Advance Learning in Hastings provides educational courses for people who have not completed school and who need to increase their skills, personal capacity and qualifications in order to step into the employment market. Many of the participants experience significant barriers to employment due to their lack of formal education, connections to the world of work and belief in themselves.
The straightforward option is for Advance to offer the various certificate courses, VCAL, etc, but what Gill Latchford, the dynamic and inventive director finds is that many of the young people who participate in the training are doing courses they are not really interested in or that have meaning and relevance in their lives. Rather than gather certificates to wallpaper the walls, Gill is keen to provide a more meaningful service to these people by helping them understand who they are, what their passions are, where they are heading and what they need to get there. This foundational work is often missing in young people who have had fractured upbringings and a lack of stability and role models.
GHF has funded the organisation to upskill staff such that they can incorporate this foundational work into the organisation’s program. The hope is that successful completion of theses courses will enable the students to embark on an educational strategy that aligns with their personal attributes and aspirations as well as the employment market.
In addition to benefiting the students at the Hastings Hub, Advance will be able to train other providers across the Peninsula so they can deliver the foundation course to students in other areas.
The drop out rate of young people from school in Rosebud and other areas of disadvantage on the Peninsula is of serious concern. Drop out happens when a young person is not keeping up with the challenges of school and is not getting the support they need, often due to complex family and community problems related to living in poverty.
Our community partner, Anglicare in Rosebud, is addressing this issue through an innovative tutoring program run at the Rosebud Community Hub.
The Program provides weekly tuition for selected young people. They are supported to catch up on academic areas they are struggling in and because parental involvement is mandatory, broader support of the family is activated.
In the first year 22 children have participated in the program each week. Their stories are inspirational – children who were struggling to cope have had the support they need to reconnect with school and get back on track. They are surprising parents and staff alike. They enjoy coming so much the program will expand to include a supervised homework club which will run along side the tutor program for those children who have been through the tutoring but want to keep connect to the structure and support of the group.
A rigorous reporting process is in place which means we know very accurately what changes occur for children in the program. Further monitoring will inform program development and sustainability.
People living in poverty have very limited access dental treatment, and often experience poor dental health. Community dental programs have extremely long waiting lists and are restricted to basic treatments. People living in poverty often have poor diets including high sugar foods and low levels of nutrition; they suffer greater exposure to violence and abuse and may have greater drug use which impacts significantly on dental health. Unpleasant teeth mean people have low self esteem, can’t smile and may have offensive odours. They become withdrawn, unwilling to participate in education, work, social situations: poor teeth can be a major barrier to participating in ordinary life.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence is providing support to fix the teeth of people in these circumstances. They use funds from GHF and our partners, including Igniting Change, to pay for urgent treatments from dental professionals, some of whom will do the work at much reduced rates. They are building a network of practitioners willing to support this work.
Encouraged to find a more sustainable solution to this issue, BSL has also brokered a relationship with the Southern community Dental Clinic who will see priority BSL referred clients as a priority; they will use volunteer drivers to take Frankston clients to the less busy Hastings clinic and the Frankston Clinic will open after hours on a regular basis using volunteer dentists, thus vastly increasing the number of clients seen for the same relatively small investment of funds.
As we’ve seen, the Southern Peninsula has pockets of high rates of socio economic disadvantage with high rates of disengagement from school and intergenerational unemployment. Anecdotally there are high numbers of single mothers who have relocated to the area due to family breakdown.
GHF supports the Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation in providing access to vocational and personal training courses for people in Rosebud and Hastings. Small scholarships, on average, $1000 are provided to people who would otherwise not be able to afford the costs associated with enrolling in a TAFE course, including child care, transport and books and equipment.
As well as many single mothers who’ve had experiences of family violence, a high number of the scholarship recipients are young people unable to live at home. The funds, as well as the moral support of the wonderful staff who run the program, can be the catalyst for dramatic change in a person’s life, not only providing them with a pathway to financial independence but also giving them self esteem and confidence so that they believe in themselves and their future.
The effect this change in attitude has can be remarkable – parents often say the drop in tension this support provides enables them to have a much more positive relationship with their children which in turn leads them to believe they too have a bright future.
GHF has funded and inspired other donors for over 20 scholarships in the past year.
Children who have dropped out of mainstream education because of socio economic disadvantage and family dysfunction have complex and multiple issues that impede their progress through life. In many cases they have very limited experiences of positive interactions with other people and the environment and their worlds are often dominated by experiences of violence, neglect and failure.
The school is addressing these complex issues in many ways. One is through the development of a school garden with chooks, vegetables and decking, designed and built by the students. They have also initiated communications with the residents of the aged care village next door. A hole in the fence enables the older residents to participate in the care of the garden and collect the eggs, especially when the school is on holidays. The students have been part of a project that has turned a piece of wasteland into a thriving garden producing quality vegetables that are cooked in cooking class, healthy chooks that are producing eggs and a comfortable deck.
GHF provided $5,000 to help purchase things they couldn’t get donated including two large water tanks and decking materials.
When people are living below the poverty line clothing is very low on the priority shopping list. Rent is the most significant expense in this area. Once this is paid, only absolute essentials like food and utilities are generally afforded. People get used to getting about in old, worn out clothing; general appearance is in keeping with an outlook dominated by low expectations reinforced by the hardship of daily life.
Yet, wearing smart clothing and having a good hair cut can completely change how someone sees themselves and how they appear to other people.
Clothes4U is supporting women in disadvantaged situations to do just that by providing not only free, good quality clothing, but also advice on how to wear it and how to deal with new and challenging situations, like appearing at court, meeting with government officials or going for a job interview.
GHF supported Clothes4U with a start up grant of $4,800; we introduced them to other donors and have provided mentoring as the organisation grows and links to other community groups so they can work together to complement each other and magnify the outcomes for their clients.
The volunteers who run Clothes4U are seeing more and more women in Rosebud every month as the word gets around. Women are gaining in confidence and skills that are enabling them to make the changes they want in their lives.
It is easy to miss Crib Point, a quiet, unassuming hamlet off the main drive between the upmarket Somers and Balnarring. But a visit to the local primary school is an uplifting experience. With limited resources, but huge dreams, the staff and small parent body are keen to raise the bar in an area too often maligned.
Amongst the trees at the back of the school is an open structure that has potential for much greater use by the school and the community at large. A small grant from GHF has enabled this group to do stage one of a modification that will see walls erected and a kitchen installed, a pizza oven built and utilities connected.
With the establishment of a vegetable garden, this alternative classroom will provide an opportunity for classes in cooking and horticulture as well as a community space for parents and children to meet. It’s what many more well resources schools take for granted, but something much harder to come by in this community.
The Foundation’s strategy on the Peninsula to date has been to concentrate on making small grants of up to $5,000. These grants are for seed funding new ideas, filling gaps and getting things started. They have led us to some extraordinary people and organisations that seem to turn straw into gold, such is there dedication and thrift.
On some occasions grants have been even smaller, speaking to the point that it is often not a lot that will make a very significant difference, but getting that very small amount is not at all easy.
Recently a grant of $2,000 was made to the local associations of Girl Guides. Most of the infrastructure of the Guides is provided by volunteers, however, there are some hard costs that need to be covered and these are usually managed with a relatively small annual registration fee charged to each family. Some families on the Peninsula, however, are unable to meet these costs. As we have close ties with the management of the Guides, we are confident that they are able to identify families who would benefit from sending their girls to the weekly activities and the camps but who need financial assistance to do so and so have made a small grant to cover the fees and withdraw the financial barrier to participation by these families.
Children are often the hidden victims of issues related to illicit drug use. When orphaned or abandoned by parents they are often cared for by grandparents, extended family, or as wards of the state. In such circumstances children experience uncertainty, loss, vulnerability and fear and can be a challenge for the people who take them in.
Mirabel Foundation is the only organisation of its kind specifically supporting the needs of such children and their carers. Part of their service is providing respite care for both children and carers at their house in Mt Martha on the Mornington Peninsula.
GHF has supported this program by contributing to ongoing rental costs.
Homelessness and financial hardship are major issues that the Community Support and Information Centres on the Southern Peninsula are faced with every day. Rents are high and make up a very significant amount from a family’s weekly budget. Emergency Relief is a major part of the services provided by the Centres on the Peninsula.
GHF supports the three Community Support and Information Centres, which are located in Mornington, Westernport and Rosebud. All have fantastic, committed leaders, staff and volunteers.
The Centre in Mornington is run by the dynamic and energetic Lisa Elliott who recently had the great idea to combat cuts in funding for crisis support by creating an Op Shop to be staffed by volunteers and to generate an ongoing income stream.
The Centre was able to raise most of the funds needed to get the Op Shop off the ground but a small seed fund from GHF was also provided to assist with establishment infrastructure including point of sale technology. With Lisa’s eye for a bargain and the commitment of the staff, there is great potential for this community enterprise to increase the sustainability of the Centre and, in addition, give people retail experience that could support their employment opportunities.
Jodie Harris is our accidental hero – she had no intention of creating a demand led not for profit that services over 20 families per week via 35 agencies across the South Eastern region of Victoria with recycled baby goods, clothing and food, but two years after providing a cot for a young mum who didn’t have a place for her baby to sleep, that’s just what she is doing.
Jodie and her tiny team of volunteers have over 8,000 followers on facebook who contribute the constant flow of goods; they have moved from the kitchen table via the friend’s garage to an enormous warehouse in Seaford that bustles with volunteers committed to supporting families who are literally, in need.
For people who have a warm bed at night and who know where their next meal is coming from, this ‘other Australia’ might seem hard to imagine, but for people who don’t have those certainties, this uncertainty is a grim reality. Perhaps it is only people who know what that is really like that can respond so compassionately and with such complete willingness and dedication, with no regard for themselves but only for the unmet needs, as Jodie does.
It’s time to support this amazing woman and her team and help her build sustainability so that she can sleep at night, rather than lie awake wondering how she is going to pay the warehouse rent.
Mental health has been identified by the Communities that Care program on the Peninsula as the number one issue of concern in this region. And it especially effects young people.
Peninsula Mindfulness has developed a program to promote well-being, and to assist in the prevention of mental health issues. Strategies are provided to deal with stress at home, socially and at school.
GHF helped fund a mindfulness program at Mornington Secondary and Students at have reported benefits of the ‘Tools for mindful living’ program such as “It changed the way I felt”, and “calms me down when I get angry”.
The GHF grant allowed 400 students to receive mindfulness training, along with 30 teachers to carry on the program at the school.
As part of the ten day 2016 festival a wonderful production of Blinky Bill was put on at St John’s church in Flinders. With the idea of opening the wonders of music and theatre to more people, especially to those who might be restricted financially, GHF provided a number of tickets to the Festival to use in collaboration with community organisations to increase access to the production.
Again and again we are told of the dire situation regarding transport on the Peninsula, especially for people who are financially and socially isolated. For people who don’t have a car, the public transport is very limited and not adequate to enable them to get to the services they need. The lack of local services mean they need to travel long distances, often up to Frankston or Dandenong to access services, but they cannot do so due to lack of transport. For those who do have a car, the petrol costs are inhibiting and often cause htem not to go.
This is a really big problem that needs commitment from all main players and a willingness to do something serious about it. The lack of voice, however, of the people most affected means they need other allies.
Peninsula Transport Assist is a small, grass roots organisation working hard to do what it can to marshal local resources to address this need. With a major grant from Perpetual Foundation as smaller grants including from GHF, they are establishing a program that uses volunteer drivers and their own vehicles to take people from place to place. They also utilize the buses that are underutilized in the community but would like to have their own buses as part of their model. They have long term plans and need more support to make them happen.
Rosebud West has higher than average numbers of single parent families, disability and mental illness and isolation often plays a significant role. Lack of contact can often compound these situations and inhibit people from getting the help they need; the more time someone is isolated, the harder it is to get back in touch with people.
The Rosebud Artists group was set up under the Rosebud West Neighbourhod Renewal scheme as a means helping women experiencing isolation to meet on a regular basis with other women; at the same time, it created opportunities for them to learn new skills and explore their creative talents. When the funding ceased, the women didn’t want to stop as they were getting so much out of the initiative. With assistance from Family Life, they approached GHF and a small grant was made to enable them to continue. The group is focusing on life drawing and the grant pays for the teacher who attends each week.
Long term the women would like to self manage the program and create an independent income stream through the sale of their works. This building from within is what has long term sustainability and a ripple effect for the whole community.
In 2015 Rosebud Secondary approached GHF for a small grant to build a reflective garden in the front of the school. We were interested in this as it was an idea driven by the students and would be largely designed and built by the students. Much of the materials and specialist labour have been sourced pro bono from within the community and the Foundation has been honoured to contribute to the unmet costs so that students and the community in general can be proud of their school.
Many families facing difficult circumstances struggle to afford fresh food. At the same time fresh food providers often have a surplus.
Second Bite matches up the excess with the people who need it through an extensive program that includes weekly food deliveries to Rosebud and Hastings.
Second Bite continually needs support to enable the program to run with most significant costs including the delivery truck and driver. The organisation has an extensive army of volunteers who are expertly coordinated but running costs need ongoing financial support which GHF has contributed to on the Peninsula.
There are pockets on the Peninsula where an unusually high percentage of families have a parent in prison. Children of offenders are often the hidden victims of crime and without care and attention they can easily slip into the familiar patterns of behaviour that continue this cycle of familial incarceration. Having a parent in prison is also extremely traumatic for a child as they suffer the effects of shame and stigmatization and are also often in unstable living arrangements.
Shine for Kids works in support of children of offenders. They make visits to the prison easier by providing a program every weekend at Dame Phyllis Frost women’s prison and two of the men’s’ prisons in Victoria. Volunteers assist with transport if that is needed and then when the children are at the prison they make the visit easier and more relaxed by providing arts and crafts activities that both the parent and the children can get involved in.
It seems so much easier to chat when you are busy with your hands, especially as a child, rather than sitting formally at a visits centre that is not child friendly and intensely foreboding, a place to be frightened of rather than at ease in.
GHF has support the work of Shine for Kids on the Peninsula, enabling more children to stay in touch with the parents during really difficult times.
SPCSIC in Rosebud provides emergency support for people in crisis situations. With over 80 trained volunteers and 5 part time staff they work with people who have nowhere else to go. Often they can be assisted with immediate aid, but some have very complex issues that require ongoing support. For these people SPCSIC would like to be able to provide enhanced care through more specialized services. To this end they are seeking to modify their building such that other services can be collocated and clients can be directly referred without having to navigate the complex service system and traveling to Dandenong or Frankston.
GHF has financially supported the program’s work with families facing difficulties with educational costs, supported engagement of a consultant to assist with logistical planning of the colocation and funds to enable this development from Igniting Change.
Ongoing data collection will feed into an analysis of the effectiveness of the colocation program.
Over 65% of children at Tootgarook Primary School are living in families who depend on welfare payments. Some families struggle on a daily basis and often cannot provide the things children need to successfully participate at school, including for example, attending excursions, camps or sporting events. Many children are living in homes where no one is employed and where no one has been employed for two or three generations.
Aspirations and outlook are often very limited, but this can change through deeper engagement with school.
St Vincent de Paul volunteers in this region work closely with the school and are directly in touch with some of the families in these situations. They visit in their homes and understand the issues first hand.
This small but committed team has used funds from GHF to support immediate family needs that have enabled children to participate more fully at school.
As they have been required to report rigorously on how the funds are used and what changes as a result, they have found unexpected outcomes that have been far greater than anticipated. These include that the teachers were more encouraged to work with the most disengaged and disruptive students because they were receiving this extra support, it brought the local schools together and it gave families an incentive to keep going. This is about far more than immediate, material aid, but it is only with this first hand, direct contact, that the bigger steps towards sustainable change can be made. Often the families in these situations are not engaged with established services, however, in building the relationships with this team, those linkages can be made such that higher level support can be activated.
This work is starting to break down barriers and the cycle of disengagement and change the outlook for children in these circumstances. We have also connected the team to other avenues of financial support and to other community organisations such that they are coordinating their work to greater effect.
Ties for Lives – Spotting the early signs of mental health in young people and assisting them to get help
Ties for Lives is about prevention in the mental health space. Based in Balnarring and spear headed by a man who saw first hand the damage of mental health in teenagers, this organisation seeks to raise awareness in the community of the issue, empower people to spot the early signs, then do something about it so it doesn’t unravel to unmanageable proportions.
The SpotA campaign uses many different ways of connecting with the community including with their SpotA cards that are widely distributed, the provision of mental health first aid, their engagement with schools and sporting clubs, as well as employers and community organisations. They work strategically so they are not duplicating what other organisations are doing and focus very much on prevention and assisting people to know where to go for help.
As with Mornington and Southern Peninsula, Westernport CSIC offers a range of support for people living through difficult times. It might be a food hamper, assistance with utilities payments, transport or health issues, the Centre tries to respond as well as it can with limited resources to high demands in this area. The area families often struggle to cope with is educational expenses for children at school. Without the right shoes, the books or laptop or the ability to attend excursions, children can easily become isolated or the subject of bullying and segregation, all of which inhibits their abilities to successfully manage school.
The Foundation has supported the educational support program so that more children in the region can have access to the things they need, especially during the transition from primary to high school and the increasing demands schools have of families with regard to technological equipment. Additionally the Foundation has enabled funding from other donors to support the emergency needs.
We are really inspired by Michael Devine, Principal of Westernport Secondary, and his handling of the very significant issues the students and families bring to school on a regular basis. From violence in the home and drug and alcohol abuse to mental health and bullying, there are good reasons why only 35 of the 100 students who start year 7 will finish year 12 at this school.
Disadvantage in schools has been well highlighted by the Gonski review and some steps have been taken to address the needs, however, in this school, there is never enough support for students who are facing too many barriers to successful participation. The role of the Youth Worker is huge and critical to keeping these young people engaged.
Additionally, the Foundation has recently committed to supporting the landscaping of the area to be used by Abacus, a program for children with autism soon to be collocated on the school grounds in a disused and unkempt part of the school. The students will do the landscaping as part of their own training and to improve the functionality and appearance of the space.
The inspirational Jeanette Horsley single handedly runs the YMCA youth group on the southern peninsula, though she does have some great volunteers who are bringing amazing assets to the organisation. Each Tuesday they pick up students from Rosebud and Dromana secondary colleges and bring them to the Family Life Community House in Tootgarook, just opposite the Primary School. This is a safe place for the students to hang out, to have people to chat with, activities to do and healthy food to eat.
Each year Jeanette runs a retreat just for young women. This is a powerful time for people often really challenged by life issues and social, emotional and financial problems. Jeanette has constructed the retreat over time and through and experienced some profound changes in the young women. It’s hard to understand how isolated some young people can be in a world with hyper connectivity, but it is a major issue and outlets, safe places, unconditional support but clear boundaries and responsibilities are all part of working this out.
GHF is supporting the retreat in June 2016.