Andy Wong is wearing orange today to show that he condemns gender-based violence.

The Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Manager is standing in solidarity with others around the world who, like him, are determined to change it.

“As a man, I think it’s even more important to stand up to violence and say it’s not right,’’ said Andy, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“No one should have to live in fear, especially not children.’’

A FDR Practitioner for nearly a decade, Andy has seen the grim impact of domestic abuse on clients of all ages.

The children stick in his mind the most. Like the little boy who would cower, almost as if to shrink, when he heard a loud noise, or when he talked about his mum being sick.

“A lot of the time, domestic violence is just part of how they see life,’’ Andy said.

“It’s like someone telling you what they do for work; this is what some children work with every day. It’s very sad.’’

Research shows that relationship breakdown and separation is a time of increased risk of family violence.

Under Australian family law, separating couples must make a genuine effort to resolve disagreements through dispute resolution services before they can apply to the courts for parenting and financial orders, including care arrangements for children.

Through Centacare’s regional and metropolitan FDR services, Andy and his team each month support about 100 clients, of which 60 per cent disclose some form of emotional or physical abuse.

One in three of those clients have never been in contact with a specialist domestic violence support service.

“Often they don’t recognise what they are experiencing because, for them, the violence is normal,’’ Andy said.

“It’s not until they start talking to us that they start to see cycles of abuse.’’

In this context, FDR provides a vital safety net amid family breakdown, Andy said.

While specialist domestic violence services refer clients to his team, practitioners in turn seek their support for the mostly women who are at risk.

Andy said the safety of children in parenting matters was the priority, with greater weight given to the protection of children from harm when determining what is in their best interests.

“It becomes, what can we put in place so that both parents are safe from each other to ensure the children are too?’’

On a day that aims to raise understanding and awareness of the scourge of gender-based violence, Andy implored women to reach out for help.

“They are not alone – there is support out there,’’ he said.

*This year’s theme for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” As in previous years, the day will launch #16days of activism that will conclude on December 10, International Human Rights Day.

From practicing gratitude to morning meditation, Centacare staff found news ways to stay calm and client-focused amid the statewide circuit-breaker last week.

As South Australians were instructed to retreat to the familiarity of home, essential workers stayed put on the frontlines of community services to support those already grappling with complex issues.

Jess Sibley, a Family Support Worker, said the ever-present risk of COVID-19 magnified the cumulative effect of clients’ experiences, and demanded a new approach in service delivery.

“It’s challenging, as we need to think of new ways to engage and build rapport with clients, while also supporting them to feel safe and secure during these uncertain times,’’ said Jess, who splits her time between Coolock House and Louise Place.

Located at Morphett Vale and Fullarton respectively, the services provide 24-hour accommodation and support to young women who are pregnant or parenting. They have remained open throughout the health pandemic.

“Often, we are looked upon for answers and support when we struggle ourselves to understand the complexities that surround us as workers and individuals,’’ Jess said.

Young Family Support Program Team Leader Tarnia Parker (pictured), also based at Louise Place, said it was important to acknowledge the selflessness of staff across community services.

“While some of us have the flexibility to work from home, reducing our risks to ourselves and our families, these dedicated workers continue to have contact with the most vulnerable and transient client group, continuing Centacare’s genuine compassion and professional care,’’ she said.

Across town at Alban Place, Operations Manager Gabrielle Preston said staff had risen to the challenge and adapted quickly as needed. Centacare’s Integrated Youth Substance Misuse Specialist Service operates from the Stepney site, and provides care for young people aged 12 to 24 years with challenges around substance misuse.

“On Friday, prior to the great news of restrictions being eased, we attempted a morning meditation,’’ Gabrielle said “but we all got the giggles and agreed that laughter really was what we needed at that time!’’

Gabrielle said, even in the grip of COVID-19, there was much to be grateful for: “… living in Adelaide, working where we do – and, for cutting our travel time in half during our three days lockdown due to no traffic on the road!’’

In the north, Youth Case Worker Cathie McGoran said she felt a sense of calm at Carlow Place, despite chaotic scenes in shops and on the roads as the state rushed into a six-day lockdown last Wednesday.

Located at Elizabeth, Carlow Place provides emergency and 24-hour supported accommodation for eight young people aged 15 to 18 years who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

“All the young people coped really well,’’ Cathie said.

Of the four young people currently living at Carlow, three are new clients and one is a returning face.

“They have all settled in so well and are all getting along; it warms my heart to see them all supporting each other in these times,’’ Cathie said.

 

If it is unsafe at home, it is ok to leave.

That’s the message from Susie Smith, Manager of Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service, who today reiterated that specialist support remains available for individuals at risk of domestic and family violence across the state.

Co-Chair of Embolden, South Australia’s peak body of domestic, family and sexual violence services, Susie said the statewide lockdown would not necessarily lead to a rise in incidents, but it would compound the risks women faced from abusive partners.

“We would not expect a huge increase necessarily, in incidents, but rather, lockdowns or shutdowns make it much more difficult for victims to leave, seek help and get support,’’ she said.

“Having said that, families confined to their homes are less able to enact safety plans and stressful situations may be exacerbated.

“But we want to be really clear that lockdowns are not an excuse or reason for violence. Perpetrators, make a choice to use violence in the home. The responsibility sits squarely with them.

“The key message is, if it is unsafe at home it is ok to leave.’’

Centacare’s specialist domestic violence services in Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge, the Riverland and Whyalla are operating as normal during the lockdown, and continue to take referrals and enact safety plans.

Other support can be accessed through the state-wide Domestic Violence Gateway hotline, available 24/7 on 1800 800 098, and 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

 

 

`Tell someone who cares’ is the theme for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Action Week (8-14 November). The message is not lost on Clinical Nurse Annette Brown who experienced perinatal depression after the birth of her daughter. Annette is urging friends and family to reach out to new and expecting parents, so they know they are not alone.

 

A few weeks after the birth of her daughter, Annette Brown began to feel something wasn’t quite right.

Each day was morphing into a lonely battle for the then midwife and mental health nurse, who was living in a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia, with her newborn and one-year-old son.

With her husband away working, Annette was navigating motherhood solo, with limited resources and her only support on the end of a phone.

“It was like a simmering agitation,’’ Annette said.

“My parents would ring to see how I was, but I didn’t want to tell them I was struggling and just surviving each day, so I didn’t say anything at all.’’

Then came the weight loss, anxiety, negative self-talk and the unrelenting feeling of hopelessness.

Annette knew all the signs and was concerned for her wellbeing, but it wasn’t until a GP visited the community that she opened up.

“I told her I felt like I was in a big black hole that I couldn’t seem to get out of, and she told me I was describing postnatal depression,’’ she said.

Looking back, Annette attributes her struggle to the unresolved trauma of the loss of her first child, born stillborn, and the health difficulties her son faced in the months after his birth.

“My daughter was fine, she was healthy, but it was everything else; I hadn’t dealt with any of it,’’ she said.

When Annette and her husband moved to Roxby Downs months later, she launched Women of Roxby Downs, a support group for other mums experiencing similar challenges.

“Having other people to talk to, so you don’t feel you’re in it alone, is half the battle really,’’ said Annette, who is today a Clinical Nurse with Centacare’s Targeted Intervention Service (TIS).

Eight in 10 women Annette meets through TIS experience perinatal anxiety or depression, which is largely unspoken. Nationally, it affects one in five new mums and one in ten new dads.

TIS provides critical in-home supports for families with children aged 0 to 18, where early child wellbeing or safety risk factors have been identified.

Common challenges include childhood trauma, generational dysfunction, unemployment, drug and alcohol misuse, and domestic and family violence. These exacerbate the risk of perinatal challenges in the period from pregnancy to the first year after birth.

Annette said she had seen perinatal challenges manifest eating disorders, lifelong depression and, most commonly, poor attachment between parent and child.

“ A lot of times the mums we work with think they are just tired or, because they’ve not had good experiences with mainstream health care, they don’t prioritise their own needs for a variety of reasons.

“If it goes on longer than a month or two, it becomes a problem, because you are not getting any enjoyment out of parenting, you’re just going through the motions.’’

Annette said normalising perinatal and postnatal depression is essential and supports the chances of recovery: “The stigma around mental health, especially in parenting, still exists.

“We try and remove some of the barriers to mothers getting help, so they realise they are not alone and it’s not unusual to be feeling this way.’’

In Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Action Week, Annette is encouraging people to check in on family and friends with very young children.

“Ring them, talk to them, and offer your help because having a baby can be a really isolating and lonely time,’’ she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archbishop of Adelaide Patrick O’Regan has announced the appointment of Sarah McRae as the incoming Director of Centacare Catholic Family Services.

Centacare’s current Director Dale West announced his retirement in September after 32 years of service.

Dale has been an integral part of the growth of the organisation and has promoted a culture of inclusivity, community connection and client centeredness.

 

I congratulate Sarah on her appointment and look forward to meeting with her ahead of her arrival in early February. For over thirty years, I have had the honour to lead and be a part of the Centacare story. It is our staff and our clients that make Centacare what it is and what it will become. I have full confidence in Centacare’s future and that our staff will continue to provide programs that produce positive outcomes for clients and the communities they work in.
– Dale P. West

 

Currently chief operating officer of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network SA, Ms McRae will bring a wealth of leadership and operational experience that aligns with Centacare’s core values and mission.

Centacare employs nearly 600 staff and supports more than 34,000 South Australians each year across 74 community services.

With a strong focus on social justice, we support people in our community who have been marginalised and who are experiencing hardships and challenges in their lives.

The work and wisdom of Centacare practitioners is being shared Australia-wide by national infant and child mental health body Emerging Minds.

The organisation, which leads the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health (NWCCMH), sought Centacare’s input into key online resources and training, developed in response to the needs of professionals, children and their families.

Centacare Relationship Support Services (RSS) program managers Sally McLaren and Clare Klapdor were invited to reflect on a pilot e-learning course aimed at improving understanding of the effects of domestic and family violence on children, and the need for child focused practice when working with parents effected by abuse.

Launched in August, thousands of participants across the country have completed the course, which is offered at no charge.

“Initially, we interviewed the Centacare practitioners to understand their work context around family violence and children,’’ said Chris Dolman (pictured), NWCCMH Senior Workforce Development Officer.

“We then undertook a post-pilot interview where we asked a lot of questions about their experience of the course, what it offered their practice and areas for improvement.

“It gave us a deeper understanding of what practitioners gained from the content, as well as key learnings for future iterations.’’

A practice paper followed to support practitioners in their work with children who have experienced sexual abuse, with Clare and Sally providing input, together with Centacare’s Sun Dancing program.

“Our interest was in supporting generalist services to do good work with families and children prior to referral to specialist services which often have long waiting periods,’’ Chris said.

“Our conversations with Centacare were significant in terms of shaping the paper and sharpening our focus around areas of importance.’’

In recent months, RSS Family Relationship Counsellor Annette Flanagan has worked with Emerging Minds on telehealth practice principles.

“Practitioner wisdom is one of three types of evidence that informs our work and what I really value at Centacare is skilled people who can articulate their practice and share their extensive knowledge and experience.

“It helps us have confidence that what we are doing is going to be of benefit to the people who will be drawing from it in their day-to-day work.’’

RSS Executive Manager Lisa Osborne commended Centacare’s involvement.

“It has enabled Centacare to influence a national network of evidence-based practice; skilled practitioners who are doing fantastic work can make a contribution to the work of others in their sector,’’ she said.

In a year defined by immense challenges, positive client outcomes stand out in Centacare’s Annual Report 2019-2020.

Published today, the report explores the many ways staff responded to COVID-19, and the creativity and innovation it spawned across service delivery.

“With everyone playing their part, and the professionalism and resilience of each staff member in combination, we met the challenge of the disruption and found innovative ways to continue the support of our clients,” writes Director Dale West in the report.

Centacare supported 34,259 clients during the reporting period – up from 25,284 the previous year – with 565 staff delivering $52.6 million in programs across 34 sites in regional and metropolitan South Australia.

The biggest client growth was recorded by Corporate Services, with NDIS Plan Management increasing by 635 per cent, from 37 clients in 2018-2019 to 272 clients in the last financial year.

We welcomed nearly 100 new faces when Northern Carers Network joined forces with Centacare in the New Year.

This brought new areas of service delivery to our organisation including carer support and home care for aged care, and enabled Centacare to widen the reach of existing services such as NDIS Support Coordination.

Other achievements highlighted in the report include:

  • The launch of important research into vicarious trauma, which was commissioned by Centacare and undertaken by UniSA’s The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise. The research recognises the strength workers take from client stories, and how small wins inspire hope, resilience, self-worth and a sense of purpose.
  • The 10th anniversary of the Targeted Intervention Service, which has supported more than 1862 children and 832 families over the past decade.
  • How Sanctus House is helping Disability Services clients including Chris Young to push their own boundaries and build confidence.
  • Centacare’s success in reunifying adolescents in long-term out-of-home care with their birth families.
  • The trauma response provided by ACCESS Programs on Kangaroo Island in the wake of the devastating bushfires.
  • The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’s role in boosting the capacity of regional communities to keep at-risk families safe.
  • The role of traditional stories in shaping our understanding of Aboriginal culture, as highlighted in our Spirit of the Land campaign held during National Reconciliation Week.
  • National infant and child mental health body Emerging Minds sharing the wisdom of Centacare practitioners Australia-wide through key practice and digital projects.
  • The extraordinary efforts of Centacare foster carers in providing safety and stability to children and young people.

Download or read the report HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

*COVID-19 UPDATE: Effective November 17, 2020, Wandana Community Centre has suspended face-to-face support until further notice. In lieu of face-to-face support, telephone appointments can be made. ACE classes are currently suspended. Students attending term 4 ACE classes, accredited and non-accredited, will receive phone support. For more information, please phone 8216 6330 or email wandanacc@centacare.org.au

 

 

Laughter and friendly faces once again fill Wandana Community Centre.

The much-loved space has reopened to the public, exuding the welcoming spirit that has entrenched it in the heart of Gilles Plains over the past 20 years.

With a new face at the helm, and a packed activity diary, Wandana is bringing much-needed cheer and connectivity in the wake of trying times.

“We’re back,’’ says Manager Dijana Karaahmetovic, who began in the role last month, after joining Centacare from the Australian Refugee Association.

“We are open again and it’s an exciting time at Wandana.’’

For weeks the Centre was quiet, after face-to-face services were suspended and replaced with virtual and phone-based supports due to COVID-19.

But today the Blacks Rd site is abuzz with young and old, who have returned to learn new skills and forge friendships.

Many are new arrivals from Afghanistan, India, Poland, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, China, Iran, Turkey and beyond.

For them, the space is much more than just a place to meet; it’s a crucial entry point into the local community – and a new way of life.

Some are here for playgroup and social support, others for beginners English, accredited training, or to help out in Wandana’s thriving community garden.

“I think people often see community centres as just a place to hire, or to do fun activities, but they are so much more,’’ Dijana says.

“They are a place of acceptance and belonging, and are often the first point of support for people to connect with the services they need to find a pathway forward.’’

Dijana knows first-hand the challenges that come with settling in a foreign country, and the difference a place like Wandana can make in bridging cultural divides.

In 1996, aged 11, Dijana and her family arrived in Adelaide from Prijedor, Bosnia, on a humanitarian visa, seeking refuge from the Bosnian war.

She has drawn on this experience a lot over the past decade, while working in community development, youth services, and with humanitarian arrivals.

“When you belong to a certain community, you can easily get lost within that,’’ Dijana says.

“It’s important for your settlement, wellbeing, education, employment and for prospering as an individual, that you branch out.

“Wandana opens doors to new opportunities, for volunteering, friends and meeting people outside your cultural group.’’

Dijana hopes to build on the Centre’s reputation as an inclusive space while innovating along the way. There are plans for a homework club for secondary students, and for greater engagement with the Aboriginal community.

She would also like to grow Wandana’s dedicated band of volunteers.

“It’s heartwarming to see how many people want to support new arrivals to find their place in a new country and really excel in life,’’ Dijana says.

A Centacare reunification program has been recognised as a global leader in reuniting adolescents in long-term out-of-home care with their birth families.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal Children and Youth Services Review, an evaluation of the Adolescent Reunification Program (ARP) by University of Adelaide’s Paul Delfabbro found the model has “few parallels anywhere in the world’’ and has “considerable potential’’ to see more young people exit long-term care if it is replicated.

Of the 36 families who participated in the pilot during the evaluation period between July 2017 and December 2019, 16 (two-thirds) returned home successfully for at least six months or longer.

The results defy national and international research trends that show reunification is highly unlikely if children do not return home within the first one to two years of being in care.

Statistics show there were 44,900 children in out-of-home care nationally at the end of June 2019, with around two in 1000 children aged under 18 years entering care each year.

“The Adolescent Reunification Program has provided a rare exit-point for young people in long-term care,’’ said Sam Carpenter, Manager.

“Many young people do not experience a stable family placement through their care journey, whereas birth families can be enduring sources of care and identity.

“By believing in and supporting families, we have been part of some incredibly positive changes for numerous young people, and for the child protection system itself.”

Among the 36 participating families were 46 children aged 12 – 17 years who had spent, on average, 7.3 years in care when the reunification process started.

Domestic violence, substance abuse and maltreatment including neglect, were among the most common risk factors contributing to the young person being placed in care. Parental mental illness and housing issues including homelessness were also common.

The ARP used solution-focused case management and therapeutic interventions to address intergenerational trauma in order to repair and strengthen the parent-child bond.

Each family was assigned one case manager who supported them for up to 12 months, or longer as required.

Important elements included drawing a link between past experiences of trauma and previous or current behaviour, therapeutic relationship repair and open communication between ARP workers, families and the Department for Child Protection.

“Because many families referred to the program experienced periods of separation, interspersed with trauma and loss, it has been important to look for opportunities to support families to reconnect and understand their journey together,’’ Sam said.

“The team is informed by our unit’s Therapeutic Framework and approaches families from a therapeutic, strengths-based perspective rather than simply supporting with rules and boundaries.’’

The ARP evaluation involved a mixed methods approach through quantitative and qualitative data. Interviews with 12 families and Centacare workers highlighted the program’s strengths-based approach which encouraged families to recognise the causes of their problems.

For example, a mother who began to draw a connection between her own substance use and how this affected her parenting and her child.

The strengths-based approach was also beneficial in cases where reunification was unsuccessful, with some young people becoming more assertive about what they wanted from their placements and the future, including preparing for independent living options.

The evaluation highlighted:

  • Reunification was aided by the foundations of good, existing relationships where contact was maintained throughout the young person’s time in care.
  • The flexibility and non-judgmental nature of ARP workers.
  • The ARP offered a responsive balance of practical and therapeutic interventions to families.
  • Effective collaboration and information sharing between services, which allowed for a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to problem-solving with families.
  • Consistent contact between families and ARP workers which fostered confidence and a sense of empowerment in parents.

 

Centacare and Zahra Foundation Australia have joined forces to support women to rebuild their lives in the wake of domestic violence.

Together we are delivering Pathways to Empowerment, a weekly course to help women reconnect with their sense of self, their personal values, and set goals for the future.

The course runs each Wednesday at Murray Bridge and is supported by the Murray Mallee & Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service.

In 2019-20, the Murray Bridge-based service supported 288 clients (195 women and 93 children) compared with 243 clients in 2018-19.

Counselling and education plays a crucial role in breaking cycles of violence by empowering women to make informed decisions, shed feelings of shame, and begin to plan for their recovery.

For more information or to register, please email admin@zahrafoundation.org.au or phone Zahra Foundation Australia on (08) 8352 1889.

Centacare

Meeting the Challenge

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

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