A gift of 105 crochet poppies has assured Vietnam veterans living in the north they are anything but forgotten.

Northern Sub Branch President Pedro Dawson says the poppies are a timely reminder that people care about their often-overlooked service.

The poppies were crafted by Centacare’s Work Ready Training sewing activity participants who recently presented them to the vets.

“We are forgotten,’’ says Pedro.

“That’s how we feel, so we were certainly very pleased to receive the poppies.’’

Of the 50,000 Australians who took part in the Vietnam conflict from 1962-75, more than 500 died and thousands more were wounded.

Those who returned faced criticism from a public that largely opposed the war. Troops were booed and sometimes spat on, and many went into hiding.

Forty-two years later, Pedro says many vets are still coming to grips with the after-effects of the war and so the simple gesture of receiving a symbol of remembrance is significant.

Centacare WRT supervisor Zoe Ammerlaan inspired participants to crochet the poppies after volunteering at the Northern Sub Branch.

WRT places jobseekers in activities for six months to help them develop skills and confidence to gain employment.

In addition to the poppies, participants in the Gilles Plains-based program have been making children’s clothing for distribution to vulnerable families through the Centa, at Elizabeth.

Pedro says some of the Sub Branch’s 107 members will wear the crochet flowers tomorrow as part of Anzac Day observances.

“They’ll be put to good use which is what I like!” he says.


Looking for a fun activity to do with the kids during the school holidays? From craft to dot painting and games, we’ve got you covered!


Wednesday, April 19 – Aboriginal dot painting and storytelling, Murray Bridge 

Centacare’s Po:rlar Ka:ngkun Tainkuwalun (Children Laughing and Playing) program has joined forces with the City of Murray Bridge to organise a school holiday fun day  next Wednesday, April 19, at 2pm. There will be storytelling by Aboriginal elders, dot painting and more. Come along to the Murray Bridge library, Level2/51 South Terrace, Murray Bridge. For more information, phone Georgie Trevorrow 0437 799 841 or Rosslyn Richards and Natasha Sumner on 85318888.

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Thursday, April 27 – Wandana Community Centre Games Day, Gilles Plains

It’s game on at Wandana Community Centre! Come along to a free Kids Games Day on Thursday, April 27. Light snacks will be provided but bookings are essential. The day is being split into two sessions to accommodate different age groups: Kids aged 5-8, from 10am-12pm; and children aged 9 years and over, from 1pm-3pm. For more information, phone the centre on 8261 8124. Find us at 14 Blacks Rd, Gilles Plains.


Thursday, April 27 – Craft Time with Centacare South East, Mount Gambier

Come along for some school holiday craft with our Family Connections team. Everyone is welcome to join in, no matter what your age! Find our craft hub at Mount Gambier Central, outside Best & Less, Shop M2, 21 Helen Street, Mount Gambier,  from 10am to 1pm. Cost is free. For more information, phone 8724 0500.

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A new mobile playgroup in Strathalbyn is putting Aboriginal children on a journey to learning.

Run by Centacare, the Po:rlar Ka:ngkun Tainkuwalun (Children Laughing and Playing) program aims to prepare children aged 0 to 6 years for kindy and school by engaging them in fun learning activities and outdoor play.

Outreach, early intervention and one-on-one support is also provided to families experiencing challenges that may put children at risk of disengaging from early education.

“They might have health or housing difficulties, or other siblings might be struggling which brings pressure into the home and prevents the younger children from getting a good start,’’ Family Practitioner Lyall Willis said.

“It’s about engaging pre-school age kids with activities that are fun and culturally appropriate but also are stepping stones into further learning.

“The emphasis is on showing them that learning is actually a fun thing to do and, that by gaining knowledge, you gain some control over your life.

“We encourage parents to get involved too, so that they’re not isolated from their child’s learning but feel as though they have a say and a place in that journey, now and in the future.

The playgroup operates every Thursday from 10.30am out of the Red Hen rail car next to Stationmaster’s Gallery, South Tce, Strathalbyn.

On Monday, the playgroup travels to Meningie Area School, North Tce, Meningie, from 10am to 12pm, and to Raukkan, next to Moorundi,from 12.30 -1.30pm.

Nature play is nurtured through monthly bush and scrub playgroups in each region, such as Rocky Gully, Murray Bridge, and Bonney Reserve, Meningie.

“When you watch children engaging in a normal playgroup environment with toys, textas and crafts, you can make assumptions about who they are and their ability. But when you see them out in the scrub playing with the feathers and grasses and whatever else we might collect, a whole new character comes out.

“I’m blown away by their ability to be creative, initiate things themselves, take leadership and watch out for each other. There’s a real sense of adventure, energy, and interest, and a lot of questions and inquisitiveness.’’

Family Practitioner Rosslyn Richards said the program plays an especially important role for Aboriginal children in foster care because it keeps them connected to their culture. It also helps break down stigma and shame, felt by some young parents.

“We support them any way we can,’’ she said.

*Centacare has joined forces with the City of Murray Bridge to organise a school holiday fun day next Wednesday, April 19. There will be storytelling by Aboriginal elders, dot painting and more. For more information, phone Georgie Trevorrow 0437 799 841 or Rosslyn Richards and Natasha Sumner on 85318888.

*A family BBQ event will be held at Raukkan, next to Moorundi, on Monday, April 24, with games and activities for the whole family. For more information, please phone Rosslyn or Lyall at Centacare Murray Bridge 85318888.

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This year we welcome Port Adelaide Football Club defender Jasper Pittard to the Power to End Violence Against Women campaign.

Jasper joins Travis Boak, Ollie Wines, Hamish Hartlett, Matt White and Gavin Wanganeen as a Program Ambassador.

PTEVAW - Jasper & Russell

In his role, Jasper will visit schools with club legend Russell Ebert to talk to male students in Year 10 about respectful relationships with women.

We are grateful for the invaluable support of players as we continue our partnership with Power Community Ltd.

This term the #PEVAW program has engaged 305 students across four schools, including Norwood Morialta High School.

Students learn about respect, trust, gender equality, healthy relationships and the dangers of abusive behaviour, and how to make informed choices.

Launched in late 2015 with the help of the State Government, the program will be funded by Centacare until 2019 in order to reach more male students across the state.

For more information about the PEVAW program, please phone Ross Wait 8447 9965.

Think about it: Youth homelessness is a cry for help!

On #YHMD2017, Centacare’s Tracy Ingram is calling on the community to think harder about youth homelessness.

“People often equate homelessness with bad behaviour so there’s zero tolerance,” says Tracy, Manager of Outer North Youth Homelessness Services (ONYHS).

“They don’t see the underlying trauma.

“Yes, many young people who are homeless might be behaving poorly, but there’s a good reason for that: they are self-saving.

“The young people we work with are in flight or fight mode all the time. They are either going to fight you, or they are running away.

“They don’t know how to operate because they have never felt safe.”

In most instances, this is due to conflict, unresolved crisis and other complexities, such as mental health and drug issues, family breakdown and accrued debt, Tracy says.

In response, Centacare has begun training staff in trauma-informed care as an increasing number of young people present in distress caused by “lots of traumatic events over lots of time”.

This is exacerbated by high unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing.

“Back in the day we were a housing provider; now we are a support provider,” says Tracy, noting the prevalence of trauma as a driver for homelessness compared to 16 years ago when she began working in the sector.

“Trauma was evident then but the intergenerational and psychological impact it had on young people wasn’t recognised to the same extent it is today.

“We’ve been working in a therapeutic way for a number of years but we want to take that further.”

In 15/16, ONYHS supported 512 people aged 15 to 25 across the Playford, Gawler and Barossa council areas. Of those young people, 269 were living homeless, 199 were experiencing mental health issues, 52 were fleeing domestic violence and eight were under the guardianship of the minister.

“If staff have a better understanding of trauma and how it impacts the young people, we will find different ways to connect with them.

“A young person might be really bad at cleaning their room but they also might have been locked in their room at home for six months – maybe more – unable to leave or shower.

“If they weren’t fed properly and had no good clothes, then they become hoarders and don’t clean up after themselves because they don’t know how.”

Tracy says #YHMD2017 is a chance to inform South Australians about vulnerable young people and “where they’ve come from”, and break the stigma of youth homelessness.

“Many of these young people don’t have good role models or boundaries in their life, so they don’t have the opportunity to learn like we do.

“Think a little more widely about homelessness than just what you see because it might be a cry for help.”

How we are supporting at-risk young people

Outer North Youth Homelessness Services provides case management, early intervention, and outreach, post-crisis and wait-list support to young people aged 15-25 years old who are homeless or at risk of homelessness across the Playford, Gawler and Barossa council areas. Services are delivered to young people at home and in a family context. Centacare has 36 properties in the area from Elizabeth to Nurioopta that can be allocated to clients once they have been assessed. The service has helped young people resume education, and gain employment and long-term housing. This in turn has provided outcomes such as reunification with children and familial stability.

Carlow Place is a 24-hour supported core and cluster residential facility located at Elizabeth. The service includes emergency and intensive support for young people aged 15 to 18 years who are homeless.


Last week we hosted AGPAL Group CEO Dr Stephen Clark at our monthly Executive Managers Meeting.

Dr Clark was in Adelaide to personally commend Centacare on being awarded Quality Innovation Performance (QIP) Accreditation for the fifth time.

Recently our organisation was assessed as exceeding best practice ratings for an unprecedented seven standards – a level not seen in any industry, Dr Clark said.

Accreditation against the Quality Improvement Council (QIC) health & Community Services Standards recognises Centacare’s commitment to continually review, evaluate and improve services, and provide quality support and outcomes for our clients.

The process follows a rigorous, independent, whole-of-organisation review by a Quality Innovation Performance assessment team, in September last year.

The QIP team found Centacare’s management, client-centred focus, sector collaboration, mission, care, safety, support of staff, and community leadership, reach and influence, underpin our excellence in service delivery.

Centacare was assessed as exceeding best practice ratings for the following standards:

  • Management systems
  • Safety & quality integration
  • Focusing on positive outcomes for clients
  • Confirming consumer rights
  • Collaboration & strategic positioning
  • Incorporation of and contribution to good practice
  • Community & professional capacity building

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Pictured, from left: AGPAL Group CEO, Dr Stephen Clark; AGPAL Manager Health & Human Services National Development Team, Maria Maratos; Systems Improvement Executive Manager, Jenny Hanlon; Centacare Catholic Family Services Director, Dale West.


Valeria Cavallo sought emotional comfort in the pages of psychiatric and psychology journals after settling in South Australia from Argentina.

In the first year, while improving her English, Valeria started to recover her independence and professional identity after leaving Buenos Aires and a successful career in psychoanalysis and clinical psychology.

“In my first few months here, I went into the Women’s and Children’s Hospital one day and asked if they had any journals on children’s psychology that I could read,’’ she said.

Valeria Cavallo

“I became very good at drawing pictures during that time because I didn’t have English for some of the words to express what I needed.

“I couldn’t understand all the words in the newspapers which I found very frustrating but I could understand the jargon in the professional journals! That gave me confidence.

“I’d go from psychology journals to kindy books. My husband’s friend had a four-year-old child and I would read with her. After a couple of years in Australia, I started to read in English some of the books I used to read in Spanish.’’

It took some years for Valeria to regain her true sense of self.

Even with a cross-cultural background (her mother, Ecil, is Argentinian and her father, Giovanni, was Italian) Valeria says she was not prepared for the sense of grief and loss associated with migration.

Making new friends at 29 and rebuilding her career – in a different language – was difficult.

“On the surface people are people and houses are houses all over the world, but other things are different.

“It’s confronting but it’s quite humbling too.’’

Valeria grew up in the heart of the Argentinian capital (her mother still lives in the same house, very close to Parliament House) surrounded by the arts and eclectic cultural European influences.

“When I go back to Argentina now, it’s as if I never left. I know the neighbourhood and the people. I go and do the shopping and remember the bus routes and street names.

“And then it’s like a switch in your head and I’m at the airport and back in Adelaide, which also feels like home. So it’s home here and home there. It didn’t feel like that for quite a while but now I’m in that privileged position.

“I never considered choosing one or the other; it’s about adding up and not subtracting, and making life richer with the diversity.’’

A psychologist and counsellor with Centacare’s ACCESS program, Valeria draws on her empathy and deep understanding of cultural differences to support others experiencing challenges in their life.

“It definitely allows you to see things with a very open mind. This experience of migration has also allowed me to understand better what to be human is all about, and allowed me to apply some of this `newly acquired knowledge’ to my professional practice, too.’’

* Valeria’s role is being featured in recognition of Harmony Day, a national celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity. At Centacare, we strive to be inclusive, respectful and to grow a sense of acceptance and belonging for everyone. Our policies reflect this. #HarmonyDay

The childhood ritual of handing out birthday party invitations still resonates strongly today for Norwegian-born Helen Nielsen.

“We were taught very young that you invite every girl in your class to your party or you don’t have one,’’ Centacare’s newly-appointed Executive Manager of Support Training and Intervention Services says of her upbringing in Fredrikstad, Norway.

“Norway’s value system is very social justice-based. It’s ingrained in us that we should be kind and good to people, and try and be inclusive.

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“If a new child moved into our street, we invited them into our games and our home to play.’’

Helene credits the influence of `strong women’ including her mother, a physiotherapist with `social work values’ and a neighbour who was a child protection social worker, for reinforcing these principles early in life.

She has drawn on them regularly throughout her social work career which has taken Helene to London, back to Norway and home again to her adopted country, Australia.

Her first social work placement was at the Magill Training Centre where her passion for helping young people and offenders “who hadn’t had the opportunities I had’’ took hold.

Helene’s earliest childhood memories are of outdoor adventures – in the mountains during summer and the snow in winter – with her sister, Anne-Therese.

“Even at five we would walk on our own to our friends’ houses and play. We felt really free and happy. Depending on the season, we’d go tobogganing or skiing.

“We’d cut holes in the corners of plastic bags and put our legs through to make us go super-fast down the slopes.’’

Helene arrived in South Australia in 1986 from Spain where her family moved to escape the bitterness of Norwegian winters when she was nine.

“Spain was a massive culture shock because of the level of poverty,’’ she says. “Norway is quite affluent and their social welfare system reflects that.

“I’d never seen anyone living homeless before I went to Spain. There were kids I went to school with who would beg after school in front of the church. There was corporal punishment in schools there, too.

“We were about to move back to Norway when we got visas to come to Australia.

“We were quite disappointed, my sister and I. We were happy to be going home and now we were going to a different place to live.’’

Settling in Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills, Helene says she initially struggled to fit in.

“Even though I looked as Aussie as everyone else, I didn’t sound Aussie! One of the things I struggled with was that everyone always wanted me to say something in Norwegian.

“I found that really quite hard to deal with at first. Even just getting them to pronounce my name. In the end I’d try and tell them, `just say Helen!’’’

Living in three countries by the time she was 10 taught Helene how to view her own values and beliefs in the context of other cultures.

When she returned to Norway years later to work at a rehabilitation services for young people with extreme challenging behaviours (such as drug and alcohol use, and offending) Helene says she saw herself in a new light.

“It was good to go home but I learnt that my work ethic and values were more in line with Australia than Norway.

“My people brought me back to Adelaide. They make it home for me.’’

* Helene’s role is being featured in recognition of Harmony Day, a national celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity. At Centacare, we strive to be inclusive, respectful and to grow a sense of acceptance and belonging for everyone. Our policies reflect this.


Informed by his own courageous journey to freedom from South Sudan, Clement Kuek provides crisis support to Adelaide’s African community.

Clement Kuek was eight years old when he lost his way in the dark fleeing Arab militia in South Sudan.

“That night, it was around 3am, and the whole village just ran in different directions,’’ he says. “I went with my mum and my siblings but I lost my way.

“I didn’t know where my family was or what to do. I saw other groups, people running, so I followed them. In one group was my cousin and he told me `don’t worry, we’ll find them’, but I didn’t.

“The days passed. I stayed with the group and we walked, for three months, to Ethiopia. On the way, there was no water to drink, no food to eat.

“Some people were dying from hunger, thirst. Some were bitten by snakes and taken by lions but, thank God, we managed.’’

Unbeknown to Clement, his father Kuek Thou was also walking, in desperate search of his son.

“One of the guys who came after said my dad walked from home to another place, one month away, in search of me. But he couldn’t find me and no one told him I went to Ethiopia. That’s a sign of love, what he did, looking for me.

“We had to cross the River Nile. There was no way across except on wooden boards. There were crocodiles and it wasn’t easy. Maybe that stopped him.’’

Clement stayed in a camp for minor groups in Ethiopia until 1991 when he returned to the South Sudan border. From there he went to the Kakuma Refugee Camp, run by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in the north-western region of Kenya, where he finished his education.

In 2003, Clement arrived in South Australia, alone, as a refugee.

It took him many years before he was finally reunited with his family, only to learn his father and two of his siblings were killed in 1998.

“Sometimes I sit down and think of my father and how good he was,’’ Clement says.

“He’s looking after me. If you look at the difficulties that I’ve gone through, God is there and Dad is also there supporting me and giving me the courage to go on, otherwise I would have lost hope. But I still have hope inside of me.’’

Through his role at Centacare and the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, Clement uses his journey to freedom, and the values instilled in him by his parents and Sudanese culture, to provide crisis and other support to the African community.

Clement says the challenge of beginning a new life in Australia with different laws, value systems and cultural expectations, is overwhelming for many families.

This is made all the more difficult due to the often traumatic circumstances under which they left Africa.

“The support I’ve had from people and the Church all along the way has encouraged me to give back to the community I live in,’’ says Clement. “I feel that it is my duty to be there for the people if they think the support I can give them will help.

“I don’t see them as just a person coming to me asking for something, or coming as a client. I see them as part of me, part of my family.

“When someone comes to you for help, you can’t just turn that person away without knowing the reason why he or she is there.

“If people are struggling and you don’t know what sort of help to give, well, you can feel sad about that but you have to be strong to support them.’’

On Harmony Day, Clement has this message: “ You have to be proud of who you are and where you come from, and then look at the country you are living in and bring the two together.’’

* Clement’s role is being featured in recognition of Harmony Day, a national celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity. At Centacare, we strive to be inclusive, respectful and to grow a sense of acceptance and belonging for everyone. Our policies reflect this. #HarmonyDay


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Lana Dulic was just 11 when she fled Bosnia amid the turmoil of the Balkan war. Twenty-four years later, the Centacare social worker is drawing on her past to help others make sense of their future.


Three years ago Lana Dulic waded into the River Vrbas as for the first time as an adult.

Running through the city of Banja Luka, the River was the backdrop for her idyllic childhood before it was abruptly interrupted by the Balkan War in 1993.

Until then, Lana knew little of the conflict tearing her country apart by ethnic cleansing and the indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns.

“My parents did an absolutely incredible job of keeping us shielded from everything that was going on, so being 11, I didn’t really understand what was happening,’’ she says.

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“I had a really, really carefree childhood. We would swim in the river and there were lots of trees and greenery. It was so pretty. You could see the history of the world, all the influences, in our city so it was incredible.

“It’s in the aftermath, when you escape the war, when you reflect back and go, `wow, that was a bit rough’. There were incidents and situations when we obviously feared for our lives and were quite scared to even walk the streets, but that’s not how I think of my childhood.

“My memories are of me and my sister, Maja, playing with all our friends.’’

Lana’s father fled Bosnia – the former Yugoslavia – for Serbia first, and three months later the family followed.

“My mum and my sister and I caught a bus.

“By that time the whole country was war-torn but there was still some transport. The journey there wasn’t always pleasant for a lot of people, so I think we were relatively lucky being able to escape.

“Lucky for us we haven’t lost anyone in the war but then we had to leave and create a new life and that was a loss in itself.’’

Lana and her family arrived as refugees in Adelaide on July 27, 1996.

“The first day we just slept,’’ she remembers. “The following day, my parents being crazy resilient as they are, decided to catch a bus and look for the beach. Coming from the Adriatic Coast, you kind of expect the ocean to be magnificent, which it is – in summer!

“It was really freezing and we arrived in summer dresses and sandals. Not a good look for winter!

“Within a week we were ready to start our lives here but the emotional stuff was resolved over the years that followed.’’

Lana returned to Bosnia with her mother in 2000 and again in 2014.

“It took me six months to get over the holiday blues because I saw my family for the first time in 14 years. My cousins had had kids and all the changes I wasn’t part of was hitting hard at the time.’’

Inspired to welcome others into her adopted home country with “open arms’’, Lana forged a career in social science.

With a passion for suicide prevention and mental health, she joined Centacare’s ASCEND program, and now supports young people aged 12 to 24 through the Integrated Youth Substance Misuse Specialist Service, based at Stepney.

“My cultural background makes me who I am, and why I am empathetic and compassionate, and in that regard it helps me relate to my clients and understand that there are a number of different walks of life.

“My parents and I have never seen ourselves as people who have gone through something extraordinarily tough.

“The best thing Mum always tells me is, it’s life. The war was something that helped me build my resilience and go, yes, that was pretty full on, but at the same time it’s not the worst experience that we could have had.’’

Lana says Adelaide is now home, inside and out.

“My DNA was built in Bosnia, and when I go back there and smell the air and see the people, I feel a huge connection.

“But the fact is there is a huge difference between the reality of living there and the daydream of what I had as a child. I do love where I come from but Adelaide is home.’’


* Lana’s role is being featured in recognition of Harmony Day, a national celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity. At Centacare, we strive to be inclusive, respectful and to grow a sense of acceptance and belonging for everyone. Our policies reflect this. #HarmonyDay


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
E enquiries@centacare.org.au

Opening Hours

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

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