Breakfast Club sees 600 students per week, leaving us with 80 cents per student. Can you help?

The cost of living in Sydney has risen to great heights and families are struggling. Many families are going to multiple grocery stores to get the best deals and often compromising on freshness & quality of food so that they can afford to feed their families. In 2023, over a third of Australians struggled to afford food according to Foodbank Australia. And things keep getting harder, with families that have never before needed support coming forward to get food assistance.

An important part of our work is our Breakfast Club, that runs every school day at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre, to help struggling families feed their children before they start school for the day. Our numbers have increased dramatically this year, with over 600 children attending our breakfast club each week. Due to these extremely high numbers, our current funding only stretches to a budget of 80 cents per child to feed them.

We are scrambling to stretch our funds, with careful spending and creative use of limited donations. The local schools recognise the difference the Breakfast Club makes to their students, and we work closely with them, for example by providing our bus to pick up low attenders and those that have difficulty attending.

This has increased those students’ attendance from 40% to 99% which is incredible.

We try to provide lunch and morning tea for those that don’t have it, and perhaps more importantly, we create a safe space and relationships, so students know where to go to get support. We also walk the primary school students to school after attending our Breakfast Club to ensure they get to school safely.

We usually run with about 3 workers doing various jobs, making breakfast, doing activities and luckily have support from volunteers such as JK Williams who make about 60 loaves of bread into sandwiches for the toasties.

They toasties are a crowd favourite with the children and they do a great job filling them up before they start their day at school.

We feel this is one of the most crucial groups that we run, ensuring children are getting a proper meal so that they can function properly and learn the best way that they can. It’s widely shown in the research that increasing attendance, along with ensuring that children are healthy, fed and ready to learn leads to dramatically improved outcomes for people. However, with the small number of staff and budget we have available, we are struggling, trying to give the children the healthiest and heartiest start to the day as possible.

We are calling out to business owners or businesses who may be willing to donate a commercial sandwich press or funds to go towards a sandwich press that can make many toasties at a time so that we can get food out quicker to the huge numbers of young people who attend breakfast club every day. Any other support is welcome, as well.

Do you know someone or are you someone who could help? Please get in contact with Julie Collins on 0400 772 117 or julie@nepeancommunity.org.au

Golden oldies Friendship Day and social bingo helps seniors connect and get to know each other better

On Thursday 20th June, we held a friendship day with our Golden Oldies Seniors Group. Friendship Day was about celebrating the Golden Oldies community with a focus on connection and honouring all their friendships, new and old. This day was an opportunity to get to know more about each other and to reflect and on all the amazing Golden Oldies memories created through this social group.

On the day, we celebrated Dave and Edna’s 65th Wedding anniversary! The couple have been attending Golden Oldies since 2000 and have created 24 years of memories and friendship with those in the room.

To facilitate this connection to others, NCNS Admin and Community Worker, Jerry created a Social Bingo Card, which involved members getting up, and walking around to find other people that shared common interests.

Some examples of this were finding someone who was wearing nail polish, or someone born in the same month, allowing them to start a conversation with others who they may not usually speak to and support them to get to know new members.

It started slow, but everyone got up and found a way to connect with others so they could collect their answers. It was so nice to do something different and, in the end, the group really enjoyed the activity.

We featured pictures of a Facebook post showing their activities over the years, including group and individual birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day events, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, high teas, winter soup in July, movie days, and bus trips.

On the day we celebrated the birthdays of several members in the room including Christine, Rose, Lyn, Barbara, and Morag, as well as some members who were unable to attend, Ellen, Mary, Corrie, and Joan, who all had birthdays from April, May, and June.

As well as the social bingo, the seniors completed an ‘All About Me’ card, which included information about members birthdays, heritage, favourite things, food, drink, movies, holidays, and some interesting facts about them.

We plan to put this all together in a little profile booklet to make it easier for the seniors to get to know others within the group. The day was an incredible success, thanks to Jerry who worked hard to make this day a fun, exciting experience for our Golden Oldies seniors!

10 children & 3 adults receive eye checks, 8 children have dental checks at Developmental Outreach Day

During June, we had our Aboriginal Early Childhood Developmental Outreach Day running alongside playgroup offering a safe space for parents and carers to access these services. Unfortunately hearing cancelled the day before due to illness but that’s okay because children still got to have their dental and eye checks! Brien Holden Foundation Brien Holden Foundation completed eye checks on 10 children and 3 adults, and 8 children received dental checks.

Thank you to the amazing dentists Jenny and Thi who were amazing during the children’s dental checks. After their check up, each child received a little goody bag with a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste and a little toy to take home with them. This is great as it exciting for the children and makes them look forward to getting their teeth checked. Lillie Jane was so excited to meet the dentist s and to get her teeth checked.

Thomas had his teeth done and even knew where to put the mirror so he could see his teeth during the appointment. It is so important that we create a great experience for the children so they are encouraged to attend in the future.

Lidva and Naomi from Lifestart attended to support families with the NDIS and general questions. They were amazing connecting with the families who attended the day. NCNS Early Childhood workers cooked up some delicious hot dogs, wholefruits, cut up some watermelon, some yoghurt with 2 fruits and lots of other yummy food.

Early intervention screening is a vital service for young children that can help to identify any health, developmental or other problems that may affect their growth, learning and development. .Once a problem has been detected, children can be linked to specialised services and receive the support they need before they go to school.

We provide many activities and services including Aboriginal Supported Playgroup at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre, to contact this centre, please call 02 4706 0280.

Every Family Teaches Me Something New: Sara’s Experience of Delivering FFT

I personally find it a real privilege to work with the families I do using the FFT model. This model allows me to utilise various techniques to match with the needs of individual families in such unique ways. Sometimes it all comes together so brilliantly, like slipping on a silken glove that fits so smoothly and perfectly and it just feels good!

Because of my own life circumstances and experiences with raising a neurodivergent child I often get the opportunity to take families on a journey of discovery that allows the darkness to recede as if I have just flung open a window on the brightest of days and let millions of beams of sunlight come pouring through.

There is a lightness that is present which shifts families into another way of being together. It starts with building the relationship, and to quote President Theodore Roosevelt,

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is the premise that I work from. Then acknowledging and pointing out the families’ strengths and utilising those strengths to build momentum, confidence, and empowerment. Teaching families to turn inward to find the answers, giving people permission to make mistakes, encouraging families to practice their newfound skills and tools to shift unwanted patterns of behaviour. There is nothing earth shattering in what we do, it’s the simple stuff that sticks, being really explicit, consistent, and open to trying new ways of being is key.

Every family I work with teaches me something new, I am always learning in this space along with my families which makes for a perfect combination and mutual exchange of knowledge and growth for me the practitioner as much as it is for the families I am working with. I am aware that every family is a mirror and I have the opportunity to be vulnerable in this space and to see what is being offered to me and role model the same back to the families I am working with, because through vulnerability comes growth and a quite strength and resolve that is not easily broken. I am forever grateful and humbled in this role.

Written by Sara Johnston, Family Therapist, Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare

FFT-CW: Meet our Team!

Functional Family Therapy- Child Welfare (FFT-CW) is a therapeutic intervention aimed at building safety and keeping families together. NCNS has a team of six FFT-CW practitioners who deliver therapy to families across Penrith, Blue Mountains, and Lithgow. For this special article, we asked our team to share a little about themselves.

What drew you to Functional Family Therapy?

Kelly, Team Leader: FFT-CW is a really unique model because it allows us to work in the homes of families, so families get the comfort of being in their own space, and we get the chance to see them interact with each other as they would on any normal day.

Craig, Practitioner: An opportunity to add to the multifaceted practitioner lens and toolbox, which allows the facilitation for meaningful change for myself and others.

Wendy, Practitioner: After completing my social work degree, I was drawn to FFT because it allows us to walk alongside families to elicit sustainable changes using an evidence-based model.

Monica, Practitioner: I was already working for NCNS and knew about the positive team culture over at FFT. I wanted to grow as a professional among welcoming and highly experienced practitioners.

Craig, Practitioner: An opportunity to add to the multifaceted practitioner lens and toolbox, which allows the facilitation for meaningful change for myself and others.

Wendy, Practitioner: After completing my social work degree, I was drawn to FFT because it allows us to walk alongside families to elicit sustainable changes using an evidence-based model.

Monica, Practitioner: I was already working for NCNS and knew about the positive team culture over at FFT. I wanted to grow as a professional

Sara, Practitioner: After 10 years working in management, I wanted to get back to grass roots. I was familiar with NCNS and when I saw the position, I felt drawn to apply for it.

Christy, Practitioner: The dual model of therapists working with DCJ case workers and the evidence-based targeted therapeutic intervention work.

What special skills, experience (lived or professional) and interests do you bring to the FFT team?

Kelly, Team Leader: Like so many of us working in this sector, I have lived experience of parental abuse and then later, domestic violence. I had such great counsellors that helped me transform, that it motivated me to start studying counselling later in life, at 40yo.

Craig, Practitioner: As in my own hemisphere, I attempt to bring an internal essence of relational energy to create relational change, whilst facilitating communication, understanding and recovery within the families we walk alongside.

Wendy, Practitioner: I have lived experience of family separation and domestic violence. I worked for Centrelink for 18 years and have pretty decent research skills because of this. My past experiences and knowledge allow me to connect to the families I work with on an authentic and compassionate level.

Monica, Practitioner: I’ve worked with children and families for most of my career and am interested in highlighting the strengths, grit and creativity of adult and child survivors of coercive control and family abuse.

Sara, Practitioner: I have worked in this sector for about 30 years with experience across many different areas. For the last 24 years I have worked exclusively in the child protection space as a caseworker and a manager. I am particularly interested in working with parents who struggle with parenting their neuro-divergent children.

Christy, Practitioner: 15 years working with children and their families. Most of these years have been focused on child development, increased parenting confidence and skills, early intervention, and risk prevention work.

What’s one thing you could not live without?

Kelly, Team Leader: My two chonka ginger cats. And coffee. And depending on the day, more coffee.

Craig, Practitioner: Relational energy.

Wendy, Practitioner: There are two things I can’t live without, my family (husband and two boys) and coffee (three shots a day for optimal performance)!

Monica, Practitioner: My (unwilling) emotional support animal, Joey the bunny.

Sara, Practitioner: My family.

Christy, Practitioner: Sleep! Any chance I get, I’ll take it. I’ve got a new hammock for the warmer months.

Visit our website to find out more about FFT-CW: https://www.nepeancommunity.org.au/functional-family-therapy/

Article Written by Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare team

 

Embracing Mindfulness: A Parent’s Guide to Being Present with Their Children

You may have heard the term mindfulness in relation to personal wellbeing, but have you considered mindful parenting? So, what is mindfulness and how do you include it in the everyday hustle.

Mindfulness in a Nutshell

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the here and now, without judgment or distraction. Paying deliberate attention to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and environment without getting caught up in it.

Mindfulness can be practiced in the everyday by mindful eating, mindful walking, or simply paying attention to the task at hand like washing dishes. The trick is to tune into your thoughts, feelings, body, and surroundings. Ever stopped to think about the sun on your face or the sounds of the birds as go for a walk?

Benefits of Mindfulness

Benefits include, reduced stress, improved emotional regulation and sleep, enhanced parent-child relationships, better decision-making abilities, increased empathy and compassion, and increased focus and attention.

Mindful parenting creates increased family harmony, emotional resilience in children, and deeper connections and understanding within the family.

Meditation as a tool

Whilst meditation allows you to be present for a set period, the aim of mindfulness is to remember to be come back to the present during the day. Regular meditation practice is known to have benefits including changing and rewiring our brains to more positive emotions and thoughts.

Grey matter in the brain has been shown to increase with regular meditation, improving emotion regulation, planning, problem solving, learning and memory. In addition, the Amygdala which controls fear, anxiety and stress reduces in size.

Mindfulness Techniques

Here are several techniques regularly used in meditation or everyday practice that can be used to develop mindfulness.

Body Scan Meditation: A mental exercise where you scan your body from head to toe. Paying attention to tension and discomfort in the body and gently releasing it.

Mindful Breathing: Focus on each inhale and exhale paying attention to the natural rise and fall of the chest and the stomach. Just a few minutes a day is enough to encourage mental clarity and relaxation.

Mindful eating: Next time to you eat, pause and think about how the food smells, looks, tastes and its texture. This is often a fun activity for children.

Structured meditation: There are many apps and websites with free mediations including Headspace, Calm, Insight and peaceful kids.

Article Written by: Sussan Omar NCNS Parenting Facilitator

Our Closing the Gap team assist clients to get new mobility scooter and free glasses & improve health

The Closing the Gap team change the live on many Aboriginal community members who live with Chronic Diseases. Here are some of our wonderful client stories that we have had the pleasure of working with recently.

Our lovely client, Gary has tried out a new mobility scooter at an independent living specialist in Penrith. Garry found it difficult to get to the grocery store and attending his GP appointments but now through My Aged Care, our Aboriginal Health Outreach Worke, Belinda has organised an occupational therapist to assist Gary in picking a new mobility scooter.

Gary’s new mobility scooter even has attachments that can keep Garry dry from wet weather, helps to carry groceries, and his walking stick with ease. Garry was excited to take it for a spin!

We received amazing news for one of our clients who has been on our program since October 2023 who was initially reluctant to engage with our Integrated Team Care. The client who has numerous chronic diseases including cardio, respiratory and the main one being cancer, would not attend any appointments. Our team would coordinate between CNC nurses from Nepean Cancer Clinic as she would not answer our calls or request any type of help from our team. Her distrust would cause her to constantly miss appointments and she would refuse to take her medications.

NCNS Aboriginal Health Outreach worker, Belinda and Care Coordinator, Sara would consistently try and contact this client as they did not want to give up. The client began to engage with Belinda and Belinda was able to build rapport with this client leading to her accepted the teams help which was incredible.

The client called Sara on 27th May and told us that her cancer is now in remission and now she only needs to attend the Nepean Cancer clinic every 3 weeks, for the next 2 years on a trial injection that Medicare will financially assist with.

Gary’s new mobility scooter even has attachments that can keep Garry dry from wet weather, helps to carry groceries, and his walking stick with ease. Garry was excited to take it for a spin!

We received amazing news for one of our clients who has been on our program since October 2023 who was initially reluctant to engage with our Integrated Team Care. The client who has numerous chronic diseases including cardio, respiratory and the main one being cancer, would not attend any appointments. Our team would coordinate between CNC nurses from Nepean Cancer Clinic as she would not answer our calls or request any type of help from our team. Her distrust would cause her to constantly miss appointments and she would refuse to take her medications.

NCNS Aboriginal Health Outreach worker, Belinda and Care Coordinator, Sara would consistently try and contact this client as they did not want to give up. The client began to engage with Belinda and Belinda was able to build rapport with this client leading to her accepted the teams help which was incredible.

The client called Sara on 27th May and told us that her cancer is now in remission and now she only needs to attend the Nepean Cancer clinic every 3 weeks, for the next 2 years on a trial injection that Medicare will financially assist with.

The workers at City Specs are wonderful! I get anxious when attending medical appointments but having my outreach worker, Belinda, walk me through it, made things a lot easier. I got to try on and pick my new glasses and they will be ready for collection in two weeks’ time!” explained Leon.

You may be eligible for the NSW Spectacles Program if you:

  • are an Australian permanent resident living in NSW.
  • receive a full Centrelink pension or income support payment, and receive no other income other than the Centrelink payment, or
  • are a low-wage earner who earns less than:
    • the full Jobseekers Payment if you’re aged under 65, or
    • the aged pension if you’re aged 65 or over.
  • have financial assets less than $500 (if single) or $1,000 (if married/partnered or parent/guardian).
  • are a DVA cardholder who is not eligible to receive subsidised glasses through the Department of Veteran Affairs.
  • are not eligible for any other spectacles subsidy schemes.

To apply for the NSW Spectacles Program, please go to:

https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-for-the-nsw-spectacles-program

For more information about our Closing the Gap team or to speak with our Closing the Gap team, please call 02 4706 0299.

The burning cost of living in Sydney

In Western Sydney the cost-of-living crisis is all too real. Families are increasingly reaching out to services for support. So here are some ways can you get support and some saving tips.

School Fees

Across public and private schools, parents are being asked to contribute more money. But what happens when you can’t pay the fees? In the first instance approach the school directly. Private schools may be able to offer a payment plan, scholarships, sibling discounts and in special circumstances reduction of fees.

Public school fees are not compulsory, however subject fees and excursions can often add up. No child will be excluded for a parent’s inability to pay fees.

Breakfast Clubs

Most schools have a breakfast club, not only are they free but children can socialise and get a healthy start to the day. If your school doesn’t have a club, look to your local community or neighbourhood centre..

Nepean Community and Neighbourhood Centre runs a Brekky Club, Monday to Friday from 7.30am – 8.45am during the school term at Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre, 17 Hosking Street, Cranebrook, NSW 2749

Grocery Shopping

Look for specials either online, on apps or using the catalogues. Try to buy fruit and vegetables that is in season and if possible, go to the markets, farms or consider joining a food co-op. Check social media for businesses that sell imperfect fruit and vegetables that that would otherwise go to waste.

Consider joining budget cooking groups on social media as this can help spread the budget further.

Food bank also has a list of community pantries and food donations, and you can search by suburb. For more information

https://www.foodbank.org.au/find-food/?state=nsw-act

Utility Bills

For bill stress try contacting your provider directly, they may be able to arrange a payment plan or bill extension. Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) helps people having trouble paying their electricity or gas bill because of a short-term financial hardship, crisis or emergency.

For more information see

https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/energy-accounts-payment-assistance-eapa-scheme

Service NSW

Service NSW has a comprehensive list of savings that can help with the cost of living. There is a range of savings and concessions that can found on their website.

https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/services/concessions-rebates-and-assistance

Financial Counselling

Financial counselling is a free service, available through several organisations. Financial counsellors consolidate and manage debt and control your finances. Call The National Debt Hotline or visit their website

https://ndh.org.au/

Article Written by Sussan Omar
NCNS Parenting Facilitator

We are thrilled to see an increase in playgroup attendances and will be focusing on children’s identity during term 2

Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup has had an increase in young babies attending the playgroup. At Cambridge Playgroup in the park, at the end of last year, we saw many of our little ones go off to preschool and school but have since had an influx on new little ones attending with their families each week. We are loving seeing some fresh faces in this group and seeing the bubs spend time having fun with others and their families.

Our last Dad’s group meeting in Cambridge Park last term had a visit from the Penrith City Council’s Mobile Playvan. Unbeknownst to us, the playgroup was on at the same time as footy training. This created a great opportunity for us to connect with children of all ages, from preschool to high school and see them engage with each other. They all had fun playing in the mud and water play together. It was fantastic seeing the older children become mentors to the smaller children. The dad’s had a blast watching their kids have so much fun and enjoyed having the opportunity to bond with their children in a friendly, safe environment with other Dad’s. We would like to continue this group however are looking at when the best time to run this group will be due to daylight savings ending and many dad’s not being able to access early in the afternoon during the week.

This year we are focusing on implementing activities within our playgroups to help prepare children for going to day-care and supporting families to understand the early childhood language in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) being careful not to overload them as this can be overwhelming. The Early Years Framework for Australia is to support early childhood providers, teachers and educators to extend and enrich children’s learning from birth to 5 years and through the transition to school. We will be doing this by explaining to parents why we do each activity at playgroup. We do activities for a purpose and will be letting parents know this such as the benefits of water play, why we have construction and so on. During term 2 we will be focusing on Identity as it is extremely important in the early years for children to develop a strong sense of identity. Children do this through their relationships with their family, other people, places and things. In early childhood settings, children develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, develop attachments, and build trust with their carers. They can also explore this through play.

Our current NCNS playgroups include:

Playgroup in the Park, Community Playgroup in Cambridge Park

Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup

Dark Emus Aboriginal Supported Playgroup

Braddock-Playtime-Playgroup

To speak with our Early Childhood team, please contact 02 4729 0442.

CAP Grant helps us to create & give away sensory packs to young children to help teach them emotional regulation.

Amy, NCNS Aboriginal Child & Family Worker, applied and was successful in receiving a Community Assistance Program (CAP) grant to buy sensory items and create sensory packs to help teach children emotional regulation. Amy provided instructions to the parents of the children the packs were given to, to help parents use them with their children appropriately.

Each item was included for a particular purpose. The rainmaker can be used to support eye and hand coordination. The plushie can be used as an emotional support buddy and comfort children with squishy cuddles. The spikey ball helps to support gross motor skills. Bubble therapy is great an amazing activity to do with children as the deep breathing required to blow bubbles is great to help them to relax and relieve stress. The rainbow twirl ribbons help to improve dexterity. The water bead maze enhances visual attention, fine motor skills and also problem solving skills.

To speak with our early childhood team, please contact 02 4729 0442.

School holiday program full of fun & connection with peers

Our School Holiday Program this April was jam packed with some amazing activities for our youth. On the 17th, we had our Youth Week Event which saw Cameron Marbus of Aerosol_Obsessions host an awesome workshop to teach youth how to stencil and learn spray painting techniques, with each of them taking home a canvas creation. This activity was supported by Penrith City Council and Department of Communities and Justice.

On the 18th, we went on our park crawl, and ended up exploring Fairfield Park. The day was filled with lots of climbing, sliding and connecting with peers.

On the 19th we went to Bounce in Homebush. This was loads of fun with the youth enjoying themselves bouncing, playing dodgeball, rock climbing, and a parkour course.

On the 22nd we made our way to Clifton Gardens Reserve for some swimming and fishing. It was a gorgeous day with clear skies and sunshine.

And on the 23rd, we had a chill day at the Youth Hub, making jewellery, diamond art, baking a cake, movies, cooking the BBQs and just hanging out.


Throughout the school holiday program lots of amazing connections between peers were formed, and we were all exhausted by the end of each day, young people and our team included! So I’d say that this program was a success and all the youth had a fantastic time!

Kim Sutcliffe, NCNS Youth Worker

The power of our story

Storytelling, themes, and naming families experience is a notable part of functional family therapy. Families share stories that illuminate and combine their separate experiences into a meaningful picture.

Families can narrate both their best and worst life experiences and, in this way, pass down a heritage of remembrances from one generation to the next. Clinicians working with families who have been impacted by trauma can use family storytelling to aid healing.

We take this time to explore the multiple aspects of the family’s story that are integral to using narrative techniques with families who have experienced trauma. We refer to storytelling or storying as the natural process that families engage in to relate experiences to one another. We reserve the term, narrative, to imply a therapeutic family discussion facilitated by a therapist.

In trying to understand what a therapist would need to know to help families use their storytelling abilities to talk about and cope with traumas, we believe it is important for them to know the functions of family storytelling, the skills used by family members in the act of storytelling, and the effects of trauma on family storytelling.

Finally, we provide a review of the skills and knowledge that the therapist brings to the therapeutic encounter to guide narration and healing.

Using these skills we can help families make sense of their narrative and what has happened in their journey so far ‘To understand our picture first we must narrate our landscape’. 

Article Written by Craig Donnelly-Wells
NCNS – Family Practitioner

We celebrate harmony week!

Harmony week is a time to celebrate the multiculturalism of Australia. The week is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all of us who live in Australia no matter where we came from. Orange is the colour used to represent this week and signifies social communication, meaningful conversations, the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect.

Facts and figures from harmony.gov.au/about

  • nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was
  • we identify with over 300 ancestries
  • since 1945, more than 7.5 million people have migrated to Australia
  • 85 per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia
  • apart from English, the most common languages spoken in Australia are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Tagalog/Filipino, Hindi, Spanish and Punjabi
  • more than 70 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia.

This week we celebrated Harmony Day at our Braddock Playtime Playgroup. This included dance, and a multicultural feast for the children to enjoy with meals originating from Iran, Turkey, Samoa, Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Australia Mexico, South Africa. The kids had an amazing time celebrating culture with their peers.

We also celebrated during the Harmony Day Event last Thursday at Kingswood Park Public School. Connect, Kari, NMA, Gateway also joined the event, and each brought activities for the kids and their families to engage and enjoy.

The KP students are so amazing, throughout the event they were all so engaged and polite which we love to see. It is a wonderful community at KP Public, and we loved seeing all of the families having a great time, engaged and happy to celebrate each other and all cultures.

Our Golden Oldies enjoy custom Seniors Week find-a-word at event at South Penrith

NSW Seniors Festival ran from 11th to 24th March 2024 and this year’s theme was ‘Reach Beyond.” The theme encourages seniors to seek out new experiences and make new friends by participating in activities during the festival. The week celebrates the role and contributions of older adults to the local community.

During Seniors week, we were unfortunately unsuccessful in obtaining a grant however we decided to still run a small event as we did not want our seniors to miss out. The event was held last Thursday at our South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre with our Golden Oldies Seniors group. We organised delicious catering for morning tea, we had lucky seat prizes to win and our wonderful Jerry made up a Find-a-Word puzzle with all words relevant to seniors.

Our attendees absolutely loved doing the customized find-a-word and some even took them home with them.

On the day, there was lots of smiling faces and laughs had by all. It was a successful morning here at South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre, ran by our amazing finance office, Lisa and our Admin & Community Worker, Jerry who is a favourite among our Golden Oldies group.

To find out more about our Golden Oldies group, please call the centre on 02 4721 8520.

Back to school: Creating a Study Routine That Works for Your child

School holidays is about to start, and we know that when it’s time to go back to school, it can be challenging for both carers and children to get back into routine. So how can we prepare for when our kids go back into term 2.

Now the hard part, how to set up a study routine. To get you started here are some suggestions:

Sleep Routines

All children need good quality sleep to function and get through the school day. Increasingly children are on devises just before bedtime with many, especially teens having devises overnight in their rooms.

Children aged 6-12 years need 9-12 hours of sleep and for teens, 8-10 hours is recommended.

It’s important to note the stimulation caused by blue light can interfere with sleep patterns. The blue light can interfere with melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Children should therefore not use devises just before bed. Instead encourage children to read, do puzzles or meditation before bed.

Physical Activities

Physical activity should be incorporated into your child’s everyday routine. Research has shown that physical activity helps with memory, concentration, and processing of information, all which help with study.

Furthermore, regular exercise reduces stress levels by releasing endorphins thus promoting better mood. Another benefit to exercise is the increase in energy levels which can help with study.

Study Space, Study Time, and organisation

A regular study time helps children to incorporate study into their routine. Perhaps after school, after a break or exercise works best.

Consider the physical space, can you dedicate a quiet, well-lit and distraction free place for study? New stationary, a plant or a new planner can help children start the year fresh. You want to make the area as calm and inviting as possible. Don’t have a proper area? Consider the local library or homework club. Most schools and public libraries offer free options.

Take the opportunity to help your child to organise their time effectively. A visual planner can easily be printed out and filled out to include assignments, tests, and events that need to be scheduled in. Bigger tasks can be broken down into manageable tasks and assigned a time frame to help children stay on track.

Depending on the age of your child, you may find an app or electronic diary with built in reminders and alarms work best.

There really is no magic formula when considering a study routine, but a good place to start is to consider your surroundings, sleep quality, organisation tools and exercise.

Functional Family Therapy – From 1973 to today

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) began over 50 years ago and was developed by Jim Alexander as a different model to help adolescents and their families with family challenging dynamics. The model was developed in the early 1970’s and borrowed from different areas of therapy like behavioural and family systems. Jim used these theories to create the FFT model which is a phase-based model where therapists use different techniques to create trust, build hope and reduce risk. After development of the model and up until 1982, Jim led the first randomised controlled trial of FFT to assess the impact of FFT on families against alternative treatments. The trial found that FFT had a really positive impact.

Between 1983 and 1991, the FFT model underwent refinement, and more research was conducted by independent researchers to replicate the model, with the research finding positive impacts of FFT on serious youth offenders. Other research that was conducted found that FFT had an impact on preventing foster placement for youth and families and youth with substance abuse issues. In 1986, Jim received the Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Research Award from the American Family Therapy Academy.

From 1992 to 2001, multiple organisations recognised FFT as an evidence-based model, based on the research findings from 1973 to 1991. This was a significant milestone for FFT, along with the publication of a study in Sweden of the first international replication of FFT. By this stage, the FFT model was being rolled out by community organisations across the USA and was helping over 2000 youth and family members.

From 2002 onwards, FFT expanded globally. In 2018 the first peer-review study was published, demonstrating the positive impact that the child protection arm of FFT, FFT-Child Welfare (FFT-CW) had on families. At present, there are 340 teams serving over 40,000 youth and family members across ten countries. Over 31,500 youth and families have participated in multiple research studies and there have been 72 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of FFT and its variations. FFT-CW started in Australia in 2017 and NCNS is proud to have been delivering FFT-CW since then, across the Penrith, Blue Mountains and Lithgow areas.

Article Written by Wendy Adams
NCNS – Family Practitioner

How our Closing the Gap Program helps improve the lives of those living with chronic disease

As we talked about in our November newsletter last year, the Aboriginal community, and the number of people we support through our Closing the Gap team, are increasing dramatically each year. From 2020 – 2024, we had an increase of 81% of active clients on our register.

With the increasing Aboriginal population in Penrith, as well as the increasing cost of living, the biggest challenge for the team is meeting the financial requirements of the program. The funding provided to pay for specialist appointments, medical aids, transport, allied health appointments, assisted breathing equipment and more, is no longer sufficient to service our clients to the best level, meaning our team need to triage our clients and their needs, to determine the best use of the funds we have.

Funding is essential to make sure we can take the best care of our clients however we are limited with the current funding and ever-growing client list.

Let’s look at how our team has managed to help clients within the Closing the Gap Program recently and why this program is so important for our community.

Belinda Shipley, NCNS Aboriginal Health Outreach Worker explained, “We have had a beautiful family move into their new house! After being diagnosed with cancer, my client Teresa found it extremely hard to go up and down her stairs, in her townhouse and this was causing her great stress and anxiety.

I have helped Teresa collect all her medical documentation so that we could put in an application for a transfer with the Department of Housing. Teresa’s children are so much happier, and Teresa is now able to sleep in her own bed. With a larger modified bathroom, she is now able to shower with ease and they now feel like they really have a place they can call home.

Another Elderly client of mine has recently received her mobility scooter from Independent Living Specialists Penrith.

This client had great difficulty navigating the My Age Cared systems, so I have assisted her to complete her My Aged Care application and she is now on a level 4 package with Annecto, an Aged care and disability support services provider. Through this, she has now been able to purchase not only the mobility scooter, but also a medical alert watch, that will contact her family and 000 if she falls and requires help.

She also has been able to purchase a recliner lounge that assists her to stand up, a mobile phone to communicate with specialists, walking and shower aids and an ipad for keeping up with all of her medical appointments. This client is now more independent and is now better able to connect with her community which is amazing for us to see.”

Michael Field, NCNS Aboriginal Health Outreach & Promotion Worker, delivered a brand-new walker last Thursday to a Closing the Gap Integrated Team Care (ITC) client, the first walker that this client has ever had. This client is severely vision impaired, a diabetic and a partial amputee.

Michael shared, “I removed the plastic wrapping and adjusted the handlebars to suit my client’s liking. They threw their walking stick aside and proudly did laps of the lounge room and kitchen. They were so happy to receive their new walker and could not stop thanking me. Their eyes lit up and their whole being was elated! I felt humbled to be able to provide this service to my client. It was a great reminder to me of why I come to work each day!”

These moments are so rewarding for our workers who work with clients dealing with chronic diseases every day. Our team take pride in the work they do and are passionate about being there to support their clients through their difficult health journeys.

Would you like to know more about this program?

Contact our Closing the Gap team on:

02 4706 0299 or ctg@nepeancommunity.org.au

Click here to see our Closing the Gap Brochure.

Playgroups: Building Blocks for Success

Playgroups play a significant role in giving your child the best chance at successful happy transition to school. Children who attend playgroups generally adapt to school life more easily having better social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills.

Impact on Brain Development

The first 3-5 years of life are vital for brain development, this is the time the neural pathways that create the foundation of our brains are built. The first three years are signified by rapid development, and during this time, every child needs to feel secure attachment to their primary caregivers, and supported by their community environments, including playgroups.

Playgroups support brain development by providing an interactive and stimulating environment. One of the ways they achieve this is sensory play, where children are exposed to touching and exploring different things, and physical play, which enhances sensory and motor skills.

Language and Cognitive advantages

Language and vocabulary develop through play and communication with others, listening, and following instructions in playgroup.

Cognitive skills are developed through exposure to activities like puzzles, games, and activities, encouraging critical thinking, memory and problem solving. These building blocks are appreciated by schools when the children start Kindy.

Social and Emotional Development

One of the key advantages that schools report for children attending playgroups is the impact on social and emotional development. Exposure to playgroups and interaction with other children and caregivers provide opportunities for children to practice sharing, co-operating, and navigating emotions in a safe environment. In addition, children benefit emotionally as they learn to express feelings like sadness, fear, anger, and joy, all in the context of play in a nurturing environment.

Children also benefit from the structured nature of playgroups that can help with practical tasks at school like lining up, sitting down, and following instructions.

Research consistently highlights a distinct advantage that children who attend playgroups have over other children when it comes to future academic outcomes. Playgroups provide a safe and nurturing environment to explore, play and practice a range of social, emotional, and cognitive skills that are building blocks for healthy relationships and ensure a smooth transition to school.

For more information on playgroups and to access NCNS local playgroups click below.

NCNS Playgroups here

NSW Playgroups at www.playgroupnsw.org.au

The phases of Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Functional Family Therapy- Child Welfare (FFT-CW) is a therapeutic intervention aimed at building safety and keeping families together. FFT-CW works with the whole family in the home over a period of 4-6 month and is comprised of three phases.

Engagement and Motivation:
The first phase of therapy is all about relationship building. A family’s connection to their practitioner is crucial in supporting change. Families often present to us at the worst moments, so our job is to find a spark of hope that we can use to move them towards change. We focus on the family’s strengths and help them to see each other differently, in a more positive light. While connecting and building hope, the practitioner will build a picture of the ways in which family members typically interact with each other in times of stress or conflict.

Behaviour Change:
FFT is unique from other forms in therapy in that we do not make any suggestions for change until a family feels hopeful (enough) and connected with us. We know if we rush in too soon, it may not help the family move forward.

Practitioners then consider which skills the family could learn to improve their situation. Skills can cover areas such as emotion regulation, communication, conflict resolution, behaviour management or parenting.

Generalisation:
After the skills training, practitioners stay connected with families to check in on progress and help family members implement what they have learned across more settings and situations outside of the home. It is also our opportunity to address any issues that are still un-resolved and fill in any gaps with any additional relevant services.

We ‘step out’ once safety has been increased and there is a shift in the family dynamics towards a more positive, productive, and hopeful way of being together. There are no perfect families, so we aim for ‘good enough’ family functioning. Small changes can make a big difference in a child or teen’s life.

NCNS delivers FFT-CW across Penrith, Blue Mountains and Lithgow. Visit our website to find out more

Article Written by Monica Purcell – Family Practitioner

Great outcomes for families participating in our Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare (FFT-CW) Program

Our Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare (FFT-CW) team engaged a family recently with referral behaviour associated to Family Domestic Violence (FDV) i.e., allegations of punitive physical parenting, and child mental health needs.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) had assessed this family risk to be high. The family are a blended family who were also amidst family law court proceedings. Through FFT-CW engagement we were able to navigate adult/family blame and introduced the narrative of adult/child ‘behaviour patterns’ within the family home.

Through their journey Dad and Mum demonstrated reflective practice and motivation to create change for their children. Dad and mum demonstrated the ability to use more effective authoritative parenting skills, which also supported the implementation of holistic family skills and behavioural responsibilities.

Dad and mum implemented a less reactive style of parenting and therefore were able to work together to make their family behavioural change.

The family stated at the end of therapy that all physical punitive parenting actions had ceased, and that there had been a positive shift in child behaviour and mental health wellbeing.

The children stated that when conflict did arise it wasn’t as frequent and better managed, and that both dad & mum were less angry. DCJ had reassessed family risk to be low and closed the family case midway through FFT-CW therapy.

Please contact fft-cw@nepeancommunity.org.au for more information about this program.

$3000 worth of Avente 4-in-1 baby food makers donated to young mums in NCNS NYPS group thanks to Westcare & Good360 Australia

Andrew from WestCare Penrith came to visit our Nepean Young Pregnancy Support group last Tuesday. He had sourced $3000 worth of these amazing Avente 4-in-1 Baby Food Makers from Good360 Australia and gave them to our young mums to be and young mums for when their babies are ready for solids.

These two gorgeous bubs mums attended our NYPS group throughout their whole pregnancy and have come back to engage in our Rhyme Time Play Space where NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Leanne shares her beautiful singing voice and expertise! We love this!

NYPS runs on Tuesdays during school term between 9am – 12pm at the Womens Health Centre in Penrith. This group is for pregnant mums under 25 years of age.

For more information or to book an appointment with Sandra (midwife) please contact Amy on 02 4729 0442 or 0477 004 773.

Family Getaways: Navigating Holidays with Kids Through Routine, Planning, and Playful Adventures

As the holiday season approaches, one thing is certain – keeping the kids entertained is a top priority. So, how do you ensure a smooth holiday experience? It’s all about planning, being flexible, maintaining some routine and some good fun for the little ones.

Planning:

The first step is to sort out your leave and budget. If you haven’t locked in your leave dates, do it now. Check out travel and accommodation options, including online deals and vouchers. Consider family-friendly destinations with onsite activities. Involve your children as much as possible to plan a holiday with activities that everyone will enjoy. When booking accommodation, consider if you need extra cots or cooking facilities and how close you are to the sites you wish to see.

Consider budget-friendly alternatives like camping trips, road adventures, or day trips to the beach, mountains, parks, and pools. Pack your snacks and occasionally treat the kids to a special lunch or ice cream – budget-friendly and delightful!

The Importance of Routines:

Holidays are a break from the norm, a time for fun and relaxation. Yet, maintaining some routine is key. Start adjusting meal and sleep times a week before your departure to ease the transition. Children tend to sleep later and sleep in on holidays. Consider creating a holiday schedule that balances planned and spontaneous activities. It can be a fun task for creative kids to take charge of. Let them craft it with paints and markers or on a whiteboard, detailing the day’s adventures.

Staying Active:

Whether you’re staying local or going away, planning healthy activities like swimming, bushwalking, outdoor games, skating, biking, and other sports is a good idea. Staying active is key to both physical and mental health, especially during holidays, as it helps release excess energy and aids bedtime.

Plan outdoor activities either early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the intense midday heat. When outdoors, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide.