7 August 2023

Wollongong founder of Escabags named 2023 Rotary Inspirational Women’s Awards finalist

| Dione David
Start the conversation
Founder of Escabags Stacy Jane with her dog

After escaping domestic violence herself Stacy Jane launched Escabags. Photo: Stacy Jane.

A $2 mobile sim card would have come in handy when Wollongong woman Stacy Jane was running for her life.

Software on her mobile phone was tracking her every move, from text conversations to bank transactions, and feeding it back to her abuser.

“Just that ability to make a few urgent calls on a new number would have been a huge lifeline for me,” she says.

She’s made sure to include one in every Escape Bag.

Escabags Ltd is an Australian registered charity distributing “escape bags” to victims fleeing domestic and family abuse.

The tote bags containing high-quality essentials and comfort products for people in crisis, are not gender-specific and come in two variations – “Parent and Child” and “Single Adult”.

Escabags team

Escape Bags contain high-quality essentials and comfort products for people in crisis. Photo: Stacy Jane.

Since launching in February 2020 the organisation has distributed more than 9000 bags.

As far as measures of success go, Stacy says it’s a “double-edged sword”.

“It’s not good news that many people have needed it,” she says.

“Escape Bags are designed so people don’t have to go back into the family home at the most lethal time. So I try to think of it in terms of how many lives we’ve changed, potentially even helped save, by making them available.”

READ ALSO Illawarra program gives victims of violence an equal voice to help deliver change

The contents of the bags are informed by Stacy’s own lived experience.

On the last day of a cruise around New Zealand ending in Sydney Port, Stacy was violently attacked by her abusive partner of three and a half years.

Security on board tipped off an Australian family who she had befriended during the trip.

“They all knocked on my door and said ‘This is the start of your new life, you’re coming home with us’. And I did.”

Stacy stayed with her Aussie family including her Aussie mum or “Maussie”, as she’s affectionately known, for the remaining week of her trip.

She returned to England and moved into a women’s shelter but after five months, her abuser stalked her home.

“I spoke every morning to my Maussie while I was at the shelter. When I told her he had found me, she said ‘Come home bub’,” Stacy recalls.

“I sold everything I had, which wasn’t a lot, and made the permanent move to Australia on 16 August 2019.

“Later that year I launched Escabags.”

Escabags containing teddy bears

Escabags come in two variations – “Parent and Child” and “Single Adult”. Photo: Escabags.

Starting out in her bedroom, then a donated Kennards storeroom, Escabags has now signed on about 1500 not-for-profit and private businesses as stockists – and counting.

These include shopping centres, banks, schools, charity organisations, NSW Police and all 111 Service NSW branches.

The lofty ultimate goal is to get an Escabag stockist in every suburb of Australia, but Stacy is determined.

Critically, they’re all provided with marketing assets to display to alert people to the availability of Escabags.

“One of the service managers at Bendigo Bank said a couple used to come in all the time. One day the man went next door to the chemist and the moment he left his partner asked for an Escape Bag. She then watched her run to catch a bus to safety,” Stacy says.

“She must’ve been looking at that poster every week, waiting for her moment.”

READ ALSO Nation’s first Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre one step closer to reality in Illawarra

People can find their nearest stockist via the Escabags website and mobile app (currently in progress), which automatically refreshes so people in rural and remote areas with no signal would still have access.

“I’m keenly aware that we need to focus on those who are completely isolated and ensure they’re given the same opportunities and services as people in cities,” she says.

“We won’t stop until we have at least one stockist. I know we’re going to have to think outside the box to achieve that, but we will do it.”

Escabags is also expanding into delivering education programs for high school students around healthy relationships. And one day, Stacy hopes to open “Freedom House” – a medium to long-term housing solution for those escaping domestic and family abuse.

Last week Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hon. Jodie Harrison MP announced Stacy as a finalist for the 2023 Rotary Inspirational Women’s Awards in the urban over 30 category.

In keeping with Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self”, these Awards acknowledge and celebrate community service work of the many “quiet achievers” whose actions inspire others and make a difference in their communities.

The RIWA committee is currently organising the Awards ceremony for 10 September – watch this space.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.