Funding for women in need

Cire trainers, and driving forces behind FICE, Sue and Renee. 210045 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Romy Stephens

Long term unemployed and vulnerable women are set to receive the benefits of funding towards a local clothing exchange business.

First Impressions Clothing Exchange is part of Cire Services’ small business course that helps women develop skills to enhance their employment opportunities.

The initiative has recently been awarded a $10,000 grant by the Commonwealth Bank Foundation.

Cire trainer, and one of the driving forces behind FICE, Sue West said the clothing exchange had been vital for women to gain essential workplace skills.

“FICE was established about a year ago as a pathway for unemployed women, mainly long term unemployment, to have a work space where they could learn on the spot retail skills,” she said.

“Not only has the shop been here to support women with their skills, it’s shown women who have probably had a rough time that many people care for them.”

FICE essentially is operated as a small business by women, for women.

For customers, it offers quality and affordable women’s clothing and accessories suitable for interviews or more formal occasions.

Meanwhile, volunteer staff use the opportunity to develop their workplace skills and enhance their employment opportunities.

“It’s connecting women of different groups together when they normally wouldn’t be together,” she said,” Ms West explained.

“It’s giving women who have low socioeconomic means the ability to dress well and buy clothing at a very cheap price.”

Ms West said staff were “blown out of the water” when they found out FICE had received the funding.

“I can’t thank the Community Bank enough for believing in what we’re doing,” she said.

“With Covid-19 we had to shut. So it’s going to help us get through that cash flow crisis, but it will also help us get some more equipment.”

Janine Haag is a savings specialist at Commonwealth Bank Mooroolbark and she nominated FICE for the grant.

Ms Haag said she was very pleased that the clothing exchange received a CommBank Community Grant.

“Our team at Mooroolbark branch could not be more excited, to hear that they were successful and will receive $10,000 in support, particularly during this difficult time,” she said.

“I love the work of First Impressions Clothing Exchange as they empower and support disadvantaged women, giving them the confidence they need to take the next important step in their lives. It’s great to be able to support them.”

Ms West said the funding would also help FICE build on the partnerships it already has to support vulnerable women and plan for the future.

She said one major long term goal for the business was to go mobile so it can reach the outer edges of the Yarra Ranges.

First Impressions Clothing Exchange is based in Mooroolbark, but services women through the Yarra Ranges and surrounds.

For more information, head to the store in Mooroolbark Terrace (Wednesday-Friday 10am-3pm), visit or call 1300 835 235.