Recently there’s been media coverage about parents supplying teens with easy access to alcohol fuelling an underage drinking problem. This poses some tricky questions for parents.

How do you safely introduce children in their late teens to drinking? How do we encourage them to have fun but be safe and responsible?

Our drug and alcohol services have these tips for parents:

  • Talk about alcohol as a family: Name the risks and be quite bold and blunt about them.
  • If you have children on the cusp of 18, decide in advance if you will allow them to drink on special occasions, such as their birthday, friends’ parties, Christmas etc.
  • Lead by example! Are you a responsible drinker? What lessons is your child learning from your own drinking habits?
  • Avoid recruiting young people into drinking by encouraging them to serve you.
  • Be mindful that alcohol diminishes tolerance and impacts our responses and reactions.
  • Plan in advance who will take responsibility if something goes wrong. If you allow your child to drink under parental supervision and you are drinking too, nominate another adult to look out for you both.
  • Teach your child about safe drinking habits, such as drinking water between alcoholic beverages.

“Adolescents are going to want to drink and push boundaries to take risks,’’ says Helene Nielsen, Executive Manager of Centacare’s Support Training & Intervention Services.

“Having open conversations about alcohol at home with your kids will lay a strong foundation for their decision-making when they’re out with their friends.

“If they have a clear understanding of safe drinking habits and the risks associated with alcohol, they are more likely to make strong and informed choices.’’

Australian alcohol guidelines state that not drinking is the safest option for people under 18 years.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey released this month found fewer 12–17 year olds were drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol had significantly increased, up from 72 per cent in 2013 to 82 per cent.

The report shows that the proportion of Australians drinking alcohol daily and weekly is falling, but less frequent drinking (less often than weekly) is becoming more common.

Most of us are relishing the sunny, cloud-free start to winter – not so Bernie Victory.

The dry conditions are thwarting his plans to test the mettle – in mud – of his Kokoda 17 Challenge Team.

“We haven’t been blessed by the weather, we need far more rain!” says Bernie, who will lead the team on to the track in early September.

“We’re starting to ramp up the difficulty of the walks and I’d like to ramp up the amount of mud in training too.”

This year’s trek has drawn participants from across the state, including father-and-son Gordon and Patrick Edwards, of Ceduna, and Mount Gambier-based mother-and-daughter, Nik and Paige Tilley.

“The training schedule has required some creative thinking,” says Bernie. “As hard as it’s been to get everyone together, it’s been more interesting to find what training opportunities places like Ceduna, Lameroo and Mount Gambier actually offer.”

“It’s a bit hard to find a hill too close to Ceduna but Patrick is finding some sand he can walk in.”

Last weekend the trekkers completed Mount Misery, a 21km walk at Montacute in preparation for Extended Misery in six weeks.

So far the team has raised nearly $20K for Centacare services, including Kolbe Cottage – which provides respite for people living with a disability – and the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service.

“The good thing with the K17 team is when they walk they are surrounded by a group of people who have done it many times before, so for every question they get multiple answers,” Bernie says.

To support the team, Visit our online fundraising page.

Seeking help for an eating disorder can be daunting. We asked Astrid, a peer worker with our PACE service, to answer a few common questions about how to support a loved one if you are worried about their health.

I think my child may have an eating disorder

The first port of call is to take them to your local/trusted GP – someone they feel comfortable with (Centacare can recommend some names). Don’t accuse/corner your child about the disorder. Find the right time. Make a special time to talk and give them your full attention. Their behaviours are a cry for help – don’t focus on them but on the pain/shame they must be feeling. Get help from their school (counsellor and teachers), find trusted family and friends (you can’t support them alone) and start researching everything you can about EDs. Know that your child is as worried as you are but that help is available. Make sure your whole family is supported during this process.

I feel helpless and don’t know what to do

Early intervention is crucial so building that initial relationship of ‘trust’ with you is vital. Unconditional love and acceptance are what your son/daughter is looking for. Listen to what they say without judgement or solutions but reassure them that you will be standing by them and won’t stop until they’re better. Be the first and strongest advocate on their ‘wellness team’, but let them be part of the solution, not just the problem. See their pain for what it is. Don’t take it personally. Love them more now than you ever have and seek as much knowledge about the illness as you can. Don’t worry about ‘why’ at this early stage. Don’t point fingers or push too hard. Be collaborative. Follow their lead on who they want to tell or not tell. Be as transparent as possible and admit if you don’t know the answers. Don’t show them the fear you may feeling…you have to be their rock now.

I am a mum and I’m scared to talk about my struggles

To the middle aged (or any aged) mother who’s struggling….know you’re not alone. There is still so much stigma around eating disorders and that shame just seems to increase as we age. Talk to your GP, speak to one of the organisations who support people with EDs (Centacare, The Butterfly Foundation, Statewide Eating Disorder Service etc). You will need lots of support and you deserve it. Talk to your GP, husband, best friend. People may not understand it, but if they care for you, they will respect your pain and journey. This is an illness. Don’t feel ashamed as shame is the strongest fuel in maintaining your disorder. Think of who you want to be, how you want to role-model for your children and what you would say to a friend if he/she told you they were ill. You will have to be your strongest advocate but never forget this is an illness, like any other illness. It is not your fault.

Today we mark the second annual World Eating Disorders Action Day. This year’s #WeDoActTogether theme is about making connections to support people to move forward. Eating disorders can be very isolating. Through our PACE service, Centacare provides group support to encourage people living with an eating disorder to find their voice, share their experiences and learn from one another.

Imagine being a mum with an eating disorder and cooking the family meal each night.

“It’s like living a dual life,’’ says Astrid, a peer support worker with Centacare’s PACE service.

“It’s the unspoken secret for a lot of women: trying to raise a new life when they haven’t got hold of their own.

“How does someone live with that? Cooking the family dinner, looking at the scraps, feeding everyone, smiling, pretending they’re happy…”


Through our PACE service, Centacare provides a range of recovery services for people living with an eating disorder. Many of our team members are peer workers, which means they have a lived experience of what you are going through.


Astrid took an eating disorder through her teenage years into adulthood.

When her illness collided with pregnancy and the birth of her son, she faced a new set of challenges.

“There were pros and cons,’’ she says. “As we know with kids, it’s what you do – not what you say – so I had to be a positive role model and start showing my son the way.

“It was one of the hardest things.

“The discipline around food, sitting down and eating well and being mindful with that eating… I still work on that.

“I had times of wellness but I think in the end, it was just knowing I need to be around, and wanting him to have a strong woman to look up to, that pulled me away from it.’’

Astrid believes a whole generation of women are in silent turmoil and points to rising suicide rates in women aged over 50.

“The face of eating disorders has always been a schoolgirl, or the belief it’s the disease of models, but it’s pervasive through all age groups.”

The public’s intolerance of eating disorders makes it hard for older women to seek support, Astrid says, adding we need to normalise conversations around anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, and move away from unrealistic social media-driven perceptions of health.

“Who are the young girls looking up to if the women of the tribe, the matriarchs, are frightened because they’re not allowed to grow old gracefully anymore?

“There used to be the mentality that when you’re 40 it’s ok to let yourself go but now there’s no such thing. We’re expected to look younger longer into our 50s.

“It’s got to be a revolution not an evolution.’’

Today we mark the second annual World Eating Disorders Action Day. This year’s #WeDoActTogether theme is about making connections to support people to move forward. Eating disorders can be very isolating. Through our PACE service, Centacare provides group support to encourage people living with an eating disorder to find their voice, share their experiences and learn from one another.





Tragic events such as this week’s suicide bombing in Manchester are hard enough for adults to understand, let alone children.

They may become upset if they see news reports on television or hear radio accounts of what unfolded. Centacare Assistant Director Pauline Connelly (pictured) has these tips for managing children’s emotions around sad news.

  • Be mindful

“Try and protect them from the news. Don’t leave newspapers with garish or confronting images lying around.

“If you want to watch the news, perhaps mute certain segments, or record it and watch it when the children are in bed.  Given we can access news 24/7, I don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask and it’s something we should consider.”

Pauline Connelly 1

  • Listen and respond

“Children need to feel like they are listened to. If they say things like, `Why do men use guns, why are they hurting people?’ respond to them by explaining that sometimes people make bad decisions.

“If we minimise their worries or deny their questions by sending them off to play, that stays in them and they feel unheard.

  • Focus on the present

“Respond to their feelings around the event, rather than the context. You could say, `I guess you’re feeling a bit worried about what you saw’. Reassure them that those feelings are understandable but bring them back to the now where they are safe and happy.

“They will imagine things, so invite them back to their own little world.

“Reassure them that they are safe at home, that you are there, and that grown ups are working hard in Australia to make it a very safe place to live.”

  • Nurture healing through creativity

“Depending on their age, some children will want to be proactive and feel like they’re contributing to something, and making a difference.

“Perhaps encourage them to do something positive, such as writing a prayer or drawing a picture to post to Manchester.

“This helps switch the focus away from what is making them sad to a sense of purpose that makes them happy.”



Accessing education is an important stepping stone to independent living for vulnerable young people.

Thanks to a generous donation by Cameron Technologies, at-risk young mums now have computer access to aid their studies and further learning.

The Hove-based business gifted 30 pre-loved laptops to Centacare’s ICAN Service after answering a call for help on social media last week.

Findon Family Housing (FFH) manager Stacey Gibb says, at best, she hoped for a few replies to her Facebook message but instead received a boot-load of laptops.

“We are just super grateful as this is a huge help to the women we support.

“Often they’ve left school very early and have had little education.’’

ICAN provides case management and accredited alternative learning options for young people aged 10-19 years who are disconnected or at risk of disconnecting from education due to complexities in their lives, such as homelessness, domestic violence and family breakdown.

The focus is on supporting young people to more successfully engage in their communities through flexible learning directed to their needs.

“They may also be pregnant or parenting so education is crucial as these young women move towards independence, financial security and role modelling for their children,’’ says Stacey, pictured with FFH case manager, Gemma Sandeman.

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By choosing to become a foster carer, you can make a big difference in a child’s life at a time when they need it the most.

Centacare is part of the state’s Choose to Care campaign which seeks to celebrate South Australian foster and kinship carers, and encourage more people to open their homes to vulnerable children.

​We are seeking new foster carers to join our specialist Family Preservation and Respite foster care programs.
On Thursday, June 8, we are holding an information session at Seaton, 413 Grange Rd, from 6.30pm – 8pm to explore what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, the assessment process, and other prerequisites.

Not all foster care providers are the same. Within Centacare’s programs, carers work as a part of a team to ensure they are supported and prepared for both the challenges – and rewards – of fostering and reunification.

Foster carers receive regular on-call contact and high levels of support from Centacare, as well as an allowance enhanced to reflect the professional nature of the specialist foster care role. Ongoing education, training and development is also provided.

For more information, please phone 8159 1400 or email

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The Indigenous Marathon Project is making big waves with small steps.

Established in 2010 by Robert de Castella, the project uses running to instil a sense of pride, purpose and accomplishment in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 to 30 years.

“They go from no running to running the full New York City marathon in just six months,’’ de Castella told Reconciliation SA’s `Still Yes’ breakfast today, attended by 1670 people at the Adelaide Convention Centre.


“That’s pretty silly. Most people train for years before they embark on a marathon which is synonymous with hard work and struggle.

“But we want it to be hard because we work on the philosophy that when you achieve hard things, you feel good about yourself.’’

Before the project began, no Aboriginal person had finished a major international marathon.

That feat has now been achieved by 65 young people who have crossed the finishing line in New York, Boston and Tokyo.

“The thing that shocked me travelling around Australia in the early days was there was a lack of self-respect and pride, and feelings of despair and hopelessness,’’ de Castella said.

“We use running as a way to instil a sense of pride and accomplishment, and finding your voice and courage, so you can embark on a strong life and go forward with a sense of purpose so that you can really make a difference.’’

de Castella highlighted IMP graduate Elsie Seriat who completed the New York marathon in 2014 and began a “running revolution’’ on Thursday Island, Queensland.

“When Elsie started she was ashamed to run,’’ he said. “A car would come past and she would stop and walk and wait for the car to go and then she would start running again.

“After doing that for a couple of weeks she said: `This is stupid. Why am I stopping? I should be proud of what I’m doing and get out there and show everyone.’

“So she kept on running and then people started looking at her out the window as they drove past and then they started tooting the horn, and now they’re out there joining her!’’

Elsie now manages IMP’s FrontRunners program and is based in Canberra. de Castella says it’s what graduates do after they’ve crossed the finishing line that matters the most.

“We provide support and mentoring and grants and opportunities for them to step up to the next level and become Indigenous leaders.’’

Adelaide’s Tahnee Sutton recalled her journey to New York last year.

“I’ve faced adversity throughout my life and I was feeling lost and wondering what my purpose was,” she said.

“Running a marathon is hard, it’s one of the hardest things you can do. But with small steps you can create big waves.’’

At least one million primary school children across Australia are expected to hit the streets on foot tomorrow for National Walk Safely to School Day.

Swapping car seats for sneakers will foster more than fitness and road safety awareness in kids, Centacare parenting expert Kay Buckley says.

No matter how far they have to walk, children and parents can learn a lot from a quick stroll to school which can benefit child development.

“We don’t always take opportunities to give our kids practice at living skills because that takes time and patience and, more often than not, requires us to be there.

“But walking to school is one of those little things that can help grow really capable children.’’

On their way to school, children can:

  • Gain independence
  • Learn about their neighbourhood
  • Become aware of driveways
  • Learn to take risks
  • Get to know what’s in people’s yards and begin to recognise landmarks
  • Interact with nature
  • Learn about social science
  • Learn about vegetation growing on nature strips and in gardens
  • Meet their neighbours and other locals who may become a possible support resource later
  • Communicate with siblings and their parents/carers
  • Spend electronic device-free time together

“The information around them will promote conversation and that can take children and parents anywhere,’’ Kay says.

“Walking also takes time, and for parents who are time-poor, that’s valuable time with their kids.’’

Run by the Pedestrian Council of Australia, national Walk Safely to School Day, now in its 18th year, is a community initiative aimed at raising awareness of road safety, and the health and environmental benefits of regular walking.

For more information, please phone Elizabeth Rowe 0437 062 302


Ask John Lochowiak why family matters and he recalls childhood trips with his grandfather to the Pitjantjatjara lands.

“We’d sit down and he’d nod and say `there’s your brother over there’ and I’d meet him for the first time, but straight away we’d behave as brothers, says John, a Wati (initiated man).

“In traditional settings, we don’t use names. We use how we are related and behave accordingly and it strengthens that relationship.

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“Uncles and aunties don’t exist because they become our mothers and fathers, and cousins become your brothers and sisters, so our extended family is huge ’’

Family is at the core of the Aboriginal world view, says John, Manager of Centacare’s Aboriginal Services, but he believes this should not preclude western families from caring for vulnerable children.

The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is almost 10 times that of other children, and continues to grow.

The causes of over representation are complex, including the legacy of past policies of forced removal, intergenerational effects of separations from family and culture, poor socio‐economic status and perceptions arising from cultural differences in child‐rearing practices.

The current Family Matters Week of Action aims to highlight these difficulties and drive a collaborative approach to change; to see all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture.

“Our family structure is a bit different, but really we are not dissimilar to white families,’’ he says.

“The challenges and dynamics that impact non-aboriginal people impact us too; the need to work and live in dignity and contribute to society is equally as important to our culture.

“I think we need to look closely at how we can better support Aboriginal families to increase their capacity to foster children.

“That support should start with cultural training for Aboriginal people so that they re-engage with their culture because a lot of our people have lost it.’’

John says it just takes one person – black or white – to believe in a vulnerable child in order to make a difference.

“Western culture will talk about significant others and emotionally that children will be stable if someone believes in them.

“That’s replicated a hundred fold in the Aboriginal culture, because everywhere they turn they have someone to share in the responsibility of raising them.

“If every child is loved, they have the chance to be good citizens.’’


Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700 | F 08 8232 8920

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Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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