Christmas cannot come quickly enough for foster carers Bindee and Karen.

This is their first Christmas as a family, after welcoming two Aboriginal siblings into their hearts and home in April this year.

“This Christmas is extra special because we have two little humans to celebrate with us,’’ Bindee says, “and for them it will be special because we are their forever home.’’

The boys will wake to stockings filled with love and a new swing set and cubby on Christmas morning.

“We can’t wait,’’ Karen says. “I just hope we can build it! It’s in pieces at the moment out the back.’’

Last Christmas, the couple were about half-way through the assessment process to become long-term foster carers with Centacare.

They were compelled to make a positive difference in young lives after a life-changing trip to South Africa where they met countless orphans in need of loving homes.

Moved by the children’s plight, Bindee and Karen vowed to do more for others when they returned home to Australia.

They turned to Centacare Foster Care, initially intending to foster one child.

“We didn’t expect to have brothers, but these two have completed our puzzle and filled the hole in our hearts,’’ Bindee says.

“We are content now.’’

The brothers are on long-term orders under the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection, meaning they will be in the couple’s care until they turn 18.

Long-term foster carers support children to thrive and grow into a confident, secure and prepared young people, ready for independence and adulthood.

“We are going to be there to support them, no matter what, with whatever they want to do,’’ Bindee says.

“With a little love and nurture from the right people, they can achieve anything.’’

A little pair of Marvel pyjamas remind Kailah Ladhams of why she comes to work each day.

Folded neatly, with a toothbrush and teddy, the pyjamas were in a backpack she gave to the son of her first client at Malvern Place.

“I’ll never forget how excited he was when he opened the bag,’’ says Kailah, a Family Support Worker.

“He just couldn’t believe he had his own pyjamas and that he got to keep them.’’

For children who come to Malvern Place with nothing, the backpacks mean everything.

“Usually it’s just mum and baby; they might have a pram or capsule but that’s it,’’ Kailah says.

“To be the person who gives a child their backpack is very rewarding. I like that first point of contact.’’

It’s a fleeting chance to make them feel comfortable and safe amidst the immediate chaos that’s brought them to Malvern Place, usually in crisis.

Based at Blair Athol, the service provides support and emergency, short-term, transitional and community accommodation for young pregnant or parenting women, aged 25 or under, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The majority of clients present with domestic and sexual violence, drug and alcohol misuse and mental health challenges, says Kailah: “`It’s more than just not having a place to go. A lot of the time their families have broken down or they’ve experienced trauma themselves as children.

“I think of one young woman: She had no family. She saw her dad die when she was young and her mum had huge drug and alcohol issues. She’s never known stability.

“When she came here, she had no one but her baby, and they were fleeing a violent relationship.’’

At Malvern, the young woman blossomed. She was supported to develop parenting and independent living skills, and learned to cook and manage a household budget.

“She has long-term housing, she’s reached her goals and is out of crisis which is great, but it’s hard to let her go,’’ Kailah says.

“There are so many layers to homelessness, and so many stories.

“We’ve got girls here that don’t even know how to make their beds. I’ve had girls ask me what a mattress protector is because in their home, where they were brought up, they didn’t have sheets on the bed or a pillowcase.

“They don’t know how to cook or pay bills so they can be bankrupt at 19. They just slide through life by trial and error.’’

Case Manager of the emergency unit, one of six two-bedroom independent living units on site, Kailah coordinates client supports, transport and, when necessary, acts as an advocate, liaising with other community services and government departments.

Clients can stay in the emergency unit with 24-hour for up to two weeks.

In 2018/19, Malvern Place supported 52 women and 63 children. The youngest mum was aged 16 years.

“ I love that with the service has an open door policy,” Kailah says. “If things don’t work out the first or second time, clients can re-refer.

“Change takes time. Young women who are fleeing unsafe homes might try several times before they leave permanently.

“It takes courage to come back and keep trying. I feel privileged to see that and support them so they have every opportunity to get set on a new path.’’

Kailah says her role has made her stronger over the past two years. She appreciates her own life much more and has grown in resilience.

“I think I already did have empathy and compassion but you have more when you understand why these young women get to the point that they do,’’ she adds.

“People don’t know the history, and where it started from and why. Some of them had no chance with the upbringing they had.’’

 

 

A dedicated band of volunteers is keeping the spirit of Christmas alive at Aldinga.

Every year for nearly a decade the volunteers have rallied around strangers, forfeiting time with their own families on Christmas day to bring cheer to the isolated, lonely and those doing it tough.

This Christmas Day will be no different as months of preparation culminate in the annual community lunch for more than 100 adults and children.

At the door to welcome them will be Centacare’s Anne Nielsen.

For the past eight years, Anne has taken bookings for the event and coordinated the volunteers who donate their time and goods to put on a traditional Christmas spread, complete with all the trimmings.

“Everyone leaves with a full tummy, warm hearts, gifts and extra bags of fruit, veggies and other goodies,’’ Anne says.

“And the kids walk away with sacks full of presents from Father Christmas. It’s a special day for everyone’’

Anne says the lunch provides some much-needed relief and a meaningful reason to celebrate for those facing life challenges and financial pressures.

“Some people come every year but there are always new faces; those who hear about it from others or are invited by a community worker to come along.

“This year I’ve noticed more individual bookings coming through.’’

Local resident Trevor Blackwell began the tradition which has grown with the support of local businesses and community organisations including Bendigo Bank, Louis Place Café, Drakes, The Salvation Army, Centacare, St Vincent de Paul, Aldinga Institute Hall Committee, Lions Den, and Communities for Children to name only a few.

 

Growing up in an environment of fear and domestic violence takes a toll on children.

They see and hear the abuse of a parent, and sometimes their pets, and are exposed to threats of harm in the one place they are meant to feel safe – their home.

They may feel guilty for being unable to protect their parent, blame themselves for the abuse, or even step in to try and stop the violence.

When children experience this sort of trauma, their bodies, brains and behaviour adapt in an effort to protect them.

This can cause changes in their behaviour that may be confusing and distressing for parents.

Kay Buckley is a Family Relationship Educator at Centacare and delivers the Keeping Families Safe workshop.

The aim is to empower parents to understand their child’s behaviour, strengthen their relationship and support the child’s healing in the wake of domestic violence.

“When children have experienced trauma, parenting strategies that were used before might not work so well anymore,’’ Kay said.

“If parents don’t understand why, they may misinterpret their child’s behaviour and wind up feeling frustrated, helpless and resentful.’’

At the workshop, parents learn how trauma effects brain development and the way a child responds to the world.

“Perhaps their child is withdrawn or is being overly perfect because they are too frightened to make a mistake,’’ Kay said.

“It might be that school says your child has slipped back a bit and we are not quite sure what’s going on.’’

More overt behaviours could include giving up easily, being abusive towards a parent, and fighting with their peers.

“If you’ve had to manage domestic conflict all of your little life, you are on high alert all the time; it’s exhausting,’’ Kay said.

At the workshop, parents are empowered to:

  • Identify triggers and recognise patterns of behaviour
  • Respond and not react
  • Observe without judgement
  • Set realistic expectations for their child and the parent/child relationship
  • Focus on their own healing as well as their child’s

The next Keeping Families Safe – Picking Up The Pieces workshop will be held on February 11, 2020, from 10am to midday, at 45 Wakefield St, Adelaide. For more information, phone Centacare 8215 6700.

Domestic and family violence is not confined to home – abuse can follow individuals everywhere, including to work.

Understanding and responding to domestic violence in the workplace is the focus of a three-hour workshop being held in Berri today as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Under the guidance of Dr Katrina Birchmore, Manager, Women’s Safety Strategy, Women’s and Children’s Health Network, businesses will be taught how to recognise and act on early warning signs of abuse.

A joint collaboration between Centacare’s Riverland Domestic Violence Service (RDVS) and Housing SA, the initiative is part of a local community push to widen the safety net for adults and children at risk.

RDVS Manager Sam McKay said one of the best ways employers can protect workers from domestic violence is to learn to recognise warning signs of abuse.

“Many people think domestic violence is a private matter which only happens at home, but abusive behaviours can infiltrate every aspect of a person’s life including their workplace,’’ she said.

“It is usually a pattern of behaviour and the level and type of violence used by a perpetrator to control, coerce and intimidate can escalate quickly.

“If employers pay attention to warning signs and know how to respond and who to refer people to for specialist support in their local community, they can help prevent serious harm.’’

Sam said victims were often particularly vulnerable at work because the perpetrator knew where and when to find them.

How to recognise an employee is at risk

Changes in a person’s appearance, personality, habits, work performance and behaviour can be indicators of domestic and family violence. Common warning signs include:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing for the season to conceal injuries
  • Regularly arriving late to work or taking sick leave
  • Decreased work productivity, concentration and performance
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Unusually anxious
  • Keeps to themselves and ceases usual interaction with colleagues
  • Sensitive about their private life
  • Appears afraid or anxious after receiving some phone calls and messages

“Once a workplace knows how and what to look out for, they are able to act,’’ Sam said.

“It’s important they are aware. Women in general are probably more aware of what’s going on for other women because of female intuition.

“Men can see those signs as well but they might not want to pry or don’t believe it’s their place to say anything. But it’s important they act on their instincts if they have immediate concerns about someone’s safety.’’

How Centacare supports staff and volunteers

Centacare is leading the way in supporting workers and volunteers at risk of domestic violence.

In what is believed to be a state-first for non-government organisations in South Australia, Centacare has gone one step further than the minimum domestic and family violence leave requirement in order to assist workers to stay safe.

Employees can now access at least 15 days domestic and family violence leave each year, including upto 10 days paid and a from five days unpaid leave.

The updated leave entitlements are outlined in the Domestic and Family Violence Workplace Policy and Procedure, which was endorsed on February 25, 2019.

The entitlements follow a Fair Work Commission decision on August 1, 2018, to update all industry and occupation awards to include a minimum five days unpaid domestic and family violence leave per year.

Centacare’s policy extends to developing an accountability framework for perpetrators, and safety planning for those at risk.

“Centacare acknowledges that a supportive place of employment constitutes an important pathway for men and women to reduce the effects of domestic and family violence,’’ said Director Dale West said.

“Employment is critical to women’s financial security. It can provide a pathway out of being trapped and isolated in violent and abusive relationships, and allows women to maintain, as far as possible, their home, safety and standard of living.’’

The policy applies to all workers, including those who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic and family violence, and those who perpetrate, and is inclusive of volunteers and students on placement.

Full-time, part-time and casual staff with no pre-qualifying employment period can access the leave.

Except that volunteers can’t access paid entitlements

Bold. Empowering. A voice for positive change. Meet, Embolden!

South Australia’s peak body of domestic, family and sexual violence services has a new name, and is more determined than ever to fight for women’s freedom, equity, safety and respect.

Embracing the gold colour of women’s suffrage, and the light of the sun as its emblem, Embolden is the new  identity for what was previously known as the Coalition of Women’s Domestic Violence Services SA.

The rebranded alliance will continue to lobby and advocate to end domestic violence but has widened its focus to include gender-based violence.

`Embolden’ means to give or to take on boldness or courage; to have resolution enough to overcome.

“Embolden, as we are now known, will work with all governments and civil society to ensure our strategic focus broadens beyond the South Australian domestic and family violence sector,’’ said Susie Smith, Co-Chair of Embolden, and Manager of Centacare’s Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service.

“We are lifting our gaze to not only define ourselves by what we are against, but what we are proudly fighting for – nothing less than the universal achievement of women’s freedom, equity and respect.’’

Embolden has worked closely with Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink and Assistant Minister for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Carolyn Power to develop its vision, brand and strategic direction.

The alliance aims to embolden both survivors and the sector to make their voices heard. Embolden will:

  • Represent providers of specialist services in the domestic, family and sexual violence and related sectors, including services that work with men who use violence against women and Aboriginal specialist services
  • Consult and collaborate with Government and non-Government on issues relating to gendered violence and women’s safety
  • Provide policy advice and submissions
  • Coordinate events and community action promoting women’s rights to freedom, equity and respect

For more information, visit Embolden HERE

A pilot project in Mount Gambier is giving at-risk women a much-needed space to share their story and find hope in one another.

The six-week Stepping Out With Strength group brings together women who are rebuilding their lives in the wake of domestic and family violence.

Centacare South East began the group in October to address a gap in post-crisis supports for women.

Family Relationship Counsellor Deb Jackson says the group has helped participants to understand the impact of abuse on their sense of self, decision-making and their children.

“It has helped them to set aside any feelings that they had failed, or that they were to blame in some way for the violence,’’ she said.

Common themes raised by the women include social isolation, maternal alienation, and overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame.

Deb said post-crisis supports which empowered women to make informed decisions and understand perpetrator use of power and control were vital in maintaining their safety and breaking cycles of domestic violence.

“The trauma that’s experienced is ongoing; it can really impact people’s lives for years to come, and also their children,’’ she said.

“Some of the women are noticing their children are exhibiting some harmful behaviours so they have been helping each other with strategies for that and really sharing the pain of what their children are going through.’’

Supported by Soroptomists International Mount Gambier, a Mount Gambier church and a local bakery, the group will meet next week for the final session this term, and will have a celebration luncheon the week after.

Centacare South East plans to repeat the group early next year, during the first school term.

“A lot of the time, women don’t share openly with friends or family because they haven’t walked the same journey,’’ Deb said.

“So it’s really powerful to be in a group where you know other people just get where you are coming from and can relate when you share experiences and open up.’’

Centacare is committed to create safety and inclusivity for everyone who accesses our services.  We would like your feedback regarding your understanding of Centacare services and anything we currently do, or could do, in order to better meet your needs.

Centacare provides a number of support services for families and children.  We would like to hear your opinion on play group opportunities for children (under 12) who identify as gender and/or sexually diverse, and also for parents who identify as gender and/or sexually diverse and their children, as to whether this is something that you think is needed in South Australia and/or if this is something that you would be interested in attending if we were able to develop these services.

Thank you for your time.

Fancy playing cricket on the Murray River? How about chasey or a game of tag?

Lyall Willis does all that and more – in an open top kayak – as part of a Communities for Children-funded program run at Murray Bridge.

Beyond Kayaking has engaged about 1000 adults and children since it began eight years ago.

The initial aim was to bring families together for fun on the water but the program has achieved much more, says Lyall, a Family Practitioner at Centacare.

In addition to building confidence, communication skills and resilience in children aged up to 12 years, Beyond Kayaking nurtures mindfulness parenting.

This strengthens familial bonds and helps to hone parenting skills.

“It’s not just about the kids, it’s about the parents having a break as well, and the kids are part of that which is pretty unique,” Lyall says.

“There’s a mutual encouragement and respect built between them. Parents will say it’s the highlight of their week to be able to come out here, because the kids just want to be part of something with them.

“It’s great to see parents have a new level of engagement with their child in an environment that they’re both not 100 per cent confident in, and for the kids to look to their parent for that safety and guidance.”

For more information about Beyond Kayaking and where to find Lyall, phone our Murray Bridge office 8215 6320.

Meet Centacare’s fab four – the young guns determined to inspire a new generation of disability workers.

Together they help run much-loved Kolbe Cottage, a respite service for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

For more than 35 years, Kolbe has been a home away from home for children aged five to 18 years and, most recently, adults.

At 26, Support Worker Lauren Glenn is the oldest of Kolbe’s new age of staff bringing their own brand of energy to work each day.

“I can’t imagine not being here; I was working in retail before and it wasn’t nearly as stimulating or rewarding,” said Lauren, who followed her mother (longtime Centacare Disability Support Worker, Fiona Glenn) into the field in early 2019.

“There are endless opportunities. Every day is different.”

Team Leader Tahlia Bray, 25, also made the jump from retail to disability services. After completing a Certificate III in Disability, Tahlia joined Centacare in 2017. She would like to see career pathways in disability given a greater profile in schools to encourage more young people to follow in her footsteps.

“My high school was directly opposite a service provider and not once were we given any education around disability or encouraged to pursue it as a career choice,” she said. “The energy we have all formed with each other as a staff group flows on to our clients, and that makes for a lot of fun.”

Zimbabwe-born Anesu Matanhire, 22, hopes to one day return to his homeland to apply the skills and knowledge he has gained as a Support Worker with Centanet, a day options program based at Kolbe.

“Sometimes as people, we are the disability by not being there for others; society becomes the disability instead of just the diagnosis,” he said. “Watching the young people we work with participate in the community just like anybody else, and knowing we have played a part in helping them do that, is pretty big.”

To those contemplating a career in disability, 25-year-old Raymond Donato’s message is simple: “Go for it! Speaking out for people and helping them is really rewarding.”

Centacare is a registered NDIS provider. For more information about the supports we offer, please phone 8215 6818, email disability@centacare.org.au or visit our website.

 

 

Centacare

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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