Four-time AFL premiership player Shaun Burgoyne has lent his voice to the Power to End Violence Against Women program to challenge gender-based abuse.

Speaking at a Role Model Event at AFL Max last week, Burgoyne urged school students and their adult role models to join him in condoning disrespectful relationships.

The event was a follow-up to the PTEVAW program, which starts conversations with male Year 10 students around rights and responsibilities in relationships, and how to recognise abuse and be a positive bystander.

PTEVAW program coordinator and Magpies captain Cam Sutcliffe, and Port Adelaide Football Club development coach Tyson Goldsack, joined Burgoyne on a panel to implore the boys to model positive relationships, values and respect in all facets of life.

The event further cemented messages around healthy and unhealthy relationships and was an opportunity for students to share learnings with their own significant role model.

Centacare, in partnership with Power Community Ltd and the Government of South Australia, developed the Power To End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program in 2015.

Launched in classrooms the following year, the primary prevention initiative has engaged more than 9000 students and visited 128 schools.

Living with anxiety is not easy, let alone at Christmas.

The rushing around and relentless focus on family, friends, gifts and social events can amplify day-to-day challenges and heighten worries.

In the lead-up to Christmas, headspace Port Adelaide is running Stress Less, a group to help young people recognise stress responses in daily life and apply techniques to manage symptoms.

“A lot of the time, young people don’t know they are experiencing anxiety,’’ said Milica Miocinovic, Youth Support Worker – Lived Experience.

“It comes in lots of different shapes and sizes and the group is about identifying the different ways we project our anxiety and what makes us anxious.’’

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge in Australia.

Common signs include feeling agitated and catastrophic thinking.

“There’s a big misconception that anxiety is just fear, but it can come out in other ways as well,’’ said Milica.

For example, a person experiencing social anxiety may withdraw in a group setting while another will talk too much.

“Avoidance is a big one too. When we are really anxious about something and we avoid it, we justify this in our minds because our anxiety is so convincing.

“It makes us believe whatever it wants us to believe and leads us to think there’s something really, really scary about certain things, like going to school or making a phone call.

“Stress Less is about zooming out and understanding how anxiety looks and feels in our bodies, and how we can move away from catastrophic type thinking to something more logical and rational.’’

Coping with the festive focus

Milica said Christmas could compound financial and family stressors, exacerbating anxiety.

“If you have fractured family relationships, you might not have anywhere to go at Christmas. That brings up a lot of stress and potentially past trauma, and it can be very triggering in that sense,’’ she said.

“The expectations of buying gifts can also be a big worry if the young person has financial stress.’’

How to draw on inner strength

“Finding one’s self worth is really important,’’ Milica said.

“If they don’t have any social connections, understanding that one’s own company sometimes is more than enough.”

Milica said it was possible to be alone without feeling lonely if individuals recognised their own self-worth.

“Doing that means understanding ourselves better and where our anxiety comes from so that we can just sit with it, rather than trying to fix everything,’’ she said.

Stress Less is open to young people aged 12 to 25 years and runs weekly on Thursdays from 3.30-4.30pm at headspace Port Adelaide, 78-80 Vincent St. For more information, phone 8215 6340.

Wandana Community Centre has a packed activities schedule in the lead-up to Christmas.

Open our What’s On guide HERE.

We have vacancies across our programs and welcome new participants. Groups include: quilting, craft, walking, community garden and literacy classes.

For more information, phone 8215 6330 or drop in for a visit.

Find Wandana at 14 Blacks Rd, Gilles Pains.

Regional communities will be mobilised to empower at-risk women and children under a new project to tackle domestic and family violence in response to COVID-19.

Strengthening pathways to safety that have been compromised by the health pandemic is a key aim of the initiative, launched this month by Centacare Catholic Family Services in partnership with Flinders University and the Office for Women.

The focus is on bringing people together, through activities and other platforms, to challenge gender stereotypes and entrenched behaviours that can disempower women and lead to abuse.

Project Manager Megan Hughes said the whole-of-community initiative had the potential to relieve pressure on specialist support services, where the focus had largely narrowed to crisis and risk mitigation due to rising demand for support and the complexities facing clients.

“Regional domestic and family violence services are increasingly being pushed to the more crisis end of the work, so there are fairly large gaps in responses due to lack of investment, time and opportunity,’’ Megan said.

“Through this project, we want to fill some of those gaps and provide an evidence base of primary prevention measures that can really infiltrate and gain momentum in the regions we’re on the ground working in.’’

The project team will be spread across Centacare’s domestic violence and homelessness services in Whyalla, the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murray Mallee.

Domestic and family violence is everybody’s business. To enable change, we need everybody to be doing work that encourages preventative activities so that we can create safer communities.

megan hughes

“The small, close-knit nature of regional and rural communities encourages strong connections and community networks but also poses unique risk factors for vulnerable families,’’ Megan said.

“We want to work closely with local communities to identify opportunities to introduce or amplify existing mechanisms by which they can scaffold and reinforce the work of domestic violence service providers in their regions.

“There are opportunities for sporting clubs, businesses, community organisations and local government to play an important part in responses, especially in relation to primary prevention.’’

Megan said COVID-19 had exacerbated existing challenges for regional women in unsafe relationships because they were unable to leave their homes or ask for help safely and were isolated from community connections that may previously have offered a pathway to safety.

“We know that during lockdowns and border closures, women and children were unable to safely exit home environments; community or service provision pathways were compromised; and perpetrators could more easily control, monitor and silence victims,’’ she said.

The eight-month project will assess the effectiveness of whole-of-community responses that challenge gender stereotypes and behaviours that keep women disempowered, and will generate insights into what works across the targeted regions.

“My goal is that by the end of the project, we will have some preliminary plans in place in those regional centres that can support prevention long term,’’ Megan said.

Domestic and family violence is everybody’s business. To enable change, we need everybody to be doing work that encourages preventative activities so that we can create safer communities.’’

The project represents the first steps of a wider regional vision to do the ‘upstream’ work and support communities to put in place practical and very real measures that tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls.

It was Russell Ebert who welcomed Centacare to Alberton in 2015 as Port Adelaide prepared to take a stand against domestic violence.

In partnership with Centacare and the Department for Education, the club was about to break new ground in the AFL by launching  a respectful relationships program for teenage boys, and Russell wanted in.

By his own admission, he had much to learn about gendered drivers of abuse, but he recognised there was primary prevention work that needed to be done in classrooms and he was keen to play his part.

Russell took us into the inner sanctum at Allan Scott Headquarters, introducing friendly faces along the way.

He joked with the kitchen crew that Robbie Gray would be around later to do the dishes and thanked long-time boot-studder Alfie Trebilcock for cleaning mud from his own wheels back in the day. These were the real club legends, Russell said, not him.

Ever-humble, he shrugged off his legend status, preferring to think of it as a way to use his influence – in this case, to open young minds around domestic violence, a hidden phenomenon when he was growing up.

“What is happening now is disgraceful, unacceptable and foreign to the way that I was brought up,’’ he’d later say of the national scourge in a 2018 research report on the Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) and Northern Territory-based NO MORE programs.

“It starts small, it might be a comment, a little push, a trip, a derogatory comment. That’s where it starts…. If you allow that to happen and not pull it up, well, what’s it going to be next time?’’

Every question we had about footy, Russell returned with one about Centacare and the role of community services in keeping women and children safe.

Later, during a workshop in the club’s lecture theatre with the entire playing group and senior coach Ken Hinkley, Russell listened intently as then Deputy Director Pauline Connelly unpicked the cycles of abuse and the club’s role in starting conversations around domestic violence and respectful relationships.

From that day on for the next six years, in the community and classrooms, at state-wide vigils or other awareness-raising events, the Ebert family presented a united front to challenge ideals of masculinity and gender-based attitudes.

Russell often spoke of their strong values and beliefs around how you treat others, reminding students of their own important role as future leaders and how they could chip away at gender norms that can potentially lead to unhealthy decision-making.

When you were with Russell, the air was clear. He was real. There was no fancy footwork with Russell when you met with him – he left that for the field,” Director Pauline Connelly said.

“When we first met to speak about the PTEVAW progam, Russell recognised this was an area for him to discover more about, and he did.

“Russell became one of our greatest advocates and role models in this area, and we needed him.

“I will be forever grateful for the experience of working with Russell.”

At year’s end, the PTEVAW program will have visited more than 120 schools and engaged nearly 9000 students.

The enormity of Russell’s contribution cannot be underestimated. ​​​​​​​Vale Russell Ebert.

Positive client outcomes, sector partnerships and staff resolve are among the stories highlighted in our Annual Report 2020-21.

Published today, the digital booklet explores Centacare’s achievements in a year that evolved into an experience of hope on the back of challenges, change and the retirement of our longest-serving Director, Dale West.

We pay tribute to Dale’s leadership, humour, compassion and humility, and welcome Pauline Connelly to the role of Director.

In her message, Pauline reflects on Centacare’s purpose within the context of the Catholic Church, and the commitment and skill of staff in responding to client needs without question or judgement.

Other stories include:

  • The rise in violence against women during the `shadow pandemic’
  • Our role in groundbreaking state homelessness and domestic and family violence Alliances
  • The opening of The Haven, a new safety and information hub at Mount Gambier Library
  • Milestones marked by the Power to End Violence Against Women program
  • Innovation in foster care
  • Mental health support for young people experiencing challenges arising from COVID-19
  • The future of online learning
  • Stories from Country
  • How challenges are driving achievements in Disability Services
  • Community collaborations at Coolock House and Kolbe Cottage
  • The role of Culture Hub in telling Centacare’s collective story

During the reporting period, Centacare supported 28,718 clients through 75 services across 34 sites in regional and metropolitan South Australia. Annual turnover moved to $54.4 million with paid staff now at 579.

We secured $58 estimated funding over the forward years, supported 4496 children and provided 3092 clients with a brief intervention.

Staff celebrated significant service milestones of 20 years or more, while our robust media presence was reflected in the more than 30 print and radio stories we garnered throughout the year.

Also in 2020-21, Centacare launched groundbreaking services including Breathing Space, which supports young women who have experienced removal of a child or children from their care, and the $20.7 million RESTORE Intensive Family Services.

Centacare is delivering RESTORE over 4.25 years to address complex challenges and reduce incidents of child abuse in families of children aged 0 to 18 years.

Alongside fellow non-government organisations, we embraced the move towards a more holistic, coordinated and integrated homelessness and domestic violence response through new Alliances, established by the South Australian Housing Authority.

“I want to acknowledge all staff. They are the people who are seeing daily the challenges, sadness and trauma of our clients. Their passion and commitment to the wellbeing of those they support is humbling and fortifying,” Pauline said.

I can’t do this. Nobody likes me. Something bad is going to happen.

These are reoccurring themes among clients engaged with Reconnect, an early intervention outreach service for young people with emerging mental health concerns whose housing is at risk.

Mental Health Worker Tasha Palumbo says negative body image, emotional withdrawal, academic anxiety and sleep disturbances are other common challenges.

Then there are the pressures wrought by volatile friendships and complex family trauma including relationship breakdown and domestic violence, key drivers of youth homelessness.

“Young people are often reluctant to burden their friends with their issues so they keep them to themselves,’’ Tasha said.

Reconnect works therapeutically with clients aged 12 to 18 years for up to six months. Interventions include counselling, family work and referral to other services.

On the last day of National Child Protection Week, Tasha is urging families to play their part in nurturing a positive mindset by checking in with young people regularly and connecting with them through their favourite activities.

“Show an interest in what interests them,’’ she said.

“Encourage young people to focus on the things that are in their control and let go of what’s not, such as other people’s opinions and actions.

“Show understanding and compassion, and normalise talking about mental health and daily challenges.’’

Milica Miocinovic (pictured), a Youth Support Worker with Thrive, said anxiety about the future was front of mind for many young people engaged with the service, which is based at headspace Port Adelaide.

“They are uncertain about what they can or should pursue and this is due to a combination of factors, mainly self-esteem and the realisation that many things are out of their control due to the pandemic, and not knowing how to overcome that,’’ Milica said.

Teaching them how to adapt, rationalise, and regulate their emotions are all really useful strategies that will promote better functioning during these times of great uncertainty.’’

Above all, take young people seriously, said Milica, noting the continuing impact of COVID-19.

 “We should appreciate the added layer of complexity that comes with being a young person. That is, the difficulty of forming an identity, being independent, self-assured, and having confidence in oneself,’’ she said.

“These can be challenging for young people even outside of a pandemic let alone now.

“Taking young people seriously is another important one: providing them with a safe, judgment-free space where they can speak for themselves and be heard is integral for promoting good mental health.’’

 

When financial counsellor Travis Petrovic meets a new family, one question is front of mind: Are they using a pay later service?

Invariably, the answer is yes – and their accumulated debt may be nudging tens of thousands.

As the lure of buy now, pay later products continues to explode, so too does the toll on families engaged with Centacare due to child safety and wellbeing concerns.

Travis joined the multidisciplinary RESTORE Intensive Family Services North team four months ago and works with families to boost financial literacy and “untangle the mess’’ left by the pay later trend.

“In the last 18 months, it has gone gangbusters,’’ he said.

“It’s a really sad cycle because everyone wants everything yesterday and why wait? But suddenly a family could have five, six pay later debts and what they thought was manageable becomes completely out of control.’’

That’s when families start to cut corners and scrimp on the basics of life, says Travis, noting that food and utilities are often among the first necessities to go.  He is currently working with 17 of the 38 families engaged with RESTORE.

“I’ve found many of the same people using pay later services also utilise payment advances from Centrelink which can create a double-whammy to their fortnightly budget,’’ he said.

Recently, he worked with a client with a $40,000 non-secured debt – a mix of credit, from ride sharing services to personal loans.

“The family’s credit rating was poor and I advocated on their behalf to have electricity and gas connected for the safety of their infant daughter,’’ Travis said.

“People’s livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 and subsistence is one of their major problems. They are simply just surviving, so when people offer them these deals, they take them.”

Industry data shows the average purchase made on pay later platforms is about $200.

“This may not read like a huge debt, but when a family has no money remaining at the end of a fortnight, finding enough for repayments can be very hard,’’ Travis said.

Australian Financial Review statistics show that one in five people are missing their scheduled payments, with 25 per cent of all pay later revenue derived from late payment fees and charges. These can cost the borrower up to one quarter of the purchase price every time they skip a payment.

“Some merchants state that once you miss a payment, you can no longer use their service until you catch up with your payments,’’ Travis said.

“The problem is there are no checks in place to prevent debts accruing with multiple pay later merchants after the first upfront payment is made, so, essentially, no one knows how much one person has with each pay later merchant.

“One merchant will lend up to $20,000 for all manner of things from dental work to home repairs. You cannot do the same with a No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) or a StepUP loan – affordable small loans for people living on low incomes.’’

In National Child Protection Week, Travis is urging families to reach out to a financial counsellor for help if they are struggling to manage their money.

“Intergenerational issues such as poor financial literacy increase a family’s risk of winding up in a situation where they’ve got huge amounts of debt through credit, not realizing the ramifications and what it can mean long-term because those things aren’t esplained,” he said.

“That’s where financial advocates and counsellors can come in and teach people about the right ways of doing things.’’

09-09-21 Centacare mental health workers Alex Barr and Caitlyn Woodcock are pushing for a greater emphasis on assertive communication in the national conversation around respectful relationships.

In National Child Protection Week, the voices behind EMPOWERED are urging the wider community to speak up and effect change by standing up for themselves and their rights, while respecting the rights and opinions of others.

“Teaching young people to recognise red flag behaviours is also pivotal because it helps them to set boundaries around what they will and will not accept in a relationship,’’ said Caitlyn, who co-wrote EMPOWERED with Alex.

“I’d like young people to recognise they don’t need a partner to be worthy or ‘whole’, as low self-esteem or self-worth can lead to relationships that are neither healthy nor respectful.’’

EMPOWERED engages female Year 10 students and encourages them to foster critical thinking about gender equity and women’s rights.

The program is delivered in two, one-hour sessions over consecutive weeks at the same time as the girls’ male peers undertake the Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program. Both initiatives are joint ventures between Centacare and Power Community Ltd.

“We have an opportunity to model respectful relationships when we recognise our own or another’s rights have been violated or disrespected and we communicate that, either through a sincere apology or by stating our needs,’’ Alex said.

“Assertive communication, as opposed to aggressive or passive communication, can empower young people to advocate for themselves and the safety of others.’’

With the support of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, EMPOWERED will this year engage about 250 students at five schools in the region.

“Assertive people communicate honestly and directly which can help to stop unfair expectations around gender norms or roles of individuals from becoming entrenched in a relationship,’’ Caitlyn said.

Involving women and girls in raising awareness of gender-based violence was among five recommendations in a 2018 Flinders University evaluation of PTEVAW.

The research revealed emerging evidence that key messages were being taken seriously by male students who were putting them into practice. For example, challenging low level behaviours by calling out sexist banter, and learning safe ways to step in when they witness inappropriate behaviour.

08-09-21 Centacare Aboriginal Cultural Consultant Les Wanganeen is the metropolitan Kinship Carer of the Year.

Recognised in the inaugural SA Child Protection Awards announced today, Les was applauded for his role as sole carer of his cultural grandson.

Eric Cruz took out the Media Award for his work developing Centacare’s Circle of Care campaign in his role as Foster Care Assessment and Recruitment Officer.

The duo were among a raft of Centacare faces nominated for recognition, with more than 200 entries received across 12 categories.

Dr Jackie Amos and the Reunification team were finalists for Excellence in Child Protection Research while Bindee Davis and Karen Weeks were in contention for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principal Award.

The Awards were presented at a breakfast ceremony at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Les had been planning on retirement when he became a kinship carer five years ago, driven by a determination to keep his then-newborn cultural grandson connected to family, Country, culture and community.

He joined the Children’s Services Unit shortly after and juggles his kinship role with his work within Centacare Foster Care.

This sees him partner with foster families to normalise culture in the everyday life of Aboriginal children in care.

“Cultural connection is about linking children into the bigger picture and establishing their place in the kinship structure,’’ he said.

In raising his cultural grandson, Les has drawn on a long career in child protection and has been able to uphold the ATSI Child Placement Principle.

The Principle recognises and protects the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and increases their level of self-determination.

One third of the children in foster care with Centacare are Aboriginal, and have a background of trauma, grief and neglect.

“This overrepresentation is the ripple effect of intergenerational trauma’’ said Amalie Mannik, Manager, Centacare Foster Care.

Eric was applauded for his work in raising awareness and understanding of the different types of foster care, and the many different reasons children come into care, through the Circle of Care initiative.

Eric partnered with Quisk illustrator Denham Haynes to create the campaign which puts children at the heart of a circle of care and highlights the role of foster families in giving them safe and loving homes.

Carers, children and even a family pet form a ring to symbolise Centacare’s child-focused practice and the care team that wraps around foster carers to train and support them on every step of their journey.

Back stories were developed for each character to put foster care into context for the wider community.

Delivered by the Department for Child Protection in partnership with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), the Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations who provide vital support to vulnerable children and young people, and the incredible role of family-based carers and volunteers.

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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