We are helping kids get school ready!

The first 5 years of a child’s life are critical to their lifelong development. Giving your child the opportunity to form vital skills prior to starting school is crucial to their education. When a child does not have access to early learning centres or preschool it can be detrimental to their success at school.

During term 2 NCNS Early Childhood Workers, Amy and Carolyn, ran an 8-week Aboriginal School Readiness Program for children going to school in 2020. The aim of this program was to introduce children and parents to school readiness in a culturally safe setting, at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre.

During the 8-week program, children worked on writing their names, recognising shapes, colours and numbers.  However, becoming school ready is not just about academics, school readiness is about a broader range of skills. This includes self -care skills such as independent toileting, opening snacks and lunch boxes, attention and concentration, physical skills, such as having the endurance to sit upright for an entire school day, emotional regulation, language skills as well as play and social skills.

We focus on creativity, sensory experiences, music and group times each week. We also included library borrowing time each week so that children could read to their families or be read to and also to give them the responsibility of looking after the books they borrowed and returning them each week.

School readiness is an important stage in getting prepared for school, not only to learn new skills but also to identify any developmental needs and provide families with referrals if required. During the program we worked with Building Strong Foundations to complete the 4-year-old developmental checklist.

At the end of the program, the children graduated with hats, robes and certificates of completion. It was a wonderful experience for both children and their families.

The children who completed this program are now prepared for a smooth transition to primary school and parents can rest assured that their child will have the best start to succeed at school.

If you missed out on this Aboriginal School Readiness Program, we recommend that you check out our Aboriginal Supported Playgroups in Cranebrook & St Marys run by NCNS Early Childhood Workers.

Download St Marys Aboriginal Supported Playgroup
Download Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup 

Skate Park transformed by local youth

At the beginning of this year, the NCNS Youth team found out that they were successful in their proposal for a Magnetic Places grant from the Penrith City Council, aiming to update the existing Skate Park in Cranebrook to make it livelier and give local youth ownership of the space.

This project began in March with a Skate Park Mural workshop where local youth were invited to come along to brainstorm ideas for the design of the artwork that would feature in the Skate Park. After the first workshop, NCNS Youth Workers, Sami & Joe, decided to make this project a part of their Monday after school program and since then, have been working with a number of young people from Cranebrook to bring these ideas to life.

During this time, we have seen young people take pride in their area, their work and themselves. We are so proud of all of the youth who contributed their time to help design, create and install the Cranebrook Skate Park Mural. They have done an incredible job transforming the park, certainly leaving their mark for the years to come.

NCNS Youth Worker, Sami Thoms, enthused about the completion of the project, “I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped out painting the Cranebrook Skate Park. It was a massive job, but it looks absolutely amazing! We would like to give a massive shout out to artist Diamando Koutsellis, we could not have done this without all your help. We would also like to thank Penrith City Council for the financial support that has allowed us to complete this massive project.”

Check out the amazing Skate Park transformation below:

The below photos were taken by Photo: Jordan Wheatley (courtesy of Penrith City Council)

Over 1500 students celebrate culture at 9th Annual NAIDOC Cup

It was a calm and cool morning as NCNS staff began to arrive at the Hunter Fields early on Friday 21st June to get ready for our 9th Annual NAIDOC Cup. NAIDOC Cup is a huge day, so we concentrated on setting up as quick as possible to ensure that the event ran smoothly. NAIDOC Cup was bigger and better than ever this year, with over 1500 students from 30 schools throughout the Penrith area.

The men and women from the Lions Club of Emu Plains started up the barbeques as soon as they arrived. Throughout the day, they cooked hundreds of sausages, steaks and onions to feed over 2200 students, teachers and community who attended NAIDOC Cup.

Suddenly swarms of students began to march down the hill from their buses and soon enough the Hunter Fields were packed with hundreds of faces, who waited in eager anticipation for the day to come.

We began the day with a Welcome to Country by Uncle Wes, who then performed a smoking ceremony./

The older students were eager to begin the Oz Tag and Netball competitions, while the Joeys were provided lunch before they began rotations of their activities for the day.

The amazing volunteers and staff that manned the food tent worked hard all day long, making sure everyone was fed, without a moment to spare.

NAIDOC Cup is a great opportunity for the younger children to celebrate and learn more about their culture.  At the Art & Craft tent, children got to create their own designs while they listened to the history behind each item.

Koomurri played the didgeridoo, aboriginal art and face painting with ochre.

Throughout the day you could see all the children wearing their face paint with pride. Once the older kids had finished their games, they would come to our information desk and would ask where they could get their face painted.

Larry Brandy entertained the Joeys in his Story telling tent.

Children got to enjoy having a go at Aboriginal dance, having fun and laughing with their friends.

At the end of the day, we announced the winners of Senior & Junior Netball & Oz tag competitions. Congratulations to our winners below:

Senior netball – Cambridge Gardens Public School
Junior Netball – Mount Riverview Public School
Senior Oz Tag – Cambridge Gardens Public School
Junior Oz Tag – Cambridge Gardens Public School

We would like to give a massive shout out to Westfield Penrith for all of your support with this event.

Thank you to Lawrence from Australian Unity – Wangary, for your support and decking out our amazing referees with stylish uniforms and gifting them with a shirt that they could take home!

To the men and women from the Lions Club of Emu Plains who have worked hard and volunteered their time for NAIDOC Cup for so many years.

Thank you so much to our partners and volunteers for your time and hard work; Uniting, Primary Health Network (PHN), JK Williams Contracting, Platform Youth Services, Wentworth Housing, West Connect, all of the incredible high school students from Glenmore Park High School and Cranebrook High School as well as all of our other volunteers. We value your support and time.

Thank you to the teachers, parents, community and students who came along and enjoyed the day, whether it was Art & Craft, Koomurri, Storytelling with Larry Brandy, Aboriginal dance or playing in the netball & Oz Tag competitions, you all showed respect for us and each other, and celebrated Aboriginal culture. That is what the day is all about!

Until next year, from all the team at NCNS.

Kingswood Park Reserve Transformation Launched

In a previous blog we talked about our Magnetic Places Art in the Park Project where NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds held a number of painting and installation workshops with local community members, bringing their ideas to life at the Illawong & Kareela Avenue Reserve in Kingwood Park.

We had so many local community members come along and participate in this project so to celebrate all the hard work that these residents had done alongside artist Angela Paqua, we held an Art in the Park launch on Saturday 29th June.

We had over 100 residents come along to the launch where we had a visit from Mayor Councillor Ross Fowler OAM, who came to talk to the residents about how this space has become so vibrant.

Noah, a local teenager who had been part of the entire project from design to implementation, spoke on behalf of the local children, expressing how the park felt more like their own now and also made a promise to do the best they could to protect and respect the space that they helped to create.

NCNS Workers, together with community enjoyed a delicious feast provided by Dino’s Mobile Pizza, along with coffee and other tasty snacks.

Highlights from the launch were air brush tattoos, a visit from gecko the sustainability lizard and the silent disco. The whole day was very relaxed and fun for all who came along.

NCNS Community Development Workers, together with a group of local kids hope to keep the space alive by putting on other enjoyable activities each term. Watch this space!

To contact the NCNS Communities Team contact (02) 4729 0442.

FREE school holiday workshops for all the family

On Monday 8 July we will be holding free meditation, music and relaxation workshops (large meeting room) for adults at the South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre. While you learn to find your inner peace and unwind, you can leave the kids in their own art and relaxation workshop (small meeting room) where they will have fun learning to be creative.

Sahaja Yoga is a community based group that holds free classes for all ages. These classes teach people how to relax and de-stress through meditation and music. With Sahaja Yoga Meditation we normally sit on chairs to achieve yoga, effortlessly & spontaneously. So there’s no need for mats or special clothing.

On Monday 8 July choose from one of the FREE following workshops or come to all of them!

10am-11:30am  Balancing and Clearing Workshop –  mental, emotional and spiritual detox to give you the tools to de-stress your life

1:15pm-2:45pm  Music and Meditation Workshop – relax and learn to meditation through music. After a short introduction and guided meditation, be treated to the transforming effects of music by music therapist and vocalist Lene Jeffrey RMT. Continue to enhance your inner peace by listening to the sublime sounds of world class violinist Asmira Woodwood-Page and world music that touches the spirit within.

3:00pm-4:30pm  Diagnose Your Own Chakras –  understanding and cleansing our inner being

Text 0412 643 035 to register with your name, workshop number (1, 2, or 3) and number & age of children to be dropped at the children’s  art class.

We will also be holding regular follow up Sahaja Yoga meditation programs at the South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre on a Monday evening from 7.30 to 9pm. No need to book, just pop along to our free Sahaja Yoga meditation weekly meeting and learn to unwind, distress and tap into your own source of inner peace and well being.

We talk about early childhood with Zoe Harris

We sat down with one of NCNS’ Early Childhood superstars Zoe Harris to talk about all things early childhood.

Zoe has been an Early Childhood Worker with NCNS for over 7 years but more impressively has worked in early childhood for over 30 years; from working with young children with cerebral palsy to working as a primary school teacher before becoming an Early Childhood Worker for NCNS.

A typical day for Zoe varies, whether she is running Paint the Town REaD, Braddock Playtime Playgroup, various children’s events or Messy Play Bootcamps.

At the beginning of our chat, we asked Zoe how she would describe her day job to a child. She laughed and replied, “Playing with stuff and getting other people to play with stuff! Haha.”

What do you love most about your role?

I love being able to connect with kids and families, supporting, and encouraging them to learn. Learning doesn’t have to be big and scary; the small everyday things make a difference.

Zoe facilitates Braddock Playtime Playgroup on Wednesday mornings at Braddock Public School. Averaging 18 kids and 18 parents each week, this playgroup is a positive, engaging and supportive playgroup with lots of activities for both children and parents to enjoy.

Are playgroups important and why?

Playgroups are important for young children as they provide fun activities that also help them develop fine motor, gross motor, social and emotional skills. Children get to interact with other children where they may not get what they want, may have to share and learn valuable lessons about social interaction. These not so fun things help prepare children for when they go to big school.

Everything we do at playgroup has a reason. Each fun activity encourages participation while providing children with valuable skills. For example, craft helps with creativity, language, thinking and fine motor skills. During music & story time children learn about group dynamics, listening, sharing, following directions and language development. During morning tea we provide a mixture of healthy foods like sandwiches and fruit to encourage them to try new things. If children, see other children eating a type of food they are more likely to try it. All these things help children learn without them even realising that they are learning.

Playgroups are not only beneficial for young children; there are also many benefits for parents. At playgroup parents are able to talk with other parents about what they are going through, what is happening with their children, share ideas and provide comfort when relating to other parents who are going through the same things. It is a great way for parents to socialise and an opportunity for their children to socialise and learn without parents having to lead them. Playgroups give parents ideas of activities to do at home with their children and provide information on child development so parents can know what to expect, the next steps their children may take.

Playgroups are also a great stepping stone for parents who may be nervous separating from their children. At playgroup, children have the opportunity to develop independence without parents having to leave them completely. Over time, parents can prepare to send children to childcare and feel confident that their child will be able to cope without them.

What is Paint the Town REaD?

We run Paint the Town REaD at two locations, Cranebrook and Kingswood Park. We take early literacy to children and their families so they can have fun with books. We read to kids, encourage kids to read to us, plus we do rhyme and games. I have become a familiar face that kids can come up and chat to.

What is a common question you get asked from parents?

The most common question I get from parents is “Why does my child do that?” I talk with parents about child development, inform parents about why they could be doing or behaving in a certain way and provide easy tips to encourage desirable behaviour.

What are your top tips for parents?

  1. Be engaged with your child
  2. Remember you are their parent and not their friend
  3. Get off phones/tablets/computers and play, talk and/or read with your child
  4. ENJOY your kids!
  5. No one is perfect. Not you or your kids

What is one thing you have learnt from working with children 0-5 years?

Expect the unexpected! Haha

This year you have held a number of Messy Play Bootcamps in different locations in Cranebrook and Kingswood Park. Why are you so passionate about messy play and what made you decide to do so many messy play boot camps?

I love messy play! I decided to run all my messy play boot camps to show and remind parents that children learn by playing, that it is ok for children to get dirty. Children need to be able to experience mess as they learn so many skills while they are doing these messy activities.

Parents can worry so much about keeping their kids clean and can be afraid of mess or they may not know how to start or what to do.  When we do messy play, we focus on really cheap and easy activities that parents can do at home with their kids. We make take home ‘recipe cards’ so that if children love an activity, they have the instructions and ingredients so they can take what they have done with us and replicate it at home or at school so that it becomes something that they do regularly. All families can do these activities as we use stuff you would already have in your pantry.

Activities we love to do at our boot camps are making homemade play dough, finger painting, simple science experiments using bicarb soda and vinegar, sensory play with flour and coloured rice.

As well as playgroup, Paint the Town REaD, events and Messy Play Bootcamps, you also run Keeping Children Safe & Circle of Security – Parenting programs. Could you tell us more about them and who they are for?

I love Keeping Children Safe (KCS). KCS is an information program letting parents know about what abuse and neglect is, and how this effects children. We talk about simple ways we can help to protect our children. It is a course that everyone should do, especially since many of us are unable to be with our children every second of the day. This program gives you the skills and confidence to have those uncomfortable conversations about keeping safe, and how to identify the signs that mean something is going on. I usually run this program twice a year in term 1 and term 3.

Circle of Security – Parenting is a program about attachment with our children. We look at how children interact with us, what they need and how we can best keep that attachment strong. We look at ourselves, as quite often without realising, we may not be as open with our kids. We look at our strengths and our weaknesses so that we can become the best parents that we can be. I would recommend this to all parents and its especially good for parents of newborns and very young kids as most parenting programs are for children over 2.

Finally, what advice would you give parents of children 0 – 5 years old?

No one is perfect. Give yourself a break, reach out to services, go to playgroups. Be wary of yourself getting overwhelmed with all the different information out there on google. It is important to play with your children, but we don’t have to do that all of the time. It is okay for children to get bored; they learn to think for and entertain themselves.

Give children good food that has what they need to develop physically and mentally. This also will instil good eating behaviours for the rest of their lives.  Avoid junk as long as possible!

Routines and structure are your best friends. It is ok to vary but giving children a basic understanding of what happens each day will help your child and help you.

Children learn more in the first 2 years of their life, than they will the rest of their life. Early education is like the foundation of a building, we do not see it, but if its not there we would crumble!

For all of our child and family programs click here.



Kingswood Park Pop Up: Strengthening community

Over the last 12 months, NCNS have been holding pop-up events each term in Kingswood Park as a result of acquiring a Penrith City Council, Community Assistance Program (CAP) grant.

CAP Grants are for local non-profit community groups to use towards projects that work with residents and other community groups in order to strengthen the community, address community needs and improve opportunities for participation in Penrith City.

On Monday 3rd June, NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds, held a pop-up event at Illawong Reserve in Kingswood Park.  On the day we had the opportunity to engage with residents, find out their current needs or the services required and offer support. We used the community space so residents can feel comfortable having these conversations, sharing their hopes and thoughts with us.

Justine (NCNS) worked alongside NCNS Early Childhood worker, Zoe Harris, who had created a fantastic messy play space for children to come and explore.

Julia from Penrith City Council’s Werrianda Children’s Centre created a musical space, as she played the ukulele while the children had a ball playing with percussion instruments.

Justine (NCNS) and Lila (Penrith City Council) enjoyed coffee and morning tea with the residents, while talking with them about the various spaces in the Kingswood Park and what they would like to see happen in this area.

Staff from Uniting and Australian Unity also attended, providing residents with information and answering any questions they may have had.

With over 40 people attending on the day, we would love to continue holding these intimate pop-up events, as they provide social connection, support and help to identify the needs of those living there and what they would like to see happen in Kingswood Park.

Showing courage, sharing truths

This year’s theme for National Reconciliation Week was ‘Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage,’ but what does this really mean?

Reconciliation to us, means bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and non-Indigenous Australians together.

The State of Reconciliation in Australia report 2016 identifies 5 essential components to measure reconciliation and these are:

Historical acceptance; acceptance of past wrong doings, the impact of these wrong doings, making amends and ensuring these wrongs are never repeated.

Race Relations; all Australians understand and value Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people’s cultures, rights and experiences and an Australia free from racism.

Equality & Equity; ensuring that all Australians have the same opportunities in life and recognising the unique rights of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Institutional Integrity; Reconciliation is supported in political, business and community structures.

Unity; All Australians value and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s cultures and heritage as a proud part of our shared national identity.

This year’s theme focuses on the race relations component of Reconciliation. For Reconciliation Week we celebrated with a morning tea at our Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre, where we invited local service providers and community to come together to listen, share and learn from each other.

The day started with a Welcome to Country from Aunty Carol who challenged others to speak up, connect and learn about Aboriginal culture.

On the day, we saw courage displayed in many forms, whether sharing a story or experience, listening to one another’s stories, willingness to understanding each other and being open to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

High school student, Reece Nuttall, spoke honestly and openly about his experiences as an Aboriginal young man. He talked about how this affects him, how he has an effect on others and his journey so far, being brave and speaking truths with his peers and community. Reece explained how he felt positive about all that was happening in the way of change however reminded us that there is so much more that needs to be done.

NCNS Managing Director, Joy Impiombato spoke about government changes, inequities in services provided for Aboriginal communities and how we can all do more. Joy emphasised the importance of our connections, partnerships and the success that can come from working together.

When people gather around food, it creates an opportunity to start conversations. An incredible grazing table was put together by NCNS Community Development Workers, Cathy & Lisa. Community were able to gather around, enjoy delicious food and begin to share their stories. The grazing table also had beautiful native flowers brought in by NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe Harris.

We had a number of interactive activities that encouraged participation and offered community new experiences. NCNS Workers, Nada & Morissa facilitated a Raffia Weaving Workshop. While community sat around the mat learning how to weave, it gave them another opportunity to share their stories and experiences with each other.

NCNS Aboriginal Early Childhood Worker, Amy Lear ran a workshop where community got to make traditional Johnny Cakes. Amy talked about the history of Johnny cakes and once they were made, community got to taste them with native condiments such as bush tucker jams and chutneys.

Dave Gillett, NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker provided a table of Aboriginal Artefacts where community could get up close, touch and feel the different pieces. Dave shared knowledge and stories throughout the morning creating a safe space for participants to ask questions and share their own knowledge.

Thank you to Uniting who came along to support our event and ran a painting workshop with community.

We loved that the boys from the Clontarf Aboriginal Boys Program came to show their support on the day.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds, who organised the Reconciliation Week Morning Tea shared her thoughts, “The highlight for me, was watching community connect with each other, share, embrace and participate. It was a warm and safe space that allowed for growth, listening, challenging truths, sharing knowledge and experiences. “

Providing opportunities for our community to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, rights and experiences is an important step in working towards Reconciliation. When we understand and value Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people’s history, culture, rights and experiences, we can form strong relationships built on trust and respect, and free from racism, creating a better future for all Australians.




Reconciliation Australia. 2019. National Reconciliation Week 2019 Guide. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/ra-nrw-2019-guide_v8.pdf. [Accessed 18 June 2019].

Women’s Group Winter Warmer Cruise

Last week, NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed took the ladies from the Make Time Women’s Group on a 2 ½ hour Winter Warmer Cruise on the Nepean Belle. For many of the women, it was the first time they had the opportunity to take part in such an experience and we were thrilled to be able to treat these very deserving ladies, who have done so much for their local community.

The morning was freezing cold and windy however this did not discourage the ladies as they eagerly boarded the Belle. The waves from the Nepean River crashed against the sides of the Belle, rocking the ship but not the ladies’ spirits, whose laughs echoed throughout the Nepean Belle as they all shared stories with each other. There was a real sense of sisterhood within the group. It was a peaceful and relaxing experience where the ladies were able to spend time with each other while taking in the spectacular views and enjoying the sounds of birds singing from high up in the tree tops.

When the scrumptious, shared platter arrived at the table filled with succulent roast chicken, tender pork, honey roasted vine tomatoes creamy sautéed potatoes and Greek salad, we could not wait to dig in! After this mouth-watering main, we then got to indulge in a choice of two desserts; Sticky Date Pudding with house made caramel sauce or House Made Vanilla Panna Cotta with white chocolate and raspberry coulis. Both did not disappoint!

During the cruise, we were also lucky enough to have the chance to chat with the captain who shared his experience sailing the Sydney to Hobart.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed really enjoyed spending time with the ladies from Make Time Women’s Group and shared, “Thank you to all of the ladies who came out and braved the cold. It really was one of the best mornings!”

The Make Time Women’s Group in Cranebrook is open to all women in the local area. We encourage unity, shared experiences and a strong bond of friendship. Many of the women who attend this group were not previously acquainted and now embrace and laugh with each other as if they have been friends for years.

For more information about this group, please contact Nada on 02 4729 0442.

Help for Penrith residents at the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW’s Bring Your Bills Day

The Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) is an independent body that can assist consumers who are having problems with their energy or water providers.  They investigate and resolve complaints by working with each party to understand their perspective and consider relevant laws and codes, good industry practice and what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) invites Penrith residents to a FREE community Bring Your Bills Day.

This event provides face-to-face assistance for residents who are having problems with their energy or water provider. EWON can help with high bills, payment difficulties, disconnection, switching retailers and more.

At the Bring Your Bills Days EWON’s Investigations Officers, often aided by interpreters, assist with setting up payment plans, having rebates customers are eligible for applied to their account, accessing emergency payment assistance and talking to providers to resolve issues.

EWON can also refer customers to government agencies and community organisations on the day for support with health, housing, legal or financial problems.

Everyone is welcome to attend the Penrith Bring Your Bills Day. Customers are asked to bring along current and past electricity, gas and water bills, any letters from retailers, Centrelink Health Cards, and any other concession cards.

Venue: St Vincent de Paul Society Penrith Community Hub, 7/308 High Street Penrith

When: Third Tuesday of each month

Time: 9.00am – 3.00pm

RSVP: To book, call St Vincent de Paul on 02 8861 9770 and ask for an appointment to see EWON.

For more information, download Bring Your Bills Day Flyer.



Written by Jillian Lee Allport – Communication Officer, Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW

Illawong & Kareela Avenue Reserve Transformation

Back in February NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds held a number of Magnetic Places Community Consultations where community were invited to come along and share their ideas for the Illawong & Kareela Avenue Reserve in Kingswood Park.

Children and residents came up with a plan to refresh the local park with help from artist Angela Paqua, who shared her expertise of the art world and taught us all about texture, colour and the richness of the environment.

This May, the design for the park was finalised, and Justine held several Painting & Installation Workshops with community and children from the area to bring the communities ideas to life at the park. We were so grateful to have had young men participating in the Clontarf Aboriginal Boys Program help to prepare the benches by sanding, earlier this month, so they were ready for the artwork installation.

Day one of installation we had over 60 community members come along to the park to volunteer their time to help paint & install the artwork. As we painted, we were able to take in the fresh air and were comforted by the warmth of the sun on our backs.

11 wonderful helpers, students from Kingswood Park Primary sat with artist, Angela, as she explained the process of the artwork being transferred from drawing to stencil and from stencil to the ground or bench.

The next day Kingswood Park Primary students returned to continue to transform the park along with community from the local area.

Through this Magnetic Places project, we have seen local residents come together to transform this park, so that it becomes a creative and meaningful place that the community can enjoy, that was created by and for the people who live in Kingswood Park.

We are excited to see the completion of the artwork installation and will be holding an artwork launch on Saturday 29th June to showcase the creative effort of the community.

For more information about this project, please contact Justine Reynolds on 02 4729 0442 or justine@nepeancommunity.org.au

Bringing people together

In 2018, The Australian Psychological Society & Swinburne University of Technology conducted an online survey to explore the loneliness and physical and mental health of Australian adults. The Australian Loneliness Report determined that 1 in 4 Australian adults are lonely, 1 in 4 Australians experience high levels of social interaction anxiety and that lonely Australians have worse physical and mental health compared with Australians who are not lonely.  50% of people who were surveyed sometimes or always feel alone.

Compared with non-lonely people, lonely people:

  • Experience more social anxiety
  • Feel more depressed
  • Are less connected with family, friends and neighbours
  • Worse physical and mental health
  • Poorer overall quality of life

In light of this study, this year’s Neighbourhood Centre’s Week theme was what neighbourhood centres do best, “Bringing People Together.”

Neighbourhood centres play an important role in strengthening communities, generating social well-being and connection.

From our neighbourhood centres located in the Penrith LGA, we work together with our local community to provide quality programs that enable strength, inclusion and respect, while reducing social and financial disadvantage and distress.

For this year’s Neighbourhood Centre’s week, we held a pop-up event at the Cranebrook Village Shops grassed area where community members got to participate in fun and free interactive activities.

We had over 75 community members come through our pop-up event visiting NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds, and NCNS Youth Worker, Sami Thoms, at our information table, where they were provided with information about all of our programs and were able to take-home flyers for activities that interested them. We had NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe Harris entertaining parents and children with her speciality, messy play! Families got to enjoy play dough, painting and interactive games with their little ones. If you loved this activity,  we have more! Check out our Messy Play Bootcamps happening this term.

NCNS Work Placement Students, Jo & Fadzai, had a huge role in planning this event with guidance from NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed. Jo & Fadzai had so much fun during the cupcake decorating workshop and really enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with the community. We also enjoyed a drumbeats workshop facilitated by NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam that was full of fun, laughter and energy, uniting people through rhythm.

When planning this event, we knew It was important to create inclusive activities that would encourage community participation and that would ‘bring people together.’

The day was about celebrating the role that Neighbourhood Centres play in the community as well as letting the community know how we can help.

If you are feeling lonely, don’t forget about your local neighbourhood centre, a place where you can connect with others in your local community through a range of programs and activities or just enjoy having a cuppa with us at the centre.Find out what’s on at our neighbourhood centres this term:

South Penrith Neighbourhood Centre

Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre

Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre

North Penrith Community Centre (Kingswood Park)



Have you heard about the Clontarf Aboriginal Boys Program

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds, had the privilege of spending time with Cranebrook High School Students participating in the Clontarf Aboriginal boys program who allowed her to join them on their morning exercise program this morning.

The Clontarf foundation (2013) website states that they are, ‘a charitable not for profit organisation that was created to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.  Their program is delivered through a network of football academies established in partnership with local schools providing an important school-engagement mechanism for many at-risk students who would otherwise not attend or have low school attendance.  Clontarf staff mentor and counsel students on a range of behavioural and lifestyle issues while the school caters for their educational needs. To remain in the program students must continue to work at school.  Graduates are helped to find employment and are supported to stay employed.’

Clontarf Mentor, Tyson picked Justine from Cranebrook High School, bright and early at 5:30am this morning. Over the next 90 minutes they travelled to Windsor, Cranebrook and Kingswood Park to pick up the rest of the crew. All of the boys were ready and waiting despite the freezing cold morning at  just 6°C. Another Clontarf Mentor, Todd then arrived with the second crew. The boys started their strength and aerobic exercises; running, jumping, push ups, and sit ups.  Soon enough they had warmed up from the cold.

Once they completed their exercises, the young men and Justine began to sand the park benches in Illawong Reserve in Kingswood Park. This park is about to undergo a face lift with artwork created by members of the community and some new equipment through a grant received by NCNS from Penrith City Council Magnetic Places grant program. We really appreciate the boys helping to get the park ready for the artwork painting and installation. Clontarf Mentor, Todd talked with the group about sanding techniques and woodwork skills. We were so impressed watching the crew pitch in and help get the job done.

NCNS Community Development worker, Justine expressed her gratitude towards the group, “I can’t thank the Clontarf Crew enough, they stepped up immediately when they had to change plans. A huge thank you will never seem enough”

After they had finished sanding the park benches, they drove to Jordan Springs where they completed a walk, some more exercises and enjoyed breakfast.

NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds is looking forward to planning more activities with the Cranebrook High School boys participating in The Clontarf Foundations program. Watch this space!

For more information about the Clontarf Foundation check out their website: http://www.clontarf.org.au/


The Clontarf Foundation. 2013. Our Story. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.clontarf.org.au/about/. [Accessed 8 May 2019].

How we are making dental health a priority

In a previous blog post, we talked about the importance of early childhood dental visits and what we were doing to help make dental hygiene a priority in our local community.

Dental Clinic

During the school holidays NCNS Team Leader – Early Childhood, Carolyn Gilbert worked together with The School Dentist, a mobile dental service, to run an Outreach Dental Clinic for Aboriginal children between 2-17 years at our Culturally safe space, Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre. On Thursday 18th April, 28 Aboriginal children accessed the Dental Clinic.

Dental Clinic

Out of the 28 kids, 4 were referred on for serious dental work as we discovered dental health issues that could mean that they would need to have teeth removed and/or would have implications to their overall health.

2 of these 4 children were found with tooth abscesses. A dental abscess occurs when the dental pulp, the soft inner part of the tooth made up of blood vessels, nerves and tissues, becomes infected due to exposure to bacteria and fills with pus. This can be caused by tooth decay or injury to the teeth that lets bacteria into the tooth. A dental abscess can be treated with antibiotics, draining the abscess, root canal or tooth removal. If left untreated, the infection could spread to your jaw bone, ear and neck on the effected side and in some cases the infection can spread to the brain.  Both children are looking at a possible tooth extraction.

Another child was found with a fractured tooth with nerve exposure. An exposed nerve can cause an abscess and severe dental pain. This child was sent to have x-rays completed to determine the level of damage and it is possible they will require root canal.

A 3-year-old was found to have dental trauma on their baby tooth and dental trauma on baby teeth can cause complications to the permanent tooth developing underneath.

The families of these 4 children were provided with a referral letter for dental work that needed immediate attention as the dental team were not able to perform these procedures on the day.

Dental Clinic

We would like to thank the dental team from The School Dentist who were so professional and approachable, making our families feel so at ease.

We also would like to thank the families who brought their children along for their dental check-up making sure any issues could be identified early and treated before causing serious & costly health problems.

Dental Clinic

Our next Aboriginal Outreach Dental Clinic will be on Thursday 11th July at our Kooly centre.

Download Aboriginal Outreach Dental Flyer July

For more information please contact Carolyn on 02 4729 0442.


Young people shine at Youth Week Colour Run

Youth week is a time to celebrate the contribution of young people in the community as well as a chance for young people to share their ideas, showcase their talents and for them to have their voices heard.

Last year, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS) held a colour run in celebration of youth week and due to the huge success of this event, the NCNS Youth team are hoping to turn this into an annual event.

The 2nd annual colour run, held on Monday 15th April, was an opportunity for our young people to shine, with NCNS Youth Workers, Sami Thoms & Joe Benchoam ensuring that young people were involved in all aspects of planning, development and management of the event. In February, the NCNS Youth Planning Crew was formed comprising of 12-14 young people, guided by our Youth Workers, who came together to share ideas, their vision and feedback to make this year’s colour run better than ever. Our planning crew helped to organise the obstacle course, came up with the activities for the event and 2 of our talented young people, Harrison & Jess created the artwork that was used for promotion on our Colour Run flyers.

NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam shared his thoughts on the Youth Week celebration, “For me it’s about empowering our young people and giving them the opportunity to show the community what they can achieve. Working with the NCNS Youth Planning Crew was definitely a highlight for me. We had over 250 community members come along on the day and they gave us such positive feedback. It just shows how capable our young people really are. This is what Youth Week is all about.”

The community had so much fun during the colour run as the powder exploded into the air and their white shirts became covered in beautiful colours.

They faced a colour fight, were challenged by the obstacle course but the fun did not stop there. Kids and young people couldn’t wait for the next activities to begin.

The 4 way tug a war was hilarious to watch, you could see the competitiveness of the young people trying to pull each other in opposite directions. There was Oz Tag, 3 legged races, ring toss, thong throwing, and community could also participate in our Skate Park Mural Workshop, creating artwork that will be included in the mural at the Cranebrook Skate Park.

We would like to acknowledge the following organisations who provided support, stalls and activities on the day:  Platform Youth Services, BreakThru, Headspace, Uniting, Family Planning, Ability Options, Penrith City Council, Neighbourhood Jobs – Wentworth Community Housing and Yourtown.

A massive shout out to Tyrepower Penrith who supplied tyres for our obstacle course, Airy Fairy’s Fairy Floss, Popcorn & Sno-cones who provided fairy floss, DJ Matt for the awesome music, Braddock Public school for donating squeezy bottles and Woolworths Cranebrook who donated the sausages and bread for the BBQ.

Lastly, we would like to say a huge thank you to the young people from the planning crew who had a hand in all parts of this event, the community & young people who came along, participated and supported our event, NCNS staff for their hard work on the day and our partner in this event, Penrith City Council.

Local youth leaving their mark on Skate Park

Magnetic Places is a placemaking initiative of Penrith City Council’s Neighbourhood Renewal Program. Magnetic Places grants are used for neighbourhood projects that bring residents and creatives together to transform public spaces through creative and social activity.

Along with our Magnetic Places, Art in the Park project where Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds is working alongside artist Angela Pasqua and the families of Kingswood Park to transform a local park, the NCNS Youth Team have also been successful in their application for a Magnetic Places grant aiming to update an existing area in Cranebrook to make it livelier and to give local youth ownership of the space.

For this project, NCNS Youth Workers, Joe & Sami will be working with local youth to create a mural at the Cranebrook Skate Park. The Skate Park will be transformed into a creative and meaningful place through a number of workshops where young people will be able to share their ideas and help to create and design the mural with help from artist Diamando Koutsellis.

Diamando has a 20-year arts career and during that time, she has worked with diverse and marginalised communities to create vibrant, robust communities through art-based projects. With this project our youth team aim to encourage local youth to have pride in themselves, where they live and show them that they are capable of achieving great things. The workshops are also a great opportunity for people to make new friends in the local area, build their confidence and develop skills.

In our first Skate Park Mural workshop, we worked with 15 young people who brainstormed ideas, many drawing inspiration from their surroundings and others refining work they have previously done.

We were thrilled to see how excited the young people were to create their own artwork that would be displayed in the Skate Park, leaving their mark on Cranebrook for years to come. We hope that the community can enjoy the mural that will be created by and for the people who live in Cranebrook.

This project will be ongoing during Term 2 with workshops at the NCNS Youth Team after school program running Mondays 2:45pm – 4:30pm from 6th May to 1st July 2019. These workshops will be 50% design and 50% application.

We have begun installation of the mural. Check out the progress that has been made by local youth.

We are so impressed with the creative effort of our young people and how they have been able to work together with our NCNS Youth team and artist Diamando Koutsellis to leave their mark on the skate park

For more information about this project please contact NCNS Youth Workers, Joe on 0417 498 918 or Sami on 0408 586 797.

Download the NCNS Youth After School Program flyer.


Multicultural feast celebrates diverse community of Cranebrook

In celebration of Harmony Day’s 20th Anniversary this year, the day was renamed “Harmony Week” and celebrations took place over the entire week including 21st March which is the United Nations Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Harmony week is about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

Last year NCNS had its first Harmony Day event which was such a success that our community indicated that they would love to celebrate together every year. This year we celebrated Harmony Day with a Multicultural feast at our Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre.

The aim was to bring the community together through food, cultural activities, music and performances. We asked the community to bring along a dish that represented their culture so that everyone could get a taste of food from the many different cultures in our local community.

The table was packed with food from all over the world and the smell of each delicious dish filled the space leaving the community eager to begin the feast. The crowd was full of life, laughter and friendship.

Aunty Carol opened the event with a Welcome to Country. The moment she began to speak the energy lifted as her words echoed themes of love, acceptance, unity and welcoming difference into our lives.

The day saw a variety of cultural performances starting with Bollywood Community dancers who enthused the crowd with their vibrant colours, music and movement while making it look effortless. It was a wonderful insight into Indian culture. We had Maltese Line dancers who were fun, upbeat and full of life. Pilipino Kayumanggi Dancers entertained the crowd with a Subli Dance, a cultural and ceremonial folk dance that is usually performed during times of worship.

As well as enjoying the cultural performances, the community also had the opportunity to experience different cultural activities. Henna Tattooing was a massive hit, with many community members thrilled with the beautiful henna designs they had painted onto their hands.

NCNS Worker, Morissa Hita ran a Poi stall where community had the opportunity to make their own Poi, a traditional New Zealand dancing instrument. As people made their own Poi, they found out how it was used and the meaning behind it. As well as Morissa, this stall was run by a member of our local community who was open in sharing the history or her people and her culture.

NCNS Youth Worker, Joe Benchoam ran a drum beats workshop, where participants had a go at beating on tall drums using their hands.

The day was a beautiful display of multiculturalism and a real celebration of our communities’ diversity. NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed commented that “This event was an absolute success because of our community’s participation. We would like to thank everyone who came down to support this event, all of those who provided food, performances or activities and were proud to share their culture.”

Once again, this year we were overwhelmed by the way our community united and by their willingness to learn about cultures different to their own. We would like to encourage our community to continue to be open to learning and understanding the many cultures that make up our community so that everyone can feel included, respected and that they belong, so that we can live together harmony!

How we can help your child become school ready

The first five years of your child’s life are so important; they are the foundation for learning, health and well being.

Starting primary school is a huge milestone for children and parents and can be especially overwhelming if children are not school ready. When children are not school ready, it can impact their ability to understand literacy and numeracy concepts expected when they begin kindergarten as well as the behavioural and social demands of the classroom and playground.

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services Early Childhood team will be running an 8-week program aimed at getting Aboriginal children School ready beginning in May 2019. NCNS Early Childhood Workers aim to prepare children for a smooth transition to school using tools and educational experiences designed to help them flourish in a school environment and continue throughout their school years. This program is an important step to develop holistic skills prior to starting school.

We focus on language and numeracy development and social emotional skills. During the 2 hours each week children will engage in routines in structured environments such as art and craft, mathematical games and gross motor development, encourage self-help skills, for example, children opening their own packaging during morning tea as well as the social aspects of engaging with others.

Parents are a child’s first teacher and we believe engaging families during the program is an important step so that children can learn reciprocal and respectful relationships with an educator.

Building Strong Foundation Blue Book developmental checks and NCNS Early Childhood workers can help to assess any learning developmental needs and provide families with referrals if required.

Children equipped with social and developmental skills find it easier to make friends, listen to the teacher and adapt to the new routine of going to primary school.

We would love to help your child get the best start so they can succeed at school.

This 8-week program is for Aboriginal Children going to School in 2020 who are not accessing any early childhood services.

For more information about this program or to enrol your child, please contact our Early Childhood Team on 02 4729 0442.

Download the Aboriginal School Readiness Program flyer







Cranebrook community collects items for animals in need

During February, NCNS held a valentine’s day morning tea and 2 mystery bus tours in celebration of Seniors Week. On the way back from our second Mystery bus tour, our seniors stopped off at Greencross Vets where they enjoyed a tour of the cattery. During the tour they were touched by the sad stories of the cats who were now staying at the cattery and became eager to help. Following the bus tour, the seniors, the ladies from Make Time Women’s Group and Taste of Everything Workshops for Women as well as the Cranebrook Community rallied together with NCNS Community Development Worker, Justine Reynolds and NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker, Dave Gillett to collect and make much needed items for the vet surgery and for the animals in the flood affected areas of Queensland.

JD, a student from Henry Fulton Public School and her mum have made countless trips to the Cranebrook Community Centre with bundles of old towels and sheets that they have collected for this cause. We have also been lucky enough to have a community member donate dog food and biscuits that will be passed on to the animals who need it.

Kellie, Manager of Greencross Vets at Coreen Avenue expressed that she has been “humbled by the collective community response.”

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved and for their generous donations.

Queen Sheeba the cat has given the donated goods her seal of approval.

We are excited about this wonderful partnership and future donations are in the pipeline.

If you would like to get involved, please contact Justine on 02 4729 0442 or Justine@nepeancommunity.org.au


Helpful links

Greencross Vet at Coreen Avenue

Make Time Women’s Group flyer

Taste of Everything Workshops for Women flyer


Why it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was #Balance for Better, a call for a gender balanced world where everyone plays a role in forging gender parity.

Although we have seen great improvements towards gender equality, there is still a long way to go, with women still not being paid the same as male employees, not having equal numbers of women and men in business or politics and with women’s education, health and violence against them being worse than men.

Women still face a number of biases, especially when it comes to the workforce. As I read the International Women’s Day Bias Reference Sheet, two of the gender bias categories stood out to me.

The first was performance bias which stated that employers are more likely to underestimate women’s performance and overestimate men’s performance, often meaning that women must accomplish more to prove that they are as competent as their fellow male employees.  Shockingly in one study, they found that replacing a women’s name with a man’s name on a resume improved the odds of getting hired by more than 60%.

The second was maternal bias which stated that employers assume that mothers are less committed to their careers, are less competent and that employers are more likely to penalise them for small mistakes or oversights. Research shows that maternal bias is the strongest type of gender bias. When hiring employers know that a woman has children, she is 79% less likely to be hired and if they are hired, they are paid $11,000 (on average) less in their salary.

One of the International Women’s Day promotional videos by Four Nine showcased a group of people’s reactions to sexist google definitions, a great example of how a word can change meaning according to which gender it is applied to. In the video, it shows the definition for ‘hysterical’ where one-man states “If somebody said to me, ‘that guy is hysterical,’ I’d go, he sounds like a good laugh. If someone came up to me and goes, ‘that woman is hysterical’, I’d say she needs to sit down and have a cup of tea.”  This was a great way to make people think about gender equality and illustrated how something as simple as language can expose our own subconscious gender biases and how we should challenge these stereotypes so we can move closer to gender equality.

International Women’s Day is not only a day to draw attention to the gender biases that women face every day, it is also a day to celebrate the strength and achievements of women. This year Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services celebrated with over 200 women at an International Women’s Day Event at St Mary’s Memorial Hall. The room was filled with women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds who came together to celebrate women, acknowledging how far women have come and recognising the changes that still need to happen before we have a gender balanced world. There was a variety of performances, a self-defence demonstration as well as a number of guest speakers who left the audience feeling inspired.

The highlight of this event was from our very own Aboriginal dance group – Walan Mahlee. The girls performed traditional Aboriginal dances at the event and also designed, researched and delivered a beautiful artwork that celebrated Aboriginal women, past and present while showing the audience their own strengths as our future leaders. The girls displayed great courage as they presented their artwork to the room and revealed the amazing things they aim to achieve as they flourish into young women. NCNS Community Development Worker, Nada Mohammed expressed that, “it was an incredible privilege to support the girls in this project and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future.”

Although the day is over, it does not mean that we stop working towards gender equality. Each day women and men need to work together to challenge stereotypes, advocate for themselves and others and celebrate each other’s strengths so that we can build a gender balanced future where our children have equal opportunities to achieve and succeed, whether they are boy or a girl.

Her Stories – Anthology of the Remarkable Women of Cranebrook

Although women and girls play a number of important roles in our communities, they continue to face inequality, disadvantage and violence as a result of their gender.

The Women NSW Strategy 2018 – 2022  states that data shows:

  • Women make up 59.9% of undergraduate completions, however, the median starting salary for women is lower than men.
  • Across the NSW labour market, women working full time earn an average of $239.70 less than men per week, with women over-represented among lower paying industries.
  • Women make up 68.5% of all primary carers in NSW. Unpaid care is critical to the sustainability of our health and community services systems. It would cost over $60.3 billion to replace the hours of care provided by unpaid carers in Australia.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission, Face the Facts: Gender Equality 2018, states that “Women comprise roughly 47 per cent of all employees in Australia. 95% of primary parental leave (outside of the public-sector) is taken by women and women spend almost three times as much time taking care of children each day, compared to men.”

This March, New South Wales celebrated it’s very first NSW Women’s Week established by Women NSW, to shine a light on gender inequality and disadvantage and to focus, discuss and celebrate the achievements of women throughout NSW.

In celebration of our first NSW Women’s week, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS) developed the “Her Stories” project, funded by Family and Community Services through the NSW Women’s Week Grants 2019, to recognise the important contributions of the women of Cranebrook at work, in our families and the community.

The “Her Stories – Anthology of the Remarkable Women of Cranebrook” project captured the stories of women of Cranebrook, recognising and celebrating their achievements and participation, regardless of divisions, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political backgrounds, with a focus on young girls, women in STEM, sports, CALD, Aboriginal, and women with disabilities.

The achievements and their stories are highlighted in the “Her Stories” book and tells of 39 remarkable women of Cranebrook. The book is a testimony of the many contributions of women in our community, with a focus on working towards creating an inclusive and supportive community for all women and girls, no matter what path they take and to challenge traditional stereotypes about women’s roles and career paths.

The culmination of the project was a beautiful “Book Launch, Breakfast and Social Networking” event for the women of Cranebrook on Monday 4th March, held at The Lakeside Restaurant at the Regatta centre, Penrith.

The event saw 70 women come together to celebrate the launch of the book and hear from a range of inspiring guest speakers, while creating the opportunity to develop peer relationships, supports and linking in with a range of services and educational organisations.

The speakers included Aunty Carol, Councillor Karen McKeown – Labor Candidate for Penrith, Wendy Truelove, Coordinator, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program from Western Sydney University and 2 remarkable women of Cranebrook, Ashlea Holt and Bronwyn Nuttall who shared their stories.

We were also privileged to hear a beautiful acoustic music performance by one of our local young women from Cranebrook High School, Olivia Kezik.

Not only was the event a celebration of the achievements and contributions of the women nominated but also acknowledged that each and every woman is “remarkable” in her own right and every contribution is worthy of recognition. We all have a part to play in our community to ensure a better, gender balanced future for the next generation of young women in Cranebrook.




NCNS – Her Stories Nomination Photo Book

Kingswood Park residents work with artist to improve local park

Over the past few weeks, children and residents of Kingswood Park have been working hard to design and share their interpretations and thoughts for improvement of the local park.

Several consultations have taken place at the park with artist Angela Pasqua, who will be working together with the children and residents to make their designs come to life in the park area.

Angela has been sharing her expertise of the art world teaching us all about texture, colour and the richness of the environment.

There has been much discussion around the local fauna and flora. The children and Angela even spotted some flying pelicans.

We are so excited to see how all the designs come together as a collective.

Don’t forget to watch out for the upcoming design implementation dates and come and join us!

To speak with NCNS Community Development worker, Justine Reynolds please contact 02 4729 0442 or Justine@nepeancommunity.org.au

This is a Magnetic Places project supported by Penrith City Council.

How we celebrated this Seniors Festival

NSW Seniors Festival is an opportunity to make new friends or get together with old ones at an array of local community events, many which are free or heavily discounted.

This year, NCNS Community development worker, Justine Reynolds, coordinated 2 Mystery bus tours and a Valentine’s Day morning tea in celebration of Seniors Festival this year. The events were a hit, bringing many seniors together, making new friends and enjoying new experiences.

NCNS Community Development Workers Justine and Nada, along with 14 seniors set off on the first Mystery Bus Tour in Celebration of Seniors Festival. The ride was a laugh, with the group attempting to guess the mystery location the whole way.

At last, we arrived to “The Secret Garden,”  a not-for-profit community garden and nursery in Richmond facilitated by North West Disability Services. They provide training and educational programs in horticulture, permaculture, animal husbandry, vegetable and fruit production as well as specialised engagement and training for children and people with a disability. Their “Food for Thought” program, is a safe supportive and educational environment where people with mental illness and disabilities can learn horticultural skills.

On arrival we were treated to some delicious cake and coffee followed by a tour of “The Secret Garden” with Rick. We were in awe of the mud brick shelters and children’s play area and were also impressed with their focus on sustainability and inclusion.

If you are after a free, relaxing day out, we would definitely recommend a trip out to “The Secret Garden.”

Most of the seniors who came along to our first Mystery Bus Tour had not met each other previously, with people coming from a range of areas from Blackheath to Blacktown. You would not have guessed that they had only met that morning, as they chatted and enthused about their purchases of local fresh free-range eggs, honey and even native bee homes on the trip home.

The next NCNS Seniors Festival event was our morning tea on Valentine’s day with a guest speaker who talked about volunteering and the benefits of volunteering. Out of the 20 Seniors who attended the event, many had experience as volunteers and were able to share their stories with the group.

There were mystery door prizes and each senior going home with a care pack from West Care and a resource pack with information about volunteering.

On our second Mystery Bus tour, the group interrogated the bus driver seeking information about the secret location. It was a hot day so we were glad that this was shorter trip. We soon arrived at Lewers Art Gallery where we enjoyed morning tea while chatting. We had people who came along from a range of areas from Schofields to Campbelltown. One of our seniors was turning 90, an incredible woman whose energy left us in her wake.

During the tour of the art gallery we were told the history of the artwork and were also informed of the volunteering opportunities available, with many seniors keen and taking home information on how to get involved.

On the way back, we stopped in at the Greencross Vets, where we were lucky enough to have a back-shop tour of the cattery. Our group loved seeing all the animals, especially the baby rabbits. As we were shown the cats accommodation, staff shared the sad stories behind some of the cats who were staying there. The group was touched by the stories and were eager to help. They are planning to make cat hammocks and blankets, as well as collecting supplies to send to Queensland for the lost or orphaned pets from the recent floods.

Over the 3 events, we were thrilled to see so many seniors forming new friendships, exchanging numbers and having a great time, this is what Senior’s Festival is all about.

The National Apology: What it means to us

February 13 marked the 11th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, acknowledging the past laws, policies and practices that have inflicted profound grief, loss and suffering on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Each year we invite our community and local services to come together to reflect on the Apology and recognise the trauma, grief and loss that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people endured years ago and are still experiencing today. This year we came together for a high tea at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre, where we shared a delicious feed while we reflected on the significance of the apology.

On the day, high school student, Reece Nuttall addressed the crowd and. spoke about what the Apology means to him.

We value the voices of the people who we work with so this year we asked some of our Aboriginal staff to share their thoughts on the National Apology.

When we asked Rodney Matthews, NCNS Program Manager – Casework, for his thoughts on the National Apology he replied, “The apology to me is not about what happened in 1788 or what happened to my ancestors. The apology to me is something that people alive today had waited their whole life to hear. The bad things that happened to us, the terrible things, the things that were part of government policy, happened to people still alive today. People like my grandmother and my mother. Also, people passed like my grandfather and grandmother on my other side. The very people whom had all shaped my understanding of the world. The apology gave us all hope that the future will be better, wrongs will be made right.

The apology itself is a teachable moment. If we turn a blind eye and pretend the problem never happened, then how will we as a nation avoid these mistakes in the future.  The apology to me is about the government taking ownership of their mistakes and saying we were wrong, sorry we won’t do it again. Its fundamental in teaching the next generation the right way forward. History is our greatest teacher, learn from the past and never repeat it. That is the way we teach our children. You do something wrong to someone you apologise and promise them you won’t do it again.”

Amy Lear, NCNS Aboriginal Early Childhood Worker described what the Apology means to herself and her family, “It means to me that they apologised for all the wrong doings to the past generations. My Nan is alive today and for her to hear this was an emotional day for all of our family. It’s important to celebrate each year to show the future generations and to be able to come together and share stories, connect and learn from each other.

I’m always sharing with my children what happened to the past generations, what my Nan had gone through and how this has changed today.

There is still a long way to go we need to share awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities still suffering today.”

Carolyn Gilbert, NCNS Team Leader – Early Childhood talked about the trauma caused by the policies, practices and laws within her own family.

Carolyn explained “My grandmother was removed at the age of 3, and there were previous generations of removal within my family under The Child Welfare Act. My grandparents had to carry around Citizenship’s papers that denied their Aboriginality to be able to obtain work.

I remember when the National Apology was delivered by the government all those years ago, I felt a sense of hope. When I reflect on the apology today, I feel that not much has changed. There is still a lot of work to do. Programs shouldn’t be delivered from top to bottom, they should be delivered from the bottom up. Early intervention funding is being taken away and going into child protection and rates of out of home care and incarceration are getting higher.”

The Closing the Gap framework established in 2008 recognised that a national effort was required to address indigenous disadvantage. 10 years later the Closing the Gap Report 2019 states that only 2 out of its 7 targets are on track to be met. These targets include:

  • Child Mortality
  • Early Childhood education – on track
  • School attendance
  • Life Expectancy
  • Year 12 or Equivalent – on track
  • Reading & Numeracy
  • Employment

NCNS is proud of its record of Closing the Gap in the preparation of Aboriginal children for school. We have significant numbers of children who are now school ready through the interventions of our early childhood and family services. We see ourselves being very effective in that area and we also see ourselves being very effective in the area of Closing the Gap in chronic disease and mortality through the work of the Closing the Gap team and the Community Development team.

The most important thing, as service providers is a consensus to address health care, education and equity & equality. NCNS will continue to advocate for Aboriginal children and families and to work towards Closing the Gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The National Apology was an important step towards reconciliation, but we still have a long way to go.

Why early childhood dental visits are important

So far in Penrith, Summer has been a HOT one! If you are now back at work, you are wishing you were still on holiday. It’s 35°C, you can feel the sweat gathering above your brow and all you can think about is an icy, cold, drink of water. You fill up your glass and you can almost taste the cool water but as you take that first gulp, you are shocked by the sting of ice-cold water against your teeth. You think to yourself, when was the last time I went to the dentist?
Does this sound familiar? I know myself, growing up, dental appointments were not something that we made regularly and now as an adult, it is not something that I automatically prioritise. It’s no surprise that when you have your first child, dental appointments are the last thing on your mind. You are worried about so many other things; has my child had enough to eat? What injections do they need? Have they had enough time outside? It is no wonder that parents often forget about their children’s oral health.

So how soon are we even meant to take children to the dentist and is it really that important?

The answer is YES! Teeth are not only important for speaking and chewing but also hold space in the jaw for children’s adult teeth. As stated in the Report of the Chief Health Officer 2018 from NSW Ministry of Health 2018, ‘Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic illnesses among young children and can affect a child’s development and wellbeing.’ Tooth decay and/or trauma can cause pain, infection, difficulties eating and speaking and can also lead to crowding adult teeth. Poor oral health in early childhood can increase the chance of major dental problems later in life.
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. By making dental visits regular, your child is more likely to develop good oral hygiene habits as they grow older.

Okay, so the dentist is important for your little one, but isn’t it expensive?

We know that as an adult going to dentist can be an expensive trip but if the cost of taking your children for a dental check-up is the only thing preventing you from making that appointment and you live in New South Wales, you should check your child’s eligibility for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) The CDBS gives eligible children and teenagers access to up to $1,000 in benefits for dental services over two calendar years.

The CDBS is a bulk billed Dental scheme for lower income families. Children aged 2-17 years are eligible for this service if their families are in receipt of Family Tax Benefit A or a relevant Australian Government payment. 
You can check your child’s eligibility by calling Medicare on 132 011.

What are we doing to improve children’s oral health?

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS) Early Childhood team has two Aboriginal Supported Playgroups and over the past few years, we have worked together with The School Dentist to provide free oral health checks to Aboriginal children in the culturally safe space that is our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre. The School Dentist is an amazing mobile dental service that brings clinicians to children and provides free oral health check-ups in familiar school settings.
Last year, NCNS held an Aboriginal Early Childhood Developmental Outreach Day where the School Dentist provided free oral health checks to 29 Aboriginal children. It was evident from the huge demand and interest on the day, that there is a need for culturally safe, easy to access dental care for Aboriginal children in our local area. As a result of this, NCNS will be working in partnership with The School Dentist once again to provide an Outreach Dental Clinic for Aboriginal Children aged 2-17 years on Thursday 18th April from 9am -3pm and Thursday 11th July 2019.

We want to help make your children’s oral health a priority! If you have Aboriginal Children between 2-17 years of age, we invite you to book into our Outreach Dental Clinic. To book in, is easy! Fill out a form and return it to NCNS 2 weeks prior to the Outreach day. To get your form, contact Carolyn, NCNS Team Leader – Early Childhood, on 02 4729 0442 or 0438 690 777. Bookings are essential – get your form today, we don’t want you to miss out!


Click here for more info on the School Dentist
Click here for more info on the CDBS
Click here for Outreach Dental Clinic Flyer
Click here for Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup Flyer

Why young people benefit from our school holiday program

Beyond Blue’s website states that “1 in 7 young Australians experience a mental health condition.”

With 4 neighbourhood centres in the Penrith LGA, we see many young people walk through our doors each week. We know that It is essential for young people to have a good support system in place to help them through hard times, or when they are suffering poor mental health.

For some young people, making friends comes naturally and often those with a great circle of friends, look forward to school holidays as they are a break from structure, teachers, tests, early starts and a chance to catch up with their friends in a relaxed environment.

However, for other young people, making friends can be more difficult. They may be shy, anxious or struggling with low self-esteem and for these student’s, school holidays can amplify feelings of loneliness. They may withdraw into themselves and after the holidays, when they come back to school it can become even more difficult to make new friends.

Our school holiday program gives young people the opportunity to make new friends, catch up with old friends and gain new experiences with the supervision and guidance from our youth workers.

NCNS youth workers, Sami & Joe love working with young people to support them in developing healthy relationships, social skills and reducing social isolation, in a safe and respectful environment. Young people are given the opportunity to speak honestly and openly, seek advice or voice any concerns that they may have.  During the School Holiday program young people get to experience a variety of social environments where they are able to get a better understanding of appropriate behaviour in different settings.

We have many young people come into our program and meet other students from their school whom they haven’t met previously due to being in different classes or social groups and then making long lasting connections. Participating in activities is a great way to break the ice and create new friendships.

Our January school holiday program was a mix of active and more relaxed days, so there was something for everyone.

During January’s program, we took our teens to Tree Tops where they got to weave and fly through the tree tops on a self-guided rope course. Even though this activity tested our group mentally and physically, we were so proud of how they supported each other to push through their fears and to conquer them. We also think this is great activity to help young people to develop an understanding of healthy risk taking.

NCNS Youth Worker, Joe stated “A highlight for me during this school holiday program was when I won one of the laser tag games at Code Red! Haha! No, but really the highlight for me was when the group was rewarded with two extra games of laser tag due to their exemplary behaviour. Everyone listened well, followed our directions and showed respect for themselves, others and us as workers. We are so proud of them, and it was wonderful for them to be acknowledged for the way they had conducted themselves. It is a credit to themselves and the whole group.

At Wet’n’Wild, we were so impressed by the student’s willingness to stick together making sure no one felt isolated. 

I also wanted to say thank you so much to Shelly (Ty & Courtney’s mum) who made delicious homemade pizzas for all the students in the program on our Movie night.”

NCNS runs its Free School Holiday Program each school holidays for high school students from Cranebrook and Kingwood Park. Not only is the School Holiday program fun and exciting for our students but it is also a great way for students to expand their social circle, creating a stronger support system, that they can rely on when they might be going through a tough time or suffering from a mental health condition.

Our next School Holiday program will be in the April School holidays. Watch out for our exciting program on our Facebook page[ link] or on our website [link].

To speak with our youth team, contact Joe 0417 498 918 or Sami 0408 586 797.

Check out the NCNS Youth Facebook Page






Beyondblue (2019) Youthbeyondblue.com <https://www.youthbeyondblue.com/footer/stats-and-facts>

How we reconnect with our community in the new year

Each January, NCNS runs Summer Lunches at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre, where we invite community to share lunch with our team and enjoy a variety of activities for all ages.

We think that Summer lunches is a such great way for NCNS staff to reconnect with our community after the Christmas and New Year break. It is also a great opportunity for community to meet other members of the NCNS team, a chance to meet other families who live in the area and to find out more about our programs.

At NCNS it is important to us that our neighbourhood centres are place that community feel welcome at and are a place that they can turn to when they need some help, or just need to chat.

During the day, the centre was bustling with activity. The centre was packed and everywhere you looked there were children playing with toys, craft, and dress up.  You could use the community computer to look up information or to play games, take it easy while enjoying a movie, or just escape the heat on this hot summer day and unwind with a cuppa in the cool air con. The amount of families who came through our Kooly centre during the day demonstrated that Kooly has become that safe space for the community in Cranebrook, a place they can come to and feel right at home.

A massive hit this year was the DIY Slip and Slide, put together by NCNS Youth Workers Sami & Joe. The kids were able to keep cool while having an absolute ball. Check them out below.

We loved catching up with you all and sharing a meal together. It has been a fantastic start to our 2019 and we look forward to working together in the rest of 2019.

Women’s Group wrap up 2018 with a High Tea

What a year it has been for the Make Time Women’s Group!

With the ladies participating in many volunteering opportunities this year,  they have become an influential force within the local Penrith area.

They have made and donated 40 library bags to local schools, 20 long term medication bags to nursing homes, 50 homemade grocery bags for Mama Lana’s Community Foundation, reducing the amount of plastic bags when providing food to the homeless.

They have helped us at the NCNS Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre with events and Brekky Club food preparation, served food at our annual NAIDOC Cup event as well as donated toys for children in the outback in NCNS Aboriginal Community Worker, Dave Gillet’s Toy run.

This year has been a fabulous journey. The women have learnt new skills, shared ideas and created close friendships where they can support each other in day to day life.

It was lovely to celebrate the end of the year with a High Tea at the Teapot Museum at Leura, where they enjoyed tasty treats and explored the area.

Some of the women are environmental warriors, who have been cleaning up the local area as they walk with our Ploggers Group.  This High tea was partly funded by the collection of cans and bottles in the last half of this year.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the women who make up the Make Time Women’s Group and congratulate them on the massive contribution to their local community in 2018.

We are looking forward to 2019 and the adventures it will bring!

Backyard Science Program

During Term 4, the NCNS Youth team’s after school activity was Backyard Science, a hands on, fun filled program using everyday materials to create exciting experiments.

The aim was to create easy, and inexpensive experiments that young people will be able to take and pass onto their friends, siblings and family members.

The great thing about these experiments, is that it gets young people curious about the way things work without even noticing that they are learning!

The favourite experiment of the program was the Walk on Water experiment. You would not believe how many packets of corn-starch went into this experiment! All you need is numerous packets of corn-starch, water and a large plastic tub.

NCNS Youth Workers, Sami & Joe, along with youth were amazed by the way that the corn-starch mixed with water could act like a liquid or as a solid, changing according to pressure or agitation.

The more pressure applied to the mixture, the more solid it felt, hence why youth could jump into the water, as if they were walking on water. With less pressure, the mixture was more like quicksand!

All the young people had a brilliant time during this program. NCNS Youth Workers were really impressed by the way youth worked together to perform the experiments. Everyone was able to have a laugh.

Sami & Joe would like to sayThank you to all of the young people who participated in NCNS Youth Programs in 2018. We enjoyed every minute!”

The Term 1 2019 NCNS Youth after school activity will be ‘Chill Zone’ with various activities from board games and movies to outdoor activities. Free snacks and drinks provided.

For more information contact our Youth Team on Joe 0417 498 918 or Sami 0408 586 797.