15 December 2022

Family law solicitor to host film fundraiser to expand overstretched Griffith women's refuge

| Oliver Jacques
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Julia Puntoriero standing in Griffith with arms crossed

Julia Puntoriero wants to expand the town’s women’s refuge. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A Griffith family law solicitor is hosting a special screening of the new domestic violence-themed film The Fort to raise funds to build a bigger women’s refuge for her town.

Julia Puntoriero is urging those in her community to buy tickets to attend the local premiere of the movie at 7 pm on Wednesday, 29 March, to ensure the screening can go ahead to help women escaping violence.

She came up with the fundraiser idea when she met The Forts executive producer Shaynna Blaze at a dinner organised by networking group Griffith Women in Business in February.

Ms Blaze, a celebrity interior designer, is best known for her long-running role as a judge in the Channel Nine TV show The Block. She is also an anti-domestic violence advocate who is promoting her film as a means of raising money for related causes.

“I’ve been messaging her ever since the dinner. She is such a kind, generous person, she suggested I host a screening,” Ms Puntoriero said.

In her line of work, the family law solicitor often deals with women who are fleeing violence, who face a huge challenge in Griffith – a town with almost no affordable vacant rental properties.

READ MORE New workers in Riverina left with nowhere to live as rental vacancies hit record lows

“The Griffith women’s refuge is looking for a bigger site … because they are having to turn people away,” Ms Puntoriero said.

“When they turn women away, where do they go? What do they do? Rent in Griffith is insane.

“Obviously, building a bigger women’s refuge is not the cure for domestic violence, but it will certainly help those women who are suffering.

“Every cent we raise will go towards making that happen.”

The Griffith women’s refuge is run by Linking Communities Network Ltd, a housing service provider that tries to help people find emergency, transitional and permanent housing.

“I think [domestic violence] is at the highest level it could ever be. During the pandemic, people had to remain in their homes. There was nowhere to hide. A lot of people lost their jobs, so people don’t have the capacity to move,” Ms Puntoriero said.

“We are trying to get as many people to this movie as possible. If we get over 50 tickets sold, it will screen … if anyone wants to make donations, we can accept them as well. It’s really important. If people just give away one Wednesday night.

“Lots of my girlfriends have bought tickets but we need more men buying tickets and actually watching this movie.”

The Fort is about a young mother who travels to her son’s imaginary world to cope with the reality of her abusive relationship.

Ms Blaze is also looking for someone to host the film in Wagga.

“It’s a very important message that everyone needs to hear, we know you’re going to love it,” she said.

Shaynna Blaze in a pink dress

Celebrity interior designer Shaynna Blaze is a passionate anti-domestic violence advocate. Photo: Facebook.

Ms Puntoriero has also spent the past five years advocating for the establishment of a Griffith children’s contact centre – a facility that allows parents to have supervised visits with their estranged children. The lack of such a centre in the town means mothers and fathers can go months or even years without seeing their kids.

READ ALSO Self-taught Griffith musician cracks 1.8 million streams on Spotify

She applied for several grants herself and while not successful, her advocacy has played a role in a new centre being planned. It will be run by the not-for-profit relationship service provider Interrelate, which is currently trying to recruit a centre coordinator.

Tickets to the Griffith screening of The Fort cost $36 each and can be purchased here. To enquire about hosting a fundraiser screening in other towns, Ms Blaze can be contacted via her website.

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