Centacare is playing a key role nurturing the mental health of young people living in rural South Australia. Through the Supporting Children & Youth (SCY) program, we work with families to build their resilience and overcome challenges in their lives.   


Every week, Centacare’s Supporting Children & Youth  team travels hundreds of kilometres to bring sunshine to the bush.

An early intervention mental health outreach service operating across the Murray, Mid Murray, Coorong and Mallee regions, SCY supports children and young people who are showing early signs, or are at risk, of mental illness.

For many families, the free Murray Bridge-based service is their only support.

From Morgan to Pinnaroo, Mount Pleasant and Tintinara, SCY engages children aged 0 to 18 years to improve their wellbeing and overcome challenges.

These include family breakdown, grief and loss, bullying, loneliness, peer pressure, low self-esteem and self-labelling.

“Being the voice for a child is very rewarding as quite often their voice will go unheard,” says Morgan, a Family Practitioner who joined SCY in 2019.

“Engaging and supporting young people to reach their full potential by overcoming short-term anxiety, depression or grief and loss is truly powerful.’’

Through one-on-one and group support at schools, and onsite at Centacare in Murray Bridge, SCY provides intensive long-term early intervention, short-term supports, and opportunities for young people to reconnect to community through place-based activities.

Manager Mark Draper says service referrals continue to grow, highlighting the need for other non-clinical services in the region. Typically, referrals come from schools, service providers and SAPOL. Some young people self-refer.

In the wake of COVID-19, the team has increased its digital capacity to provide on-the-spot paperless support to families to help them overcome the challenges of limited online access and resources.

“Parents and schools are so appreciative of SCY’s support because we will come to them,’’ says Naomi, Family Practitioner.

“When you live in a remote location, distance is a huge barrier to accessing supports for your children if that requires taking them out of school to make the four-hour round trip.’’

Research shows social isolation can exacerbate life stressors in vulnerable families, with the rate of suicide in rural Australia about 40 per cent higher than in major cities. Drug and alcohol use and smoking is also more prevalent.

SCY Family Practitioner Alison feels privileged to work with young people as they navigate childhood and adolescence.

“Just saying to a child ‘buddy, I believe in you’ can be powerful for them and for their parents,’’ she says.

“Some young people have challenging behaviours but every young person we work with is awesome. If they can see this and believe in themselves, and understand how to react in certain situations, a lot of positive change can happen.

“When you support a young person around their unmet needs or goals, they look at you with this beam – it’s very rewarding.’’

For more information about SCY, please phone Centacare Murray Bridge 8215 6320 or email murraybridge@centacare.org.au







People struggling to cope with the chaos and fear surrounding COVID-19 can now access free phone counselling by appointment from Centacare Catholic Family Services.

In response to the health emergency, Centacare has increased capacity to provide telephone support for mental health concerns, family stress due to job loss, social isolation and other challenges arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

People do not need a mental health care plan to access the short-term support. Rather, they can phone Centacare direct and book an appointment for a telephone counselling consultation.

Specialist Clinician Elaine Reynolds said it was crucial people did not go it alone at a time when unprecedented social measures were keeping friends and families apart, exacerbating challenges for those already at risk.

“In extreme moments like this, the options for personal control are severely limited, so there are a lot of people feeling lost, powerless and anxious,’’ Elaine said.

“The worries and what-ifs surrounding COVID-19 are enormous, and the ramifications of this can be gut-wrenching for many people.’’

People can phone Centacare between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, to make a daytime or evening appointment. The telephone counselling service is inclusive, non-judgmental and unconditional.

“Centacare wishes to offer a connection to those who seek counselling, strategies, or ways of working through individual, family or relationship issues, without having to leave their home,’’ Deputy Director Pauline Connelly said.

“In isolation with families, what once may have been an irritant can become an aggravator, and what once was a disappointment can lead to confusion and disturbance in one’s thinking.

“Seeking help early at these times, through phone counselling, can offer relief and provide a pathway to a new normal.”

To book an appointment for COVID-19 telephone counselling, please phone Centacare on 8215 6700. 

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.

Collaborative practice in the north is giving vulnerable young people broader access to crucial support networks.

Centacare is one of many organisations working together to wrap services around clients who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“When the community resources and funding are less than ever, you have to be creative and proactive in getting things to happen,’’ says Tina Breen, Senior Social Worker at our Outer North Youth Homelessness Service. 

“Over the past 12 months we have really focussed on setting up what we call a care team for each young person.

“That means pulling in anybody that’s connected to that young person, and really strongly and purposefully collaborating together; we value what each service can bring to the table and work out how we can cross-services the young person to meet their needs.

“It’s about what we can do together as a sector to give young people the best chance of positive outcomes.’

The approach is giving young people access to multiple services at the same time so they don’t have to navigate complex systems alone, says Tina.

“I went to a meeting yesterday with 12 different agencies supporting one person.

“There is a huge possibility he’ll have really good outcomes because he’s got so much support wrapped around him.

“It’s a really strong community to work in.’’

Homelessness Week is an annual week coordinated by Homelessness Australia to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions.

National Families Week begins today. To celebrate the vital role that families play in the community, we will be highlighting some of the many ways Centacare supports families to thrive. Today we look at our Children’s Services Unit which celebrates the diversity in community and believes in providing families with opportunities.


Each year, Centacare’s Children’s Services Unit (CSU) provides support to about 340 families and 600 children across metropolitan Adelaide, the Murraylands, Mount Gambier, and the Riverland.

We aim to build parenting capacity that is sustained long-term through the provision of family supports, therapeutic interventions, the development of parenting and relationship skills and connection to community resources.

We work with families to identify and harness their strengths, build confidence and address challenges. These may include drug and alcohol misuse, mental health, domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and abuse and neglect.

Our multidisciplinary teams consist of social workers, nurses, counsellors, therapists, administration, management and leadership.

“We work with vulnerable families to create sustained change; even the most marginal family deserves supports,’’ says Leanne Haddad, Executive Manager.

“The rewards are invaluable when families can stay together in a safe and supported environment.’’

We offer a number of programs for families, children and young people, from parenting groups, to home visiting programs, family support services, targeted intervention, specialist dad support, family preservation, reunification programs and specialist foster care services.

Staff work with the families to identify risks and target support to mitigate challenges impacting their capacity to parent.

“Therapy is provided alongside in-home supports to families,’’ Leanne says. “This is a crucial element that can lead to sustained change. The therapy addresses the underlying factors that often cause the at-risk behaviours.’’

How we can support you

Click on the links to explore our CSU programs and services

From jumping castles to kayaking, we have school holiday fun covered for kids!


Children’s Fun Day at Wandana Community Centre

When: Thursday, April 26

Ages: 5 to 15 years

Time: 10am to 1pm

Free activities! Rock climbing, jumping castle, arts and crafts, and a BBQ. Sausage sizzle $2.

Please call 8261 8124 to book your child’s place. Children aged under five years must be accompanied by a parent/adult.


Beyond Kayaking 

Communities for Children is holding a kayaking program at four locations across the Murraylands. Come and have some fun with the kids on easy to use sit on top double kayaks. All equipment is supplied. Just bring a hat, water, sunscreen and solid soled shoes (no thongs please). Sit on top kayaks are wide and stable for beginners, and provide great fun for children. Please phone Lyall at Centacare 8215 6320 to book your session.

  • Murray Bridge @ Long Island

Monday, April 16

10am to 12 noon and 1pm-3pm


  • Swanport Reserve

Thursday, April 9

10am to 12 noon and 12.30pm to 3pm


  • Murray Bridge @ Sturts Reserve

Tuesday, April 24

9am to 10.30am


  • Mypolonga

Tuesday, April 24

12 noon to 3pm



National Child Protection Week (September 3-9) is an opportunity for everyone in the community to think about how we can work together to keep all children safe.

Centacare will mark the start of this important week with a special event at our Wakefield St office on Monday, from 10.30am.

Hosted by Seven Network presenter Rosanna Mangiarelli, the event will explore the theme `It takes strength…’

It takes strength to be a voice for children. It takes strength for families to overcome challenges in their lives. It takes strength to make positive change.

As part of the event, Rosanna will interview a panel of child protection experts, with a focus on the role Centacare is playing in supporting vulnerable children and families.

You can play a part in this too! Even small actions can help to improve a child’s future. By building stronger communities, we are creating safer environments for our children.

Wondering how you can help? NAPCAN has these tips:

  • Be a good role model for children
  • Be kind to children, parents (and yourself!)
  • Take the time to really listen to children and believe them if they tell you something
  • Learn about what help services are available so you can support others if they need help
  • Don’t judge other parents and families; remember that we’re all trying our best
  • Look out for all children, not just your own
  • Be a friendly, helpful member of your local community
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask someone if they need help
  • Check out our  these Tip Sheets for more ideas about how to play your part



#ncpw #playyourpart #Centacare #childprotection

Traumatic events in a person’s life can put them on a multi-directional path to homelessness. Understanding the impact of childhood trauma is driving Centacare’s support of vulnerable young people in the north.


It is easy to make assumptions about people living homeless: they’re tearaways, lazy, they should just get a job…

But it is the invisible pain cloaking their plight that’s guiding Centacare’s trauma informed care of young people living homeless in the north and Barossa Valley.

“I don’t think most people recognise the extent of how trauma effects people’s lives and their core,’’ says Megan Welsh, Executive Manager, Youth and Community Support Services.

“At the heart of their troubles is often years of immense sadness that’s hard to fathom when they’re still so young.

“Rather than punish and entrench that trauma, we try to repair and resolve it, and that in itself is quite complex because everybody’s experiences are different.’’

This is requiring a greater understanding of the challenges that precipitate homelessness, how adolescents act out as a result of experiencing childhood trauma, and the impact this has on the way Centacare supports them.

In response, the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS) has adopted a trauma-informed approach to increase our capacity to support vulnerable young people beyond therapeutic and other traditional interventions.

The focus is as much on youth case workers as it is on those at risk.

“You hear a lot of stories, you feel a lot of pain and see a lot of distress,’’ says Tina Breen (pictured), Senior Social Worker. “That can sneak up on you.’’

Reflective practice and supervision is used to encourage staff self-care, and their work is guided by trauma informed policies and procedures.

A 2015 Pegasus Economics report shows unresolved trauma, and its long-term impact on an adult’s wellbeing, costs the nation about $7.8 billion each year.

In 15/16, the ONYHS supported 549 people (348 females and 201 males). Of these, 281 were homeless at intake, 218 were experiencing mental health issues and 57 were fleeing family or domestic violence.

“Most of the young people we see present with complex trauma: repeated episodes of abuse and neglect as a child is common,’’ Tina says.

“Developmental trauma linked to poor attachment and neglect is compounded by other risk factors, such as domestic violence, substance abuse and family breakdown, putting them on a multi-directional path to homelessness.

“As a result, they have less capacity to function so they might self-medicate or end up being the victim of further abuse, such as rape, or put themselves in violent situations because they don’t have the ability to act and respond and make decisions like everybody else.’’

Embedding a deeper understanding of trauma across the ONYHS is helping staff predict and more thoughtfully respond to young people’s reactions to some supportive interventions.

For example, a teenager’s refusal to eat may be due to deprivation or denial of food as a child.

“We might think we’re helping offering them a piece of toast if they’re feeling unwell, but what they see in that is a very scary, threatening act that makes them feel highly vulnerable,’’ Tina says.

Over recent months, the ONYHS has adopted a trauma informed approach to its psychosocial assessment at intake to avoid young people reliving painful events in their past.

In addition, to provide consistent support, limit disruption and foster stability, one youth case worker now works during the day at Carlow Place, Monday to Friday.

“Taking responsibility for understanding how trauma impacts their past allows us to make more informed responses in the support we provide to each young person,’’ Tina says.

*This week we are marking Homelessness Week (August 7-13). The national campaign aims to raise awareness of the experiences and challenges faced by people living out of home. The theme of this year’s week is ‘Action and Innovation‘ and we will be highlighting some of the ways we are supporting young people to stay safe, remain connected with their communities, and build their independence. Centacare provides specialist youth homelessness services, and accommodation support for women and children experiencing domestic violence, in regional and metropolitan South Australia.

#HW2017 #endhomelessness and #innovationinhomelessness





Centacare’s culture, client-focussed approach, values and community influence have been independently recognised as exceeding expectations for quality improvement.

Recently our organisation was awarded Quality Innovation Performance (QIP) accreditation  against the Quality Innovation Council (QIC) Standards.

Accreditation against these standards recognises our 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.

“This is a huge achievement for Centacare,’’ said Director Dale West. “It is an acknowledgment of the commitment and dedication of staff who strive, every day, to provide the best possible support to clients who are always at the centre of everything we do.’’

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

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

“There is no tokenism in the way this organisation operates or works,’’ the QIC accreditation report states.

“There is a strong and clear congruence between the values and mission of the organisation and what the organisation does, and how it does it.’’

AGPAL Group CEO, Dr Stephen Clark, commended Centacare for this achievement.

“Centacare has clearly worked very hard and successfully implemented a range of policies and procedures to ensure continuous improvement within their organisation,’’ he said.

For the past 74 years, Centacare has worked to support people in reaching their full potential so they can participate in the community, regardless of their circumstances.

Today, we deliver more than 80 services – underpinned by the values and principles of Catholic Social Teaching – in 35 sites across metropolitan and regional South Australia.

Centacare first earned QIC accreditation in 2004.

External accreditation assessments occur every three years. Centacare strives to consistently meet and exceed practice ratings for standards across the organisation.


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
E enquiries@centacare.org.au

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

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