COVID-19 update from NCNS

Now, more than ever, as our whole community faces challenging and uncertain times, we renew our focus on empowering the people and communities we work with.

Ever present in our minds, is the reality that many of the vulnerable families and communities we work with – will be faced with compounding challenges.

In particular we acknowledge the significant health and life expectancy gap for Aboriginal community members as a result of colonisation – we are extremely motivated to lessen and minimise the impact of COVID-19 for the Aboriginal people we work with across Nepean Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.  Across all our program areas, the NCNS team are working hard to explore new ways to provide continuity of connection and care.


At NCNS – Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services – all our focus and commitment is to our local community. More than a community service, we are here alongside you in your neighbourhood, locals with you. Celebrating your strengths and achievements; sharing ideas and the hard work to make our neighbourhoods more connected, safe places where everyone is respected. Empowerment through opportunity and access – whether that’s child development; youth advocacy; Closing the Gap health services; or any of the activities running everyday across our centres.

Whether you connect with us through Breakfast Club at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre, an Aboriginal Supported Playgroup at Kooly, a home visit from your Closing The Gap Outreach Worker, a school holiday activity, parenting support or family therapy, or even booking South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre for your mum’s 60th – the common thread is connection, strengthening social bonds, reducing isolation. We are here for everyone, but are always focused on empowering our most vulnerable community members.

Guided by the latest information and directives from government we are adapting the ways we work with our communities. We are still open but working differently. This will adapt as we develop new modalities of service, so we will update our website and social as we progress different models of working with you.

NCNS continues to provide services to new as well as existing clients. This may be provided by phone or internet, as we are following guidance and reducing face-to-face contact. Some of our group programs – such as SMART Recovery and Keeping Children Safe – are being offered through live video streaming sessions with our facilitators. A limited on-site, appointment only, emergency relief service will be available in the coming days.

We are following advice from the NSW and Federal Government Health authorities and the World Health Organisation in relation to exercising social distancing and hygiene measures and self-isolation where appropriate. Clients are also screened for particular risk factors.

An update on our services through this, all Community Centre group activities have been suspended – including Breakfast Club, Aboriginal Women’s and Men’s groups, Kooly Deadly Kids Dance, KP Kids, Aboriginal Supported Playgroups, Youth Drop In and other workshops and community programs.

We are in continuous phone contact with the young people and families that would normally be at our groups or activities. Online social spaces have been set up by Joe and Sami on Instagram for our young people to connect.

For these and all our programs we are working on innovative and creative ways to re-connect. Watch this space as there will be some news as we progress our ideas and develop new online groups and workshops.

Across our programs – we are continuing to work with our community partners to ensure a coordinated approach to supporting the most vulnerable members of our community at this highly challenging time. We will be commencing a new emergency relief program at Cranebrook in the coming days. Keep an eye on Facebook for developments. This will be developed within the guidelines including screening, and a strictly limited number of people in the centre at any time, to access the emergency relief.

Like everyone else, we have also had to suspend all groups, programs, events and workshops until further notice. Sadly, our NAIDOC events will be postponed – we are hoping for a September or October date for NAIDOC Cup.

Parenting programs and some facilitated group-work will be provided through video conferencing in the near future.

The work for our Closing The Gap Aboriginal Health teams across Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains have continued seamlessly. We are receiving new referrals daily from GP’s and community, and our existing clients are getting their usual friendly, caring and informative service from their Care Coordinator and Outreach Workers, who are doing an incredible job to keep up the vital work of keeping this most vulnerable group – Aboriginal people with chronic and complex diseases – safe and well in the community through this time.

Our Functional Family Therapy Team (FFT-CW) and Aboriginal Family Support have also switched to phone and video therapy sessions – and have managed this with a full capacity caseload and a waitlist. We are extremely conscious that families referred by DCJ to FFT-CW will be facing enormous challenges in this time – with the added pressure of kids at home and the strain of food and financial insecurity. This team are using their advanced engagement and relational skills to maintain connection with families with a focus on keeping vulnerable children safe through this time.

We are keeping a close eye on developments and will act appropriately following advice from the Australian and NSW Governments. Our priority continues to be to provide continuity of support and connection to our community and to protect the safety, health of wellbeing of clients, community, and staff. Resilience is a word we use a lot at NCNS, it’s a word that embodies hope, perseverance in the face of hardship, an intrinsic belief in our own and our community’s strength and an optimism for the future, despite todays’ struggles. I hope we can all carry that meaning in our daily life – for everyone doing the vital job of Staying Home – as well as for all the essential workers, parents, carers, kids and young people.

Don’t hesitate to contact me or any of the team to share your ideas, and opportunities for working collaboratively through the challenging times now and ahead, for our most vulnerable community members.

Joy Impiombato
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services



Phone:  0400 772 117



Volunteer Spotlight: Emelita Aguda Howlett

This month, we would like to shine the spotlight on one of our outstanding volunteers, Emelita Aguda Howlett, who has had not only a huge impact on her local community but has also been an enormous help to many NCNS Workers, groups and events.

Carolyn Gilbert, NCNS Team Leader – Early Childhood, has known Emelita since she was 10 years old. Carolyn revealed that Emelita was well respected in her community while she was growing up and how Emelita’s home became a place for herself and other young people to go to and feel safe. Emelita was a mentor, teaching life skills to many young people. She showed kindness and acceptance to all young people regardless of their backgrounds.

Justine Reynolds, NCNS Community Development Worker, has known Emelita for many years, in fact she was actually Emelita’s supervisor at an early childhood centre in the past before Justine began to work for NCNS. Justine described Emelita as, “always compassionate, caring and giving. Emelita has some wonderful talents including sewing, dancing and cooking. She has an abundance of energy and after she retired from childcare, she has not slowed down.”

Justine explained that, “The women’s group, Collective Community volunteers’ group and Breakfast Club, all benefit from Emelita’s generosity and skills. Emelita has helped so many places in the local area in different ways such as making bags, dog, cat and kangaroo items, as well as donating and cooking for the homeless. She is silent about what she does and seeks no recognition. Emelita does what she does because that’s her and it comes from the heart.”

When Emelita first started coming into Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre to attend one of the NCNS Women’s Groups, she observed NCNS Community Development Worker, Cathy Briffa preparing massive amounts of food for our Breakfast Club each Tuesday morning.

Emelita approached Cathy without any prompt, to see if she would like a volunteer worker to help do food preparation for Breakfast Club and of course Cathy accepted this offer with open arms.

Since that day, Emelita has made table cloths for our Breakfast Club kids and comes into the centre twice a week to help with food preparation such as slicing ham, cheese and tomatoes for our much-loved toasties, amongst many other things.

Emelita’s connection with young people is something that continues today, with Emelita forming a wonderful bond with primary and high school students who attend our Breakfast Club. Her kind and easy-going nature makes the students feel comfortable and naturally they look to her as someone they can talk to. This is one of the reasons that students look forward to Emelita coming in every Monday and Tuesday.

Cathy is so thankful for the work that Emelita has done for NCNS and herself, so to show her gratitude, she decided she wanted to give Emelita something meaningful as a gift for Christmas. Cathy thought what better way to demonstrate our appreciation than to put together a personalised quilt from herself and the students who know and love Emelita. Cathy knew that this would be something that Emelita would appreciate being a talented seamstress herself. For example, Emelita often uses her sewing skills at Breakfast Club, hemming or repairing children’s uniforms that require fixing, doing it then and there.

To create the quilt, Cathy gave each student a square of material and provided textas so the students could either draw a picture or write a message to Emelita. These squares would then be sewn together to make the quilt. The students loved this idea, so they got straight to work on their piece of the puzzle.

Once the quilt was finished, the students presented the personalised quilt to Emelita one morning at Breakfast Club. Emelita was left speechless, with tears in her eyes as she accepted the gift from the students.

We are so glad that Emelita loved her gift and we hope that when she looks at this quilt, she is reminded of the huge impact she has made on so many of the students in her community. Cathy describes Emelita as her “golden angel from above, we couldn’t really cope without her help, she makes our jobs so much easier!”

Emelita has come back in 2020 and continues to help us at Breakfast Club on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

We would like to say a massive thank you to Emelita for her continued support and we would like to congratulate and recognise the gigantic impact she has on her local community.

Justine finished off by saying, “Emelita is a pleasure to work alongside and I feel very blessed to have Emelita as a friend. Everyone needs an Emelita in their world!”


You need to know about the 715 Health Check 

You may be wondering, what on earth is a 715 Health Check. Well don’t worry, you are not alone.  The good news is that we have spoken to Rodney Matthews, NCNS Aboriginal Program Manager of our Closing the Gap team who is going to let you know exactly what It is and why you should get one.

What is a 715 Health Check?

A 715 Health Check is a health assessment that helps to ensure that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people receive primary health care matched to their needs, by encouraging early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions that cause morbidity and early mortality.

What does it involve and what will happen during a 715 Health Assessment?

The patient will receive an assessment of their health, including their physical, psychological and social wellbeing as well as assessing what preventative health care, education and other assistance should be offered to the patient to improve their health and wellbeing.

It complements existing services already undertaken  by a range of health care providers. This health assessment must include:

  • information collection, including taking a patient history and undertaking examinations and investigations as required;
  • making an overall assessment of the patient;
  • recommending appropriate interventions;
  • providing advice and information to the patient;
  • keeping a record of the health assessment, and offering the patient a written report about the health assessment, with recommendations about matters covered by the health assessment; and
  • offering the patient’s carer (if any, and if the medical practitioner considers it appropriate and the patient agrees) a copy of the report or extracts of the report relevant to the carer.

As part of the health assessment,  a medical practitioner may develop a simple strategy for the good health of the patient. The strategy should identify any services the patient needs and the actions the patient, or parent or carer, should take. It should be developed in collaboration with the patient, or parent or carer, and documented in the written report on the assessment that is offered to the patient, and/or patient’s carer.

Who should get a 715 health check?

The 715 health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people covers the full age spectrum, and should be used for health assessments for the following age groups:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are less than 15 years old.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who are aged fifteen years and over but under the age of 55 years.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people who are aged 55 years and over.
  • You do not need to be diagnosed with any chronic health conditions to get a 715 Health Assessment.

This health assessment is an annual service. The minimum time allowed between services is nine (9) months. This allows flexibility for very remote communities, where medical practitioner visits may be less frequent and may make it more difficult to follow a consistent schedule of health assessments.

What happens after the 715 health check?

After you get the 715 you may have a GP management plan or care plan developed. You can be referred to allied health services such as physio, psychology, OT. Your GP can also ensure you receive your benefits under the closing the gap pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Those not on concession will receive discounted medications through PBS. Those on a concession may receive free medications under the PBS.

If you are diagnosed with a chronic health condition relating to Diabetes, Renal disease, respiratory disease, cardiology or cancer you may be referred to the closing the gap ITC program for further support.

Can you give us an example of how a 715 Health Check has helped one of your clients?

We had a client that was feeling stressed out and run down. They also had a knee that had been a bit sore for while and causing discomfort resulting in lost sleep. However, they had not got it checked out as they had no money to pay for services.

They decided to get a 715 health check at their local GP. After going through the check the GP was able to identify the need for the patient to talk to a professional about their emotional and psychological well-being. They were referred for 10 appointments to a counsellor as well as 5 appointments to a physiotherapist for their knee. All of with were covered by Medicare. They had also been placed on the CTG pharmaceutical benefits scheme giving them access to cheaper medication.

A few weeks on and they were now feeling better about themselves. Their knee was getting better and they could afford any of the medications that were prescribed to them. They had also received clarity from the counselling services. This allowed them to better able to understand their emotional well-being and develop strategies to stay on track.

Does it cost anything?

The 715 health assessment does not cost the patient anything.

How do you get one? What do I ask for?

Go to you regular GP and ask for a 715 Aboriginal Health check. It’s that easy.


So, what are you waiting for? Book your 715 Health Check with your GP today!

To speak with the NCNS Closing the Gap team,  please call 02 4706 0299 or email

We are #EachforEqual

The International Women’s Day website states that, “The IWD 2020 campaign theme is drawn from the notion of ‘Collective Individualism.’ We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively we can make change happen. Collectively we can each help to create a gender equal world.”

This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, focusing on the idea that we are all responsible for own thoughts and actions.

With this in mind, we had some of the amazing women who work for NCNS strike the #EachforEqual pose to demonstrate our commitment to helping forge a gender equal word. We will do this by:

  • Challenging stereotypes and biases by calling it out when we see or hear gender stereotypes.
  • Reflecting on how fair and equal our actions and comments are in regard to all genders.
  • Listening more openly to all genders.
  • Valuing women’s contributions and achievements often
  • Being aware of bias and question assumptions made about women

This year, NCNS was fortunate to be a part of the International Women’s Day event in St Marys on Wednesday 4th March. There were inspiring speakers, community performances and delicious refreshments in celebration of the contribution and achievements of women in the local area.

We believe that women are empowered when we celebrate and acknowledge each other’s hard work. We are inspired by the women from different backgrounds who dare to challenge the social norms, who lead, create and change the world. By valuing women’s contributions and achievements, we can also help to build confidence in the generations to come.

We can all play a part in creating a gender equal world. Be #EachforEqual. What can you do today to help play your part?

Hire our hall for your next meeting, group or function

Are you looking for a space for a group, activity, meetings or  function? At South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre, we have a small meeting room or large hall available for hire.

Our small meeting room can hold up to 20 people. It has tables and chairs that you are welcome to use. There is a whiteboard and a blank wall if you would like to bring and use a projector. It is a great space for small groups such as writers, small support groups and work meetings.

Our large hall is spacious, holding up to 70 people with chairs and tables available to use. The hall has access to the backyard at the back and side of the centre. You will also have access to a small kitchen with a fridge, oven, microwave and sink. This hall is great for all different types of exercise classes, large groups, parties and other functions.

Are you interested in hiring our hall or small meeting room?

Please feel free to drop into the centre (we recommend calling first just to make sure that the office is open as hours vary),  contact us on 02 4721 8520 or email for availability and rates.

NCNS celebrates Seniors Week with Trivia & Brainteasers

This year we celebrated Seniors Week with a fun filled morning of trivia and brain teasers followed by a delicious lunch. We were joined by over 30 seniors who came from all over Penrith. While they chatted and ate their lunch, they enjoyed the variety of music.

The brain teaser game at the event consisted of questions from each decade, from the 50’s right up until now. We loved seeing everyone get together and enjoy each other’s company. We were lucky enough to have the boys from the Clontarf Aboriginal Boys Program come to visit who mingled with our lovely seniors, served and explained what they are all involved with. The seniors were really curious about how the program operates and we even overheard some of them arrange a visit to discover more.

The day was filled with fun, laughter and of course hugs!

To find out more about the Clontarf Aboriginal Boys Program read our blog post or take a look at their website:

Check out some more of our Seniors Week event photos below.

Horse Care Program successfully teaches youth empathy

The NCNS Youth Horse Care program during Term 4, 2019 provided an opportunity for young people to learn new skills and experience the value of volunteering in the community. The need for this type of program arose from an NCNS Youth employment survey that showed young people from the local area had a prominent interest in animal care.  In addition, the high suspension rate, and the experiences of Joe and Sami, NCNS Youth Workers, in working with young people in the community, showed a need to provide opportunities for building empathy skills in our young people, and what better way to do that than by creating opportunities with animals? This program was held at the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) in Richmond facilitated by Volunteer Coordinator, Wendy Brooks.

The primary goal was to provide the young people with an understanding around empathy by learning to understand the needs and feelings of another living thing while at the same time, help them to develop news skills and to raise their confidence levels.

During the program, participants were able to identify the horse’s behaviours and feelings through the horses’ body language. They also learnt how to lead and groom a horse, cleaning, weeding and even picking up poo.  They learnt the importance of each job and enjoyed each new skill that they learnt. Even the not so fun job of picking up poo helped young people work as a team and encourage each other. They were proud that they did it.

A highlight for NCNS Youth Workers, Sami & Joe, was that they could see an increase in the young people’s confidence. “We are extremely proud of Annie* when she jumped on a horse and was led around. For nearly the whole program Annie* would not touch a horse but she totally pushed herself and this was a great achievement for her.”

Volunteer Coordinator from RDA, Wendy Brooks, provided us with feedback around facilitating this program in partnership with the NCNS Youth Team.

“Firstly, I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed doing this with you guys. Seeing the kids overcome their fear of the horse and of being judged by others and seeing how proud they were when they stepped up and completed the activity.

Seeing one of them adopt the helper role in consoling and listening to one of the other kids, teaching others how to do things, and being super supportive to everyone. Almost everyone participated in most things, so that made me happy and I was so proud of their bravery and their good work ethic. I also really enjoyed how polite, responsible and thankful they were.”

Wendy explained, “My intention with this program was to provide free access to equine therapy in a way that encouraged community participation and socialisation in a safe and friendly atmosphere, that also benefited the centre as a not for profit and benefited the centre’s clients/vols . The aims of the program were to provide access to equine therapy to disadvantaged youths, to teach empathy and compassion, to create a positive, safe and fun atmosphere, to foster a team spirit of pitching in to give back to the community, and to boost the kids’ confidence by asking for effort but not more than they could give.

I also sought to teach horse handling skills as a means of confidence booster and doing the not so fun jobs because life isn’t all fun and games. I really just wanted to give them a positive and non-judgemental experience where they could succeed in their own ways and for them to take home whatever it is that they needed from it.

This was seriously one of the best experiences of my life and thank you so much for helping make it happen!”

Although the heat and smoke made the program difficult at times, the young people were able to work past these issues.

NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam was thrilled about how much the young people connected with the horses. Joe expressed, “When Chris* came over and told me that Elton (horse) liked him and the smile on his face when connecting with the horse, that was priceless!”

Joe also explained, “We know the program had achieved its purpose when facilitator of the program Wendy, was having a bad day and all of the young people opted to not run the session out of empathy and understanding that Wendy having a challenging time. We loved seeing one of the young people try to console her by telling her a story of a time in his life when they were sad.”

The program averaged 7 young people per session and at the end of the program, an evaluation was filled out by the young people who rated the program an average of 9.7 out of 10.

The young people’s feedback about the program was that they were able to learn how not to scare the horse, to be quiet around the horses, read the horse’s body language, facial expressions and their favourite parts of the program was riding, feeding and cleaning the horses.

NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam, gave us his thoughts at the completion of the program, “Overall this program was hugely successful. It was very hands on, no young people were forced to do anything, which helped the young people achieve something in their own time. For some it was spending time in a different environment, for others it was grasping an understanding of how the horse was feeling or dealing with fear as the size of the horses was quite intimidating.

We are really proud of the young people who participated in this program and we hope that we can run this program again in the future.”

If you would like to speak with the NCNS Youth Team, please contact Joe on 0417 498 918 or Sami on 0408 586 797.

For all youth programs please click here.



*Names have been changed for privacy

Family therapy sees positive changes in local families

Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare (FFT-CW) is a model of therapy that works with families who have child protection concerns. We have the privilege of working with local families in their homes every week for up to six months.

FFT-CW would like to take this opportunity to wish one of our Therapists all the very best for her upcoming maternity leave. Dawn and her partner Robert will be welcoming a baby any day now and whilst we will miss her over these next 12 months, we look forward to baby visits! Speaking of welcomes, we have had the fortune of taking on a well-known and very experienced NCNS person, Narelle Smith, as Dawn’s replacement. Welcome Narelle!

Below is a quick snapshot of some successes we have had over this last term.

NCNS Family Practitioner, Craig Donnelly-Wells began working with a family as Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) were concerned about the possibility of excessively punitive parenting. After completing FFT-CW, Dad made two profound statements:  ‘I feel now as a family we are closer than ever and able to open up and talk more and be more honest’, ‘I can see that I have make the small changes needed for my family’.  Another contributing factor to the family’s success in working with FFT-CW seemed to be an environmental one, pertaining to Dad’s employment, this seemed to minimise Dad’s workplace stress, which then had a positive flow on effect at home. Most importantly, the children said to Craig that they felt safer and that Dad is much less reactive these days.

NCNS Family Practitioner, Nigella Bishop worked with a family of Mum, Stepdad and two young teenagers. We worked with a referral behaviour of intense family conflict.  One child in particular exhibited explosive behaviour at home and this was because he had considerable issues at his school. FFT-CW taught the family specific skills so they could self-regulate in a healthy way. The family really took these skills on board and practised every week. Fortunately, we saw a distinct decrease in aggressive behaviours and an increase of good family communication.

NCNS Family Practitioner, Sara Johnston started working with a family alongside the Blue Mountains Community Services Centre (CSC) as they were concerned about the relationship between Mother and Child. Last week Sara, DCJ and other services received an email from Mum saying, “Sara Johnston has been invaluable in teaching me to handle successfully by ‘planned ignoring’. We have been able to have some play dates without any major conflicts, and I have kept up our regular daily routines throughout for his stability. I have also made significant headway in my personal therapies in regards to my anxieties in my relationship with my son and we have been enjoying each other’s company much more’

To find out more about FFT-CW please click here.

NCNS supported playgroups have a plan and a purpose

NCNS has 3 Supported Playgroups; Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup, St Marys Aboriginal Supported Playgroup and Braddock Playtime Playgroup. You may be thinking, is there really a difference between a supported playgroup and a regular playgroup? Well the answer is YES and here is why.

How are NCNS’ Supported Playgroups different to a regular playgroup?

One of the main differences between our supported playgroups and a regular playgroup is that our playgroups are facilitated by experienced NCNS Early Childhood Workers, Carolyn Gilbert, Amy Lear and Zoe Harris.

Our 3 playgroups have access to a number of early childhood resources and have a program that focuses on the developmental and early learning outcomes to help develop children’s early learning and social skills. We focus on health, culture and parenting initiatives.

Both of our Aboriginal Supported Playgroups have a wraparound framework which include Building Strong Foundations (BSF) Health Team who provide a Child & Family Nurse and an Aboriginal Health Worker, Lifestart Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) workers, financial counselling, immunisation staff and other organisations depending on the family’s needs that arise, or a gap in access for these children. We also have case workers from various services who come to playgroup to support their families. NCNS also provide family support.

We are also connected with a number of other services, including Braddock Public School, Disability Services, The School Dentist (Dental Clinic), Hearing and vision, Speech, Occupational Therapist, and Physiotherapy.

What kind of activities do you focus on?

Everything we do in playgroup has a purpose. We concentrate on developmentally appropriate activities, literacy and numeracy, social interaction, fine motor, cognitive, language, sensory, music, craft, art creativity, self and social awareness, and cultural/ multi-cultural activities.

A huge focus our of playgroups is to support parent/child play.  Parents are the first educators and most important teacher in their life and as educators we support them through this Journey. Play is important for children’s learning, so we include a variety of play activities to teach children different skills. For example, sand play teaches children about measurement, volume and problem solving and dramatic play encourages social skills, self-awareness, emotion and connections, exploring how the world works and the meaning for them.

How else can a supported playgroup help families?

Playgroup helps children and families form friendships.  If families come regularly, it helps to build routines, parents are able to form trust with the playgroup facilitators and other parents., and will help each other with parenting ideas, give reassurance to each other that they are doing a good job, and offer suggestions to try.

Who should access a supported playgroup?

All families, regardless of circumstances will benefit from attending a supported playgroup. We welcome grandparents, carers, dads, mums, young mums, cousins, aunty’ s, whoever is caring for a child, to come along.

What is some feedback from the families who attend our playgroup?

We have parents who hate school holidays as they miss coming to playgroup. Some parents even organise their child’s day care around playgroup, so they don’t miss out!

Our early childhood team are passionate about what they do, and this shows through their dedication to help the families who attend their playgroups. If you are interested in coming along to one of our supported playgroups or have any questions please contact the NCNS Early Childhood Team on 02 4729 0442 or

You can find all of the NCNS Child and Family programs by clicking here

5 reasons why your children should see the dentist

You may be thinking, are dental appointments really that important for my child? The answer is yes and here are five reasons why:

1. Teeth are important for speaking, chewing and holding space in the jaw for children’s adult teeth

2. Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic illnesses amongst young children and can affect their development and well-being

3. Poor oral health in childhood can increase the chance of major dental problems later in life

4. Regular dental check-ups help your child develop good oral hygiene habits

5. Early check-ups prevent tooth decay and pain

Still not convinced?

At our last Dental Outreach Day, out of the 28 children who received a dental health check-up, 4 were referred on for serious dental work after discovering dental health issues that would mean they need teeth removed or without treatment would have implications to their overall health.

2 of the 4 children were found with tooth abscesses, an infection in the soft inner part of the tooth due to exposure to bacteria. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the jaw, ear, neck and in some cases the infection can spread to the brain.

1 child had a fractured tooth with nerve exposure which can cause an abscess and severe dental pain.

1 child had trauma on their baby tooth that can cause complications to the adult tooth developing underneath.

Children should have their first dental check up by the time they turn 1 or within 6 months of their first tooth appearing and should have regular check up’s at least every 12 months. This is important so that any dental issues can be identified early and treated to prevent further damage and complications later in life.

Has your child had their dental health check?

The NCNS Early childhood team will be once again partnering with The School Dentist for a Dental Outreach Clinic for Aboriginal Children 2 – 17 years old on Thursday 6th April 2020.

Book your child in for a FREE dental health check up by contacting Carolyn Gilbert, NCNS Early Childhood Team Leader on 02 4729 0442 or

To get a copy of our Dental Outreach Flyer or see our Aboriginal Programs  click here.

Local volunteers use their skills to help others

On 21st January, the NCNS Communities team worked together with some of our amazing local volunteers to hold a Community Day at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre. The aim was to utilise the skills that our volunteers  already had and put them to good use by helping others in the local community.

We had over 20 community members attend the day who took advantage of what was on offer. Our volunteers helped with sewing and hemming uniforms.

Tracey from our Collective Community Volunteer Group was able to assist with computer help and resume writing.

NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker, Dave Gillett, was able to provide JP services.

Those who attended this Community Day also enjoyed a casual lunch, coffee and social get together while browsing through some fantastic donations that had been generously donated to Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds explained, “There was a real sense of community connection, joint sharing of ideas and resident knowledge. We saw many new faces who were surprised and delighted to find out about and interested in getting involved with groups run by NCNS in the local area.”

Check out the NCNS Activity Directory for all of our  Programs and Groups. To get in touch with the NCNS Community Development Team please call 02 4729 0442 or email











Collective Kids promote the value of friendship at their 2nd event 

We are so proud of the Collective Kids Community group who have now organised and completed their second event in the community collaborating with Kingswood Park Public School to hold the Kingswood Park Moonlight Cinemas on Friday 15th November featuring ‘Ralph breaks the internet.’

Tickets to this event were available to all Kingswood Park families for a small gold coin donation per person. Year 6 students were selling drinks and sweet treats on the night and Woodfire pizzas was provided for dinner.

The students met prior to the event in their afternoon Collective Kids Community Group to brainstorm and discuss plans for the event.

Collective Kids Meeting

The Collective Kids decided that for this event they would like to promote the value of friendship by making friendship bracelets.

Collective Kids Friendship Bracelets

Their role was to support other children with how to make their own bracelet and explain the significance of friendship. We loved this idea!

Collective Kids Friendship Bracelets

The Collective Kids Community group have also been helping the Penrith City Council (PCC) Community Team by sharing their thoughts on what makes their area and community so great. The kids explained to the PCC Community Team that they loved being able to ride or walk to school, to the park, play soccer in the park, having activities at school as well as after school and having friends!

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds, commented, “It was fantastic to see some of the children also volunteer to help up other areas on the night. We were really impressed with how everyone came together to make sure the event ran smoothly. This is the last event for the Collective Kids Community group in 2019 but the kids would like to plan some new events in 2020 so watch this space!”

For more information about the NCNS Collective Kids Community Group please contact Justine on 02 4729 0442 or email

Hold your horses! Horse care leads youth to empathy & understanding

Last month the NCNS Youth Workers, Sami Thoms and Joe Benchoam launched their new after-school Horse Care Program with a small group of 8 students, beginning with an orientation day where all participants could get to know each other and the horses they would be working with.

The aim of the program is to give participants hands on experience with animals, while at the same time encouraging skills around empathy and understanding body language.

We are now mid-way through the program and NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam commented, “It has been an exciting and surprising journey so far!”

The young people have been learning a lot about horse behaviours gaining insight on how to understand and recognise how a horse is feeling  and the importance of trust between human and horse. All of the young people have been extremely supportive of one another, working together and getting a range of jobs done from the not so glamourous, cleaning up horse poo, weeding to cleaning horse grooming kits.

Joe explained, “ It really surprised me to see how each participant invested themselves into completing these jobs.”

An exciting part of the program for all of the young people has been learning how to lead a horse, and last week they learnt about dominance behaviour. They learnt that horses have a regime in place in the paddock, for example, if you are feeding a horse, one horse will move forward using dominant body language, with their ears backwards and can push other horses out of the way. The other horses will stay back and wait for their turn to eat the food.

There have been some beautiful moments where the participants have connected with the horses, displaying the ability to empathise with Wendy, our wonderful facilitator.

Joe expressed, “ It has been such an awesome experience so far, for Sami and I. Getting to know these incredible young people has been amazing and we have both enjoyed learning new skills alongside the young people who are participating in the program.

Here is how you can give back to your community

In September, we spoke about the new Collective Community volunteer group and how they had already began giving back to their local community.

At this time, the group had already made 15 food hampers, 300 muffins and cupcakes for our Brekky Club, sewn 30 library bags for school children and were even hemming school uniforms for free. On the 9th of September, Collective Community held a valuable and informative cooking workshop with help from NCNS Community Workers, Cathy Briffa, Rabia Tareen and Justine Reynolds. This workshop was a highlight for members of the group, NCNS Workers and community who participated with everyone providing fantastic feedback about the day.

You may be thinking, how much more could this amazing group possibly do!? Well, here is an update. Since then the Volunteer Group has been extremely busy both at the group meetings as well as in their own time. Collective Community have been meeting fortnightly, and in this time, they have supported a number of local organisations, families and NCNS groups.

Some of the achievements of the Collective Community volunteer group in the last few months include:

🔵 Provided over 500 baby items to local Nepean Young Pregnancy Support Group (NYPS)

🔵 Made up 30 toy packages for Aboriginal children of families living on the land

🔵 Put together 20 emergency bags for both men and women fleeing domestic violence situations

🔵 Collected ‘going to school’ supplies, e.g. pencils, backpacks, texters, scissors and more and donating to two organisations

🔵 Created fine motor handmade gloves for children attending 3 local playgroups. These can help some children sit for a longer period of time during activities like story time or music time.

🔵 Sourced TV’s, Queen Sized bed, bedside tables, curtains and blinds that were donated to several families in the Cranebrook & Kingswood park area

🔵 Baked Hundreds of cupcakes/muffins for the NCNS Brekky club for children’s morning tea

Right now, the ladies from the group are creating handmade Christmas gifts by turning recycled coffee jars into tea light candle holders (battery operated). The group is hoping to combine what they make, with the Collective Kids Community group who are also working on their own tea light candle holders. These gifts will be distributed to retirement homes in the area, hoping to bring a smile to the face of seniors who may not have family or visitors over Christmas.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds spoke passionately about the Collective Community group, “The women come from all over the Penrith LGA and are truly amazing! A lot of these women are also busy with other groups and volunteering their own spare time to continue to support the local community. We are looking for new members for 2020!”

The last meeting of this year will be on Monday 2nd December 2019 from 12pm – 2.30pm at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre.  The groups first meeting for 2020 will be Monday 10th February. If you are interested in giving back to your community come and check out this group. We welcome and encourage any new members to come along! If you would like more information about this group, please contact NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds on 02 4729 0442 or email

Mental health conditions affect 25 percent of young people

Last Wednesday, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services partnered with the Cranebrook Community Health Centre and spent the afternoon at Cranebrook High School to promote positive mental health. The aim was to open up the conversation about mental health with the young students.

Nada Mohammed, NCNS Community Development Worker, hosted a barbecue at the school, cooked by our wonderful year 10 student, Courtney Taylor.

170 students came through for a feed and whilst they enjoyed their lunch, they chatted with the Youth Mental Health Worker, Michelle from the health centre.

Mental health conditions directly affect 1 in 5 Australians at some stage in their lives, and is even more common among young adults, affecting up to 25% of this age group.

Mental health conditions do not discriminate by age, race or ethnicity and they often strike when a person is in the prime of their life. The spectrum of disorders runs from mild to severe and, like any medical condition there are a number of factors that can trigger illness including:

–  Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
–  Life experiences, such as trauma, workload, stress or abuse
–  Family history of mental health issues

It was an important afternoon, sharing information, personal stories and interacting with young people. We wanted to emphasise to the young people, that it is okay to not be okay and that there is a number of services that can support their journey with mental health.

If you know someone who is struggling with mental health, contact and speak with your local mental health service. Download Mental Health Contact List



Click above image for printable PDF.


Ladies present handmade sensory items to students from Fernhill School

Earlier this year in another blog post,  Ladies creating sensory blankets & boards for Fernhill School, I spoke with Linsey,  one of the coordinators of the Taste of Everything (TOE) Workshops for Women Group, who talked about their new project for Term 3 and Term 4 2019, A Sense of Giving.

TOE Coordinators, Martha & Linsey have been volunteering their time at Fernhill School in Glenmore Park since the first month the school opened in January 2017.  Fernhill School is a Department of Education school that was opened as a result of the needs of the community. The school provides educational programs for students who have a primary diagnosis of moderate to severe intellectual disability, with many students having other additional needs such as physical disabilities, sensory impairment, Autism, and mental health.

A large number of the children that attend Fernhill School are non-verbal and learn through sight and touch. Martha had stopped into the school to offer sensory blankets that the women of TOE had made for the school and asked if there was anything else, they needed. Martha & Linsey have been there ever since!

The group sent out a questionnaire to see what items would benefit the students and teachers the school the most. The project, A Sense of Giving, came to life when TOE was successful in obtaining a rolling grant from Penrith City Council. TOE have since used this grant to create sensory blankets and boards, plus some little surprises to enrich student’s enjoyment, comfort and participation at school.

The ladies from the group were so excited to work on this project. Linsey explained that Fernhill, “is a beautiful school with wonderful, caring staff and we wanted to help them in any way we could, so this was an obvious choice, along with our weekly contributions.”

Since then, the ladies had been working hard on their sensory creations and have just presented the sensory blankets, boards and surprises to the students at a presentation at Fernhill School, earlier this morning. The ladies had asked every class what they wanted and then bundled up and gifted to each class.

We would like to congratulate the women from TOE on their wonderful contributions to their local community, we are sure that the students are going to love using their new sensory gifts.

TOE already have some ideas for what they might do with a rolling grant next year.  Watch this space!

TOE has a variety of activities for all women to enjoy. Come for a laugh, some fun and an opportunity to make lasting friendships. If you would like to check out what the Taste of Everything Workshops for Women, are up to contact Martha on 0414 557 062 or Linsey on 0448 975 724 for more information.

For more information about Fernhill School, check out their website:

Celebrating the kids of Cranebrook this Children’s Week

Children’s week celebrates the right of Children to enjoy childhood, and at the same time promotes and raises awareness of the needs, rights and achievements. This year’s theme was based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 24: Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy.

Immediately when I hear the word healthcare, my thoughts go straight to physical health; things like dental appointments, seeing an optometrist , going to doctor’s appointments however,  healthcare does not only include an individual’s physical health, it also includes their mental health. For good mental health, it is important for children to be able to play, to create, to discover and to explore.

With this in mind, NCNS’ Cranebrook Children’s day event was packed with all sorts of activities for children and their families to investigate and take part in. A highlight for children who attended this year’s event were the super cute animals of the petting zoo as well as the fun of the Tumbletown Play Centre.

Other activities included different forms of construction, art and craft, a seed planting table, and a huge variety of sensory activities. We also made sure to have a healthy snack area set up with fruit and veggies, sandwiches and cold water.

NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe Harris was in charge of coordinating this year’s Children’s week event in Cranebrook. Zoe remembers attending her first children’s week event in 2012, organised by Penrith City Council.  So now, Zoe is not only an expert at organising NCNS’ Children’s Week events but it is something that she is passionate about. When I asked Zoe why we do this event each year she explained, “There are children’s week events happening all over the Penrith LGA during Children’s Week and NCNS want to ensure that our Cranebrook Community also have the opportunity to be involved. We know it can be difficult to access events in other suburbs. It is an opportunity for all different aspects of our community that have, or are involved with young children, to be together. We have lots of local families (and visitors) attend, we also have the local child care centre and primary school (kindy kids) attend. Cranebrook High School send their students who are studying child care to help on the day as well as other local organisations. It is a great way of everyone getting to know each other and play together.”

Pictured above: NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe Harris

On the day, we had some great support from local services, so we would like to say a massive thank you to Penrith City Council, SRAC, Breakthru, Barnardos, Lifestart and Community Health. A big thank you to the students from Cranebrook High for your help, and to the teachers and staff from Braddock Public School, Cranebrook High School and Tamara Childcare Centre for organising the students to visit.

NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe Harris expressed that, “it was just so special to see everyone; children, parents, teachers and services all having a great time together and most importantly celebrating and acknowledging all of the wonderful children in our local community.”

If you would like to get in touch with our Early Childhood Team, please contact 02 4729 3907 or

For all of our children and family programs, please click here.

Local youth learning hands on skills in horse handling and care

The NCNS Youth team is extremely excited about their new Horse Care Program for young people, being delivered during term 4 2019.  This is something completely different to the programs we have run in the past and with only limited spaces available, 8 lucky young people will be participating in the program. Earlier this year the NCNS Youth team conducted a survey with results showing that the young people we reached had strong interests in animal care.  These survey results combined with a trend in aggressive behaviour and young people not understanding the impact of their actions, gave NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam, the fabulous idea to create a program in which we hoped would give participants the opportunity to work with animals, while at the same time gaining skills around empathy and understanding body language.

This idea came to life once Joe came across an advertisement for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) in Richmond. Joe reached out to the Volunteer Coordinator for Richmond, RDA, Wendy, who immediately jumped on board, offering her time to facilitate the program for us.

During this program, there will be a variety of things that the young people will get the chance to do and learn, some of these include:

  • How to clean a horse
  • What plants in the field the horses cannot eat and how to get rid of them
  • How to lead a horse
  • What the horse is trying to communicate through their body language

The Orientation day on Saturday 12th October was a great way to kick off the program. At the orientation, participants were introduced to each other and to the horses, and also shared a delicious lunch together.

Pictured above: NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam

All the young people had great things to say about the day and told us that they enjoyed learning a little bit about the horse’s body language as well as getting the brush them down.

Last Thursday, was the official beginning of the after school Horse Care Program, where all the young people who came along gave us really positive feedback about the program as well as the wonderful facilitator Wendy (RDA – Richmond). We would like to thank Wendy for generously giving us her time, without her, this program would not be possible.

NCNS Youth Worker, Sami Thoms expressed, “this is a great program because it gives the participants a chance to learn new skills and form a deeper connection with and greater understanding of animals, which they may not have had the opportunity to do before.”


All of the current participants are really excited for the rest of the program and we can’t wait to see how these young people develop as the program goes along.


For updates on the Horse Care Program, check out the NCNS Youth Facebook page:

Fighting for a Parvo free Penrith – Over 130 animals vaccinated

This October, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS), Greencross Vets (Coreen Ave), the RSPCA, Penrith City Council and University of Sydney Vet students, came together to hold two Pet days in Cranebrook & Kingswood Park in an effort to work towards a Parvo Free Penrith.

What is Parvo?

Parvovirus (Parvo) is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease in dogs that affects the intestine and/or heart.

What are the symptoms?

  • Severe vomiting
  • Blood in stool
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Why is it important to vaccinate against Parvo?

Parvovirus can live for up to 1 year in its environment and can be spread through the faeces of infected dogs.  There is no drug that can kill parvovirus once it is inside a dog’s body and death rates of dogs with parvovirus are high.

The best defence against Parvo is to ensure dogs are vaccinated.

When to vaccinate?

Greencross vet’s website recommends vaccinating dogs at:

  • 6 to 8 weeks of age
  • again at 10 to 12 weeks old
  • again at 14 to 16 weeks old
  • a booster vaccination yearly for the rest of their life

How are we helping to stop the spread of Parvo?

On Saturday 5th October at the Cranebrook Pet Day, an amazing 74 animals owned by local community members received health checks and/or vaccinations.

This year we were thrilled to welcome Penrith City Council Animal Services on board who were able to make sure all of the adorable pets that attended the day were microchipped. This is so important so that if our furry family members ever wander off, the owners could be easily identified, and pets can be brought home safely to their families.

Not only were the pets given health checks, but we were also fortunate enough to be given incredible donations from Pet Barn, RSPCA, SecondBite and also from Marlene, a Penrith community member. Local pet owners were really grateful to receive these donations.

On Saturday 12th October, the North Penrith Community Centre in Kingswood Park opened its door to the animals of Penrith. On this day we saw over 60 animals, dogs and cats come through to receive their yearly health check-up, including vaccinations and micro-chipping.

We even had a young budding vet in the form of one of our KP Kids who visited on the day.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved. These days are made possible because of the vets, vet nurses and students who volunteer their time to help stop the spread of Parvo and to ensure that our pets live a long, happy and healthy life.

Local youth learn to snowboard thanks to the Chill Foundation – Burton

This year Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS) were invited to go on a snow trip by the Chill Foundation ran by Burton and of course, we jumped at the opportunity as this meant the young people that we work with would have the chance to go to the snow.

The Chill foundation works with social service and mental health agencies, foster care programs, juvenile justice programs and schools in local communities to select young people to participate in their program where everything is provided to the youth at no cost.

Accommodation at Action Learning Initiatives‘ (ALI) Bungarra Lodge, ski wear, snowboard, boots, lift passes, 2-hour ski lessons each day, breakfast, lunch and dinner plus 1:1 lessons with Lucas and Ash from Burton with the young people in ‘free’ time, were all provided by the Chill Foundation. NCNS provided transport to and from the snow, snow shoes, socks and thermals plus 4 NCNS workers who went along to supervise and support the young people throughout the trip.

NCNS staff with 20 young people travelled down to Thredbo bright and early on Tuesday morning (10/09) and once they arrived, they met with Mariah from ALI and Ash and Lucas from the Burton Chill Foundation.

The young people ate lunch before they eagerly headed over to the ski rental to get fitted into their boards and boots. Once fitted, they headed out to the ski fields for the first session with Thredbo ski instructors and after this finished, the young people had some free time to practise their developing snowboarding skills.

After this exhilarating first day on the snow, the staff and youth were absolutely buggered and travelled back to their accommodation to unpack, shower and then headed to the mess hall for dinner. After refuelling their tummies, they enjoyed playing games including pool, table tennis, tips, hide and seek and at 9:30pm headed to bed.

Some of the young people who stayed up later than they were supposed to, regretted that decision, at the 6:15am wake up call the following day!

Some of the young people had expressed to our workers that they were struggling with the snowboarding and did not want to get back on their boards on day 2.  Staff explained that this was their first-time snowboarding and encouraged them to have another go because ‘as we practise, we get better.’

When Ash & Lucas invited the young people to go out on their boards, our workers were not sure if they would take up the opportunity but were incredibly proud when every single young person grabbed their boards and strapped in for what ended up being the best day for all of the youth and staff.

Our staff enjoyed the opportunity to connect with all the youth during the chair lift rides, from hearing the stories of the difficulties they were having when they first started, and now seeing their excitement at being able to snowboard down the mountain with very few falls, being able to stop, mastering the leaf manoeuvre to start the S move.

During the second ski lesson, the young people were feeling more confident and were really looking forward to the free ski after lunch. NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker, Trudy Grant enthused, “The energy from the group was electric and contagious, they were all encouraging each other from the chair lifts, ‘come on Billy, you can do it,’ ‘You’re doing so well Braydan, keep it up,’ There was a lot of encouragement from all the young people, it really was a great experience.”

One of the best things about this trip was that by the end of day 2 on the snow fields, the young people did not want to go home.  Although there was an agreed time to meet back up, being an hour late didn’t matter after seeing their faces and hearing them talk enthusiastically about the day.

Trudy explained that after dinner that night, “There was a sense of connection, a special bond had formed through their shared experience of learning to snowboard, music was playing, young people and staff were dancing, others playing pool and table tennis. It was such a great vibe and a wonderful way to end such an amazing day.”

NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker, Bronwyn Nuttall, also commented, “I’m proud of all the young people and the fact that they never gave up! They also encouraged me to keep going, so not only did they encourage each other, but also our staff. This was my first camp with young people, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

By the third day, it did not take much convincing for the young people to strap in their boots and boards. They had more free time before their lesson and the improvement, confidence and developing of their snowboarding skills was truly amazing.

At the end of the trip the young people were gifted a Burton Beanie and left the snow with heavy hearts, although grateful for the incredible experience. They wished they could stay longer! Out of 20 young people, only a couple had been to the snow before, but none had ever snowboarded.

When asked what the highlight of this trip, NCNS Worker, Trudy Grant replied, “There were so many highlights on this trip. It’s been a few years since I have been away with young people, but I have to say, it was one of my favourites. The young people’s behaviour and attitude through the whole trip was fantastic but the highlight would have to be whilst on the chair lifts with each young person, the encouragement they were yelling out to each other blew me away. We had no fights or arguments on the trip, it was all positive encouragement for each other and when you get 20 young people together, there’s normally at least one or two fights, arguments or disagreements that you need to sort out but we had nothing like that which made for a great trip with some awesome young people.”

The feedback we received from the young people who attended the snow trip was extremely positive, including:
‘Do we have to go back home?’
‘I didn’t think I could do it from the first day, now I ski down the mountain without falling over’
‘Thank you for staying with me and not giving up on me’
‘Can we do this every year!?’
‘I didn’t really know anyone before coming but now I have some new friends’
‘Best trip of my life’

We would like to thank Ash and Lucas from the Chill Foundation – Burton, and Mariah from Action Learning Initiatives for this incredible opportunity. We know these young people will never forget it!



Why Steps to Healing could be the program for you

We sat down with NCNS Aboriginal Worker, Bronwyn Nuttall, facilitator of the NCNS Steps to Healing Program to find out what it is all about.

What is Steps to Healing?

Steps to Healing is an open group program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people created to combine Western methodology with Aboriginal Culture to provide an evidence-informed program that is culturally appropriate and safe. Steps to Healing is facilitated by Aboriginal workers who are trained in mental health.

What does a session look like?

The sessions offer activities that focus on the present, mindfulness, metaphor, positive psychology, self-care, self-compassion, communication, relationships and Aboriginal Culture. Whilst the program encourages the development of new skills, it is offered within the context of social care and concern.

The concepts of neuroscience are explained to participants and these are not ‘dumbed down.’ It is immensely beneficial for people to understand how their brains and bodies work in response to stress, overwhelm, and trauma. Knowledge is power and we treat participants as intelligent people who have the capacity to learn, understand and integrate complex knowledge.

When asked how she would describe the group, Bronwyn replied “The group has a great vibe. Everyone talks about and shares the content. Last week, there was 2 ladies who were unable to attend the session and the other participants were able to explain to these ladies what they had missed and were even using the terminology used in Steps to Healing. It was as if they could almost run the program themselves and this made me so proud as it is clear that they are working the program to its full potential.”

What do participants think about Steps to Healing?

The 8 participants in the term 3 program have told us that the program has had both small and big impacts on themselves and their life. It has helped them to slow down and breathe. Their anxiety has reduced significantly. It has been especially great to see one of our participants who had extremely high levels of anxiety, be able to relax and is now able to better manage their anxiety.

Bronwyn told us, “The best thing about running this program is seeing the transformation in participants; seeing where they are when they first come in, and then watching them make positive changes in their life. I have had participants who have been at their worst, change, and grow over the 8 weeks, which is truly remarkable. This is why I love this program. Everyone who does this program, can relate to it somehow, even me.”

Bronwyn explained that the tools that the program has to offer you, she uses

herself, “The program keeps me in check and teaches me how to ‘drop the rope’. It teaches me about my emotions and it’s ok to sit in that, but for how long do we sit in it for? This is where we learn how to ‘ride the wave’. It also teaches me to be kind to myself.”

Since its introduction, there has been a lot of talk about Steps to Healing. The program has been received well, with a number of services asking about the program and how to refer to it. Steps to Healing has now been recognised through Mental Health Matters and received a highly commendable award.

NCNS will continue to deliver this Steps to Healing during term 4, running Thursday’s from 24th  October to 12th December 2019. If you would like more information about this program please contact Bronwyn on 02 4706 0280/ 0439 455 139 or email

Download the Steps to Healing Term 4 2019 flyer.


Cooking from scratch, on a budget plus handy tips and tricks

You may have read about the new Collective Community group in Penrith, made up of residents from the area who want to give back to their community. One of the groups first suggestions was to hold a cooking workshop to help community members learn and share new cooking skills and information.

The workshop had a great turn out with 18 participants attending on the day. The group was diverse, and we loved seeing some new faces join in.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds began the workshop by sharing information about cheap grocery, meat and pantry items in or around the Penrith area as well as how to utilise online resources. Justine handed out a leaflet that could be shared amongst attendees’ friends and neighbours.  If you would like a copy of the Local Cheap Food Sources, please feel free to download it from the link at the end of this blog.

Cathy Briffa, NCNS Community worker and Brekky Club superstar, did a fantastic job of teaching the community handy hints and tricks of the kitchen.

Cathy talked about the different flour types, how to make your own essence, castor sugar, self-raising flour, caramel and buttermilk.

NCNS staff have had the pleasure of tasting  NCNS Community Worker, Rabias’ cooking and know she is an absolutely wonderful cook. Rabia demonstrated how to make chicken rice and her sought-after, butter chicken from scratch, using only fresh ingredients, nothing from a jar.

Rabia also shared where to get the best herbs and spices from, what they are used for and how to make your own.

Participants were lucky enough to be able to sample both Rabia and Cathy’s food at the end of the workshop. While we enjoyed tasting the delicious food samples, we were able to exchange information, ideas and happenings in the local area.

Since this workshop was a hit with the community, the Collective Community group are looking at other workshops that they believe will be beneficial to the Penrith community. Watch this space!

If you are interested in joining the Collective Community group please feel free to come along or contact Justine on 02 4729 0442 or for more information.

Local Cheap Food Sources


Download Local Cheap Food Sources

Check out the new volunteer group in Penrith.

NCNS has two amazing new volunteer groups, Collective Community & Collective Kids Community! The Collective Community group was created as a result of general discussion during a Cranebrook Connects Community Working Group meeting, where several requests from community members were made to start a group where they had the opportunity to give back to their community. We had also received feedback from some residents that felt somewhat isolated from other adults and were struggling to have a purpose to the day through various circumstances.

The Collective Community group is open and will have activities for all Penrith Community members such as cooking, sewing, event planning, reading with children, gardening, assisting community with shopping and more. Our first get together was a meet and greet where interested community members could discuss and plan how they would like to move forward with this group.

At the moment, this group is made up of 12 women, some of whom have been involved with volunteering for many years and others who are completely new to it. We would love to have some men join this group!

So far, the group has made 15 food hampers, 300 muffins and cupcakes for the children who attend our Breakfast Club at the Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre and are currently in the process of sewing 30 library bags for new children starting school and hemmed uniforms as a free service.

On the 9th September, the group held a Cooking Workshop, teaching others how to cook from scratch, cheap eats, plus handy time and money saving ideas for the kitchen which was a massive hit with the community.

The Collective Community Group have even made a talking stick for the children’s collective community group.

Similar to the Collective Community Group, the Collective Kids Community Group is a children’s volunteer group run by children, doing similar activities in the community.

Yesterday, the Collective Kids held an fantastic ‘Afternoon in the Park’ event at Kingswood Park, that was the result of 6 weeks of hard work put together by the children in the group with guidance from NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds. The kids have held regular organisational meetings where they have learnt how to run a meeting, organise an event, work with a budget and most of all negotiate and except success and disappointment. All of the ideas, that were passed at these meetings came into place yesterday, with the help of NCNS, Kingswood Park School, Penrith City Council and Uniting.

The event had a range of fun activities including slime making, dancing, Oz Tag, Soccer, Lolly guessing competition, mystery prizes as well as afternoon tea. We had over 100 children and families attend on the day, which is a credit to these incredible Collective Kids.

The highlights of the event were Dads playing Oz Tag with the children, families connecting and the slime making station was definitely a hit with the kids.

With the success of the ‘Afternoon in the Park’ event,  the Collective Kids will be aiming to organise one event per school term that will be fun for children and families. Watch this space!

The Collective Community group will be focusing on connecting with new residents in the area,  supporting the community and the group would like to work alongside the Collective Kids Community in the future, for some inter-generational learning.

If you are interested in joining the Collective Community group please feel free to come along or contact Justine on 02 4729 0442 or for more information.

Download Collective Community Term 4 2019 Flyer

Father’s Day Pop Up

Father’s Day is a chance for us to appreciate and acknowledge the important role that father’s play in the life of their children and partners. We wanted to create an activity that will allow children to get creative, give them something to present to their dads as well as offering an opportunity for children and their fathers to bond.

We decided to hold a free Father’s Day pop up at the shopping village in Cranebrook. It was a wonderful morning, spending time with families in our community. Kids were able to come to our pop up and decorate photo frames that could be gifted to their father’s.

We loved seeing the number of Dad’s that came and joined in their kids in doing our activity resulting in a fun and intimate bonding experience for both child and father.

We got some great feedback from some of the Dad’s who came along on the day, who expressed that it was great to have something to do with their children in the community that was easily accessible. Not only were kids able to create personalised gifts for Dad, families were able to get information about our programs and get referrals if required, as well as making new connections with members of the community.

We wish all of the great Dad’s out there, a Happy Father’s Day and we hope all of the kids enjoyed creating their special present for Dad!




Ladies creating sensory blankets & boards for Fernhill School

Recently we have been inspired by the wonderful ladies from the Taste of Everything Workshops for Women (TOE) and have had the pleasure of chatting with Linsey, one of the coordinators and members of the group.  TOE has been going for over 8 years and came from a desire to create an inclusive group for women to try new arts, crafts, and activities but above all to increase connections in the community creating a place for women to feel comfortable, safe and to build friendships. All these years later TOE is just that. TOE is made up of a group of 10 to 15 ladies who have become great friends.  The ladies are always keen to help each other where they can, with quite a few who get together outside of the group for other activities.

The group is now self-sufficient with members from the group, Martha and Linsey taking on the coordination of TOE, of course with contribution from all members of the group.

I asked Linsey how she would describe this group to someone who has never been, and she replied, “Very welcoming, there is no pressure to do anything you are not interested in doing. We welcome new ideas, have lots of friendly banter and we always have morning tea no matter where we are! We have a lady in a wheelchair who joins in with us & another who comes along occasionally so mobility is not always an issue if they have a carer. Some of us knit, others sew & some just do their own project, whatever they feel comfortable with & if they want to learn new skills we try to help.”

One of the groups favourite activities is going ten pen bowling. Linsey told us that this is because the group “have a wonderful time, lots of giggles, encouragement and because most of us are older we use ramps and bumpers!”

The group also loves going on a variety of bus trips. The group have had a bus trip once a term but are hoping to increase this to twice per term. For the next trip the ladies are planning to go to Mt York to enjoy the Postman’s Run from Brooklyn. Some of the amazing places they have been to already include, Harper house at Berrima, Tulip Tops past Goulburn, Vaucluse House, and Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens.

One of the wonderful things about this women’s group is the great friendships that have been formed. It is an opportunity for the ladies to get out of the house and has helped them to make connections with the Penrith Community.

As well as the group providing opportunities to socialise, try new activities and see new places, the ladies from this group have become aware of the needs in the Penrith community and have jumped on many opportunities where they can help or contribute to a number of causes.

In just the last year, the ladies have donated different items from snacks to lip balm to the parent’s room at the Ronald MacDonald House, they have gathered donations of good condition handbags filled with ladies essential items for the Bunnings Handbag Appeal, and raised $1100 for cancer research by holding a big morning tea at Martha’s home. For this, Martha asked for donations from local businesses and clothes from community and these were auctioned off.

Outside of this group, Linsey, Martha and another amazing lady, Beryl, volunteer their time every Tuesday at Fernhill School, a public special needs school. Martha and Linsey have been volunteering at Fernhill since the first month this school opened, 3 years ago. Martha is a close neighbour to Fernhill and called in to offer some sensory blankets that the group had made and asked if there was anything else, they could do and have been volunteering there ever since. Beryl joined Martha and Linsey at Fernhill 18 months ago, 6 months after she arrived from the UK. From this, she joined the Taste of Everything Workshops for Women group. Beryl is 81 years young and is such a great contributor. The ladies help out the teachers and staff with tasks such as laminating, cutting, sorting, supervising swimming and have covered so many books in contact that they have lost count! They have really helped out by organising the school’s resources hub, putting bar codes on items, labelling and logging them into the computer. The ladies love to help out and this also gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and keep their minds active. Linsey explained, “We see how dedicated the staff are and how much they appreciate our help, so it is not a difficult decision to go there every week, besides, they give us a great morning tea!”

Most children who attend Fernhill are non-verbal and learn through sight and touch. As a public school, Fernhill has limited access to funds. TOE have recently been successful in obtaining a rolling grant from Penrith City Council, to create sensory blankets and boards for the students at Fernhill School, after putting out a questionnaire asking what would be of benefit to the children and the teachers. From this TOE have created their new project, ‘A sense of giving,’ where they will be creating all kinds of sensory items, plus some little surprises for the students which will be presented in November.

Linsey told us that, “It is a beautiful school with wonderful, caring staff and we wanted to help them in any way we could do, so this was an obvious choice, along with our weekly contributions.”

All women are welcome and invited to participate in A Sense of Giving. No sewing skills are required.

Not only are the ladies doing so much for the community, they are also doing things for their own enjoyment and mental health. The group is involved with Neuralmoves at Thornton which will be on display at various contributors’ venues from October. They have been making fingerless mittens and mats for dementia patients at Thornton.

They have researched, designed and sewn a quilt celebrating women from Nepean Valley who have made significant contribution in various fields from the part and present, and this hangs proudly in the Floribunda Community Centre where they meet each week.

The group have made dog and cat blankets, and hammocks that were donated to the Townsville flood relief.

Just yesterday the ladies helped bake muffins to give to the students who attend our Breakfast Club at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre.

Toe already have some ideas in the pipeline, for what they could do with a rolling grant for another worthy group next year.

Impressively Martha and Linsey from the group have even received recognition from the NSW State Government with a certificate for their volunteering, as well as a mention in State Parliament by our local member, Tanya Davies. This was an unexpected, pleasant surprise for these two ladies, and we could not think of anyone more deserving.

In Linsey’s own words, ‘We don’t do it for the accolades but for a sense of community and satisfaction.”

If you are interested in joining the ladies at Taste of Everything Workshops for Women, we encourage you to come along and check it out. A sense of Giving will be running in term 3 and 4, if you would love to get involved please contact Martha on 0414 557 062 or Linsey on 0448 975 724 to register.


60 baby boxes gifted and delivered to young mums to be

This year, NCNS was successful in receiving a ClubGRANTS, grant from St Marys Band Club.

ClubGRANTS is a community development funding program coordinated by Penrith City Council and sponsored by local registered clubs. The scheme enables Registered clubs with an annual gaming machine revenue over 1 million to apply 1.85% of this revenue to specific community development and support projects.

NCNS runs the Nepean Young Pregnancy Support Group at the Penrith Women’s Health Centre on Tuesdays between 10am – 12pm. We wanted to use this grant to provide essential items to the young expectant mothers that we work with. This led NCNS Aboriginal Early Childhood Worker, Amy Lear to look into this incredible idea of baby boxes from Tuutu.

The Tuutu Baby Box was created by Finnish women, Susanna Heiskanen and was inspired by the Finnish government maternity package, a box filled with a mattress and newborn necessities, given to all expectant mothers in Finland. Susanna herself, spent her first 6 months sleeping in a Finnish Baby Box.

The Tuutu Baby Box is a great starter kit for parents. The box includes a foam mattress with a waterproof fitted zip cover and an organic fitted sheet. Babies can sleep safely in the box, and the box can be easily moved around from room to room. The lid doubles as a secure change table with the mattress. Included in the box were items we sourced including bibs, singlets, nappies, wipes, brush set, face washers, muslin wrap, a Johnson & Johnson pack plus a little picture book for parents to read to their newborn.

We were able to provide 60 baby boxes in total, gifted to the ladies who attend NYPS and had them delivered to their homes. This project spanned over the year and was well worth the work to see the faces of expectant mums receive their baby boxes. The young women were so excited to receive their box. The project provided young mum’s to be, a safe space for their baby to sleep that could be easily transported, who may not have been able to purchase a cot yet. The great thing about these boxes is that once baby outgrows the box, it can be used to store toys, clothes and mementos.

We are thankful to Penrith City Council and St Marys Band Club for providing the funding for this project through the ClubGRANTS Program, so we could provide these amazing boxes to young mums to be.

If you are pregnant and under 25 years old and looking for support or to meet other young mums to be, we encourage you to come along to NYPS. You are welcome to bring a friend. NYPS has a variety of guest speakers from different services each term such as the Aboriginal Legal Service, CPR Kids, Family Planning, Platform Youth Services, Lifestart plus more. Support Services and WDO’s Available.

If you would like more information about the Nepean Young Pregnancy Support Group, please contact Amy on 0477 004 773 or Sami on 0408 586 797.

NCNS talks about trauma at the NSW Health VAN Clinical Forum

In 2017, Integrated Violence Prevention Response Service (IVPRS) students had come to our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre (Kooly) in Cranebrook to get some experience engaging with Aboriginal staff for their practical training. Trudy Grant, NCNS Aboriginal Community Coordinator, and Carolyn Gilbert, NCNS Aboriginal Team Leader, Early Childhood talked with the students about community stories of trauma that they had experienced and the need for Aboriginal programs based on their trauma and aimed at Healing.

From this connection with IVPRS, NCNS then had 6 child protection counsellors from (IVPRS) come to Kooly to run a one day, Talking about Trauma Workshop where Aboriginal community members were encouraged to share their own experiences and discuss the impact of trauma on themselves and their families.  The facilitators talked about what trauma is, how it affects us, what it does to our kids and our relationships with them, how this affects our parenting and what we can do.

After this workshop it was even more evident that there was a need for culturally safe therapy to help break the cycle of Aboriginal generational trauma.

This workshop was the catalyst that led to NCNS’s partnership with IVPRS to develop an eight week, Talking about Trauma Pilot Project that would be delivered in the culturally safe space that is our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre in 2018.

The program was facilitated by experienced Child Protection Counsellors, Jem Maddox and Jenny Deighton Shapcott from IVPRS, and supported by NCNS Aboriginal workers Carolyn Gilbert and Trudy Grant. During this 8-week program participants would explore complex trauma, triggers, and self-awareness to address trauma on themselves firstly and then their parenting to help them parent better with support from the workers from IVPRS & NCNS.

NCNS and IVPRS have since received a certificate of Appreciation, Reward and Recognition 2018 from NSW Health for the Talking About Trauma Program delivered in 2018.

Jem Maddox (IVPRS) and Carolyn Gilbert, NCNS Team Leader, Early Childhood were recently invited to present at the NSW Health Violence, Abuse & Neglect (VAN) Clinical Forum in Sydney on Tuesday 23rd July. At this Forum, Jem and Carolyn discussed the partnership between IVPRS and NCNS, to develop a targeted response to the needs of Aboriginal families, to discuss the impact of trauma on their parenting.

Carolyn Gilbert stated, “I was really nervous to get up and present to over 500 frontline VAN Clinicians from Nepean Blue Mountains,  Western NSW Local Health Districts and even from out Western Plains, Forbes, Dubbo areas too, but I am so passionate about this work and the response from the audience was extremely positive.”

Participants feedback from the program has also been positive, with the program helping participants feel that they are not alone in sharing their stories and getting the tools to help with their triggers.

We are currently in the middle of another Talking about Trauma Program in a cultural context for Aboriginal Parents and Carers delivered at Kooly, ending 12th September 2019. This is an intensive program, so we like to end the 8 weeks with a pamper session for participants.

We are so grateful for this wonderful partnership with IVPRS and we hope to continue to deliver this valuable program in the future.

If you have any questions regarding the Talking about Trauma program please email us at