It’s a workday and the weekly RUBY (Rise Up, Be Yourself) session is about to kick off at Logan PCYC.

Several women chatted in a separate room as a group of young children chase a basketball around the room.

The female trainer arrives and Police Liaison Officer (PLO) Codie Smith offers to watch the children while the others enter the boxing area.

The music kicks in and six women in boxing gloves alternate between punching bags and bounce their weight from foot to foot in time to the beat.

The mood is upbeat, and even though some of these women have only recently met, there is a palpable sense of connection.

They come from different backgrounds, but behind the shy laughs and smiles, they are all victims of domestic and family violence (DFV) who find empowerment through the RUBY program.

RUBY is a free fitness program developed by PCYC and run in partnership with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) for women who are, have been or are at risk of DFV.

The program was informed by the work of a QPS officer who had personal experience with DFV and found that fitness was a way to regain confidence and control over one’s life.

PLO Smith has been coordinating the RUBY program at Logan PCYC for three years, initially in her role as a PCYC youth worker.

In April of this year, she successfully applied to become a police liaison officer with the SPQ, a role which allows her to continue her participation in the RUBY program.

Codie Smith is new to the role of PLO but not to the RUBY program

She said that in theory, RUBY was a fitness program, but in practice, it was much more than that.

“The model is that the women come in and do the physical training and then leave,” PLO Smith said.

“Here at Logan, we sit and chat for half an hour before the trainer arrives, then we have morning tea and continue chatting.

“It’s an intimate group – usually only six or seven participants – and the women feel supported and safe to talk about what’s really going on in their lives. There is no judgment. »

Men are not involved in the operation of the program, but occasionally the PCYC branch manager or another male police officer will be invited to join the group for morning tea to begin building trust in a safe environment. .

PLO Smith said the program offered a variety of fitness activities.

“Since opening our new PCYC building in Logan last November, we have started to alternate boxing sessions with gym sessions.

“Women go at their own pace. They can go very hard or very soft, depending on how they feel. We are not here to be coachbuilders.

“The most important thing for me is consistency, so if they’re having a tough day, or feeling unmotivated, or have a kid at home after school, it’s important that they come anyway. .

“Often women have to bring their babies and I or another PCYC member takes care of them while the mother does the workout.

“We also organize programs to keep the children busy during school holidays so that we don’t have to stop for weeks.”

Syrah takes a boxing stance with a smile
Syrah is one of the participants in the program that builds confidence through fitness

One of the women benefiting from this consistency is Syrah Kahn, a 39-year-old mother of three who has struggled in the past with drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and abusive relationships.

Ms. Kahn first came to RUBY with a friend three years ago, but has been in and out of the program as she navigates new twists in her life.

She said it was PLO Smith’s gentle but consistent encouragement that saw her regain her confidence and reconnect with her community.

“I found RUBY through a friend and didn’t really understand how it was helping until I stopped coming and things got worse,” Ms Kahn said.

“Codie stayed in touch and encouraged me to come back anytime.

“There was no pressure, and when I came back to RUBY, no one was judging me.”

Although a domestic violence ordinance (DVO) is in place, Ms Kahn said fear and isolation kept her virtually prisoner.

“I was hiding in the house, I was afraid to go out in case I ran into my ex-partner. He seemed to have connections all over the community and I was even scared to go shopping,” Ms Kahn said.

“I didn’t understand how boxing could help me, but it’s our way of reclaiming our power.

” It’s really strange. It boosts our confidence and self-esteem.

“Now I can walk the dog around the neighborhood and the kids can ride their bikes without fear.

“I’ve come so far. I feel like I’m part of a community again.

Ms Kahn said she was eating better and her physical condition had improved, making her better able to be a better mother to her children.

“The practices last 40 minutes – and I moan the whole time – but at the end I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

“I had to get dressed, leave the house and be with other people. I had to get out of my comfort zone.

“It also changed my relationship with the police. Me and the kids have come to trust the police.

The sense of connection to the community has further expanded over the years, with RUBY participants from neighboring PCYCs organizing group activities outside of the weekly sessions.

Ms Kahn has challenged herself to join others on a monthly bush walk, and the group recently enjoyed a wellness day incorporating yoga and meditation at Fernvale, and d a women’s empowerment day with more intense physical challenges.

“We push ourselves to our limits and face our fears,” Ms Kahn said.

PLO Smith said it was inspiring to be part of a program that supported women through their darkest days and helped them get their lives back on track.

“It really does me good to see the women making those connections and taking on new challenges beyond the program,” said PLO Smith. “Women don’t realize this, but they also encourage me to challenge myself.”

The RUBY program is available on the recommendation of those who are identified as suitable.