to assist or understand had you not been through the same trauma.”

The Salvos launched their annual Red Shield Appeal in Ipswich on Tuesday morning with a national goal of raising $32 million in 2021.

Salvation Army Ipswich Corps Lieutenant Ashley Biermann said the monumental impacts of COVID-19 meant they were seeing many people who had never needed help before.

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Their hubs in Ipswich, Bundamba and Goodna kept the doors open throughout the pandemic.

With even more demand for their services than ever before, Lt Biermann said support from the community was integral.

“We can’t do what we do out in the community supporting those in need without the help of business and people and community leaders across Ipswich,” he said.

“We don’t want to leave anybody in need.

“We’ve seen people who have experienced homelessness and difficulties that we wouldn’t normally see.

“Through Ipswich we see around about the same as Bundamba each week which is 40 families. Down at Goodna it’s very similar numbers.

“That doesn’t count those we just support coming through needing support (through the Doorways program).”

Lt Biermann believed the impact COVID-19 had on people in need trying to reach out for help had taken a huge toll.

“All of a sudden we weren’t able to gather and do what we did,” he said.

“I think connection has been so important. Providing places where people can come safely.

“We never closed going through this whole thing. We were there and available for the community all the way through.”

You can donate to the Red Shield Appeal here.

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Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.