School Holiday Program January 2018

During the January School Holiday Program our Youth team took our youth to various activities including:

  • Summer Lunches at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre
  • Ryde Pools
  • Don Bosco Youth Centre
  • The beach
  • Sky Peaks
  • Jamberoo

These activities are run every school holidays and provided free to high school students from Cranebrook & Kingswood Park.

Places book out quick so watch out for our next School Holiday Program and speak to our Youth Team about enrolment.

Check out the photos from our January School Holiday Program below:

10 Year Anniversary of the National Apology

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation and Indigenous people of Australia 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.

Between 1910 and 1970’s many Aboriginal Children were forcibly removed from their families, communities and their culture due to government policies and legislation. These policies ripped apart many Aboriginal families, known as the Stolen Generation, resulting in damaging consequences for Aboriginal communities such as;

  • increased rates of suicide
  • chronic illness, alcoholism,
  • drug use and
  • loss of culture, including the loss of many languages.

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services will be holding an event at our Koolyangarra Aboriginal Family Centre, inviting community and local services to join us to reflect on the significance of the National Apology.

Our aim is to get together to support the healing of fellow Aboriginal people who are suffering the lasting effect of the Stolen Generation, by recognising the trauma, grief and loss that Aboriginal communities endured many years ago and are still experiencing today.

Read the event wrap up here. 

Kids getting outdoors improves well being

With so much technology around and such busy lifestyles kids are spending less time outdoors and more time in front of screens.  Another barrier to kids getting outside is parents may not feel comfortable with them going by themselves to the local park or even playing on their front lawn if they are unable to watch them.

Getting outdoors is so important for our physical and mental wellbeing. A recent study suggests that if we spend 30 minutes or more every week visiting parks and being outdoors, there is less chance of poor mental health than those who don’t.

Benefits of being outside include;

  • Being more active, reducing risks of becoming overweight
  • Improve immune systems by getting much needed vitamin D, important or bone and muscle development
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Decreased risk of problem behaviour, anger and depressive symptoms

We believed it was necessary to create a program in our local area that encouraged kids to get outdoors and become more active. This term we launched our Mega Multi Sports and Games, at Koolyangarra Park. Kids are invited to participate in various activities whilst being supervised by Joe & Sami from our Youth Team. Ribbon Ball toss, Soccer and Basketball are a few of the activities that have featured so far.

Youth enjoy spending time with their friends, getting out in the sun and feeling safe. It is also a space for children to relax and have conversations whilst enjoying some fresh fruit and healthy snacks.

We have already had positive feedback from parents saying that it’s great to see their kids outside having fun.

If you are interested in coming along, be sure to contact our Youth Team.

Download Mega Multi Sports and Games Flyer

Check out some photos below:





Mind Matters. 2016. Benefits of outdoor play for positive mental health.[ONLINE] Available at: [ Accessed 7th November 2017]

The Sydney Morning Herald. 2010. Outdoor play linked to children’s mental health [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7th November 2017] Australia. 2013. 5 Health Benefits of Playing Outside.[ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7th November 2017]

The Conversation. 2017. Five ways kids can benefit from being outside this summer break. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7th November 2017]

Mental Health Event October

We were recently informed that 60% of school students are suffering from severe anxiety around exams and the pressures of performance.

With October being Mental Health Month, we held a Mental Health Event at Cranebrook High School open to community, more specifically Cranebrook school students who may be suffering from mental health issues.

The event was a safe space, encouraging community to have those difficult conversations in an uplifting and supportive environment with referrals and ongoing support provided to many families.

One of the best bits of the night was a free yoga class focusing on centred breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques, useful practises that students could take with them and use in moments of anxiety during these demanding school periods.

The event was held in partnership with Uniting Ability, Headspace, Like Mind, Breakthru and many other agencies. We would like to thank Cranebrook High School and all the partners for their support allowing us to be able to run this event for the local community.

We wish the best of luck to all the students that are completing their HSC in the next few weeks.

Check out photos from the night below:

Harrison, a local Cranebrook Resident created artwork for the flyer for this mental health event. So impressive!


If you are having a hard time, there are services that you can reach out to:


Phone:  13 11 14
Crisis Support Chat

Kids Helpline

Phone: 1800 55 1800

White Wreath 

Phone: 1300 766 177 or
Mobile: 0410 526 562  (you are able to text this number for support)

Mental Health Line

Phone: 1800 011 511






Currently we are running a new program at Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (NCNS) in partnership with Settlement Services International (SSI) called the Staples bag Program. It’s a pop up shop in Cranebrook running fortnightly at Koolyangarra Child & Family Centre (NCNS). It has started back this year!

It provides groceries such as fruit, meat, dairy, pantry items and hygiene essentials at a low cost price. There is $15, $20 and $30 packs for large families. You can purchase one bag or multiple bags to suit your families needs. Each bag is worth up to $100 retail if you purchase the items directly from the shops.

We commenced this new program in September last year since then it has grown and received very well by Cranebrook residents. It caters too all families not only to Cranebrook locals. Due to high interest and demands it will now commence in Kingswood Park, at the Kingswood Public School on the alternate weeks on a Tuesday.

It’s been a fabulous partnership with SSI and everyone is welcome to attend.

The next dates for Staples Bag Pop up shop in Cranebrook are on Thursday the 9th of March from 1pm to 3pm and Kingswood Park is on Tuesday the 14th of March from 1pm to 3pm.

Reclaim The Night

The last Friday of October is the date we celebrate Reclaim the Night – rain, hail or shine (well, maybe not hail), we are out there marching for a cause that affects everyone in our community – violence against women and children.

Reclaim the Night is an international event that highlights the importance of women and children being able to be out after dark and be free from all forms of violence. We hope to promote awareness and education on a local level on what is definitely a global issue.

I’m one of many local service workers that make up the Nepean Domestic Violence Network (the NDVN). We advocate, raise awareness and provide education about aspects and impacts of abusive behaviours which come under the umbrella of domestic and family violence. So, basically, we want to make more people aware of, and think about, the right that we all have to feel safe whether at home or out, during the day or night. And we want to influence behaviours to help this happen.

We decided to invite our whole community to a Reclaim the Night march as a visual (and noisy) means to express our community’s stance against violence.

We all met at Penrith Station at 5.30pm, armed with maracas, drums, banners, whistles and our loudest singing voices, to march the streets together – women, children and men – making a crazy amount of noise to the amusement of bystanders.

The march ended at the Triangle Park in Penrith, where we hosted a free event, with performers, including SOS Choir and Walan Mahlee Aboriginal Girls Dance Group; guest speakers, including Ms Emma Husar MP; music, a sausage sizzle, iced tea, show bags, kid’s activities and even a viewing room to watch the Tea Consent video – check it out here

There were many people that put in a whole lot of effort to make this event happen – I’d like to thank Zonta Club of Nepean Valley for their kind donation and support of the NDVN, and for marshalling and keeping us marchers all safe; Penrith City Council, for their funding donation; and the organisations that enabled their staff to make it happen – West Connect DV Services; Open Door Church; Ability Links; Integrated Violence Prevention & Response Services; Barnardos; St Marys Area Community Development; and of course, my own organisation Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services .

There was a great turnout, the energy was high, and people were having great conversations about their right to feel safe, and their right to BE safe – SUCCESS!

National Reconciliation Week Reflections

This year we are celebrating 25 years of Reconciliation in Australia. Each year National Reconciliation Week celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

hqdefaultThis year we spoke to our local community and asked them to reflect on what Reconciliation means to them. We were greatly encouraged by what they had to say and would like to share this with you. Please click here to see video.

On Tuesday 31st May, a Reconciliation Week breakfast was held at our Koolyangarra Child & Family Centre in Cranebrook, for all local Service Providers in the Penrith LGA. It was a time of reconnecting, celebration and reflection.

NRW_BreakfastWe were privileged to have Sue Butler from Northcott share her experiences of Reconciliation, both personally and professionally. Sue highlighted for us why she thinks the relationship between Northcott and NCNS has been so positive and how for her it has also reflected the true intent of Reconciliation. Sue spoke about:

Commitment and Support: “Being committed to building relationships and willing to actively support each other. Support for me means the doing, which is, helping out practically and physically being present.”

Learning: “I have learned so much about Aboriginal people and their history and experiences. I believe all of us who work with NCNS and come with an open mind cannot fail to learn. Sometimes this can be confronting but as a worker and as an organisation to move beyond the rhetoric you need to listen, learn and adapt practice to meet Aboriginal cultural needs. I feel having a positive relationship with staff at NCNS provides me with a cultural brains trust.”

Flexibility and the willingness to try: “Along the journey we have tried different activities and approaches. Some have worked, some not, but we always keep going and adapt and review as we do so. We have developed a sincerity and honesty between individual workers that enables us to have frank and open discussions”.

If you would like to read more from Sue’s speech, please click here.

At NCNS we are deeply committed to building relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the agencies that work alongside them.

4 Tips to Beat Negative Self-Talk

Self talk can be described as the conversations or simple comments we have going on in our head. It is an internal dialogue of our thoughts. It can be quite hard to catch the dialogue because it can come and go so very quickly. Self talk includes both our conscious and unconscious assumptions and beliefs. Sometimes our self talk will be positive, offering support and encouragement. Sometimes it will be idle chit chat of nothingness. And sometimes, sometimes it can be pretty negative. If the thoughts that are running through our heads are mostly negative, our outlook on life is likely to reflect that. If our thoughts are mostly positive, we are likely to have a brighter outlook. Self-talk is our internal dialog, the words we say to ourselves.

Have you ever caught yourself saying something to yourself that wasn’t very nice? I have. One day I happened to listen, I stayed quiet long enough to hear some of the self talk that was going on in my own head. I didn’t even know I did it before that day. It was quite an interesting discovery. When explored, most were rooted in childhood.Talking Tent

Children and young people pick up on so much. They absorb what is going on around them and interpret situations, conversations and statements. Something one teacher said once could stay with them forever, and if it was negative, maybe reminding them that they are not quite good enough. This may occur regardless of what the teacher actually meant.

Even if negative self talk is not a problem in our own lives, we may find other people around us struggle with it. There is lots of information on the web offering various ways to challenge these thoughts. Here are some that I think are helpful.  The link is at the bottom of this article, along with a link to reachout with some helpful information.

1) If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself. Check in with yourself –and ask “would I say this to _________________?” If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care about, then don’t say it to yourself.

2) Take time and write some of these thoughts down. Sometimes seeing these negative things make it very clear just how we are devaluing ourselves. When you think something like, “I am so dumb,” it likely passes through your mind so swiftly, you don’t have a chance to even register it. Slow these thoughts down, listen to what we are saying to ourselves. Writing it down can highlight just how absurd it is.

3) Studies show that social media increases self-criticism. It can be helpful to take a break from social media and spend some time tuning in to yourself – thinking about how you feel about your own life and which direction you would like to head. Pay attention to your own thoughts and say something nice to yourself. It’s worth remembering that if we don’t speak to ourselves respectfully, it may be easier for others to treat us that way too.

4) Create a plan. Decide how you want to talk to yourself. For example, you could decide that you will be a friend to yourself, encourage yourself, and be true to yourself. You could decide that you will challenge negative self talk and defend yourself. It helps to write this down and have it somewhere you will see it.


Practice helps to change the patterns of negative self talk. Sometimes just noticing it can begin to create change.


Author: Emma Schofield
Youth Caseworker, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services

Choosing consequences

Narelle Smith, our parenting expert, recently posted this article to her blog (


What have I been talking with parents about this past month?

A lot of parents have been very interested to know how they can determine whether the consequences they are giving their child’s mistaken behaviour are fair and reasonable, and designed to address the behaviour.

First of all, consequences need to be related to the mistaken behaviour. Sometimes this can be tricky. But if the child has been jumping on the lounge, then taking away the soccer game on Saturday doesn’t make sense. The consequence is not related to the behaviour. A more appropriate consequence is allowing the child to sit on the floor for a little while.

I use a checklist…

  • Is it positive?
  • Am I guiding and educating my child?
  • Am I teaching my child new skills and behaviours?
  • Will it maintain our relationship?

I will give you a few scenarios, to see how this works.

Scenario 1

A mother told me once how her parent would rip up her homework if she made one mistake. She would then have to do the homework all over again.

What do you think? Which of the above criteria does this meet?

Scenario 2

A mother told me how her young child was fussing at the dinner table. The mother calmly put the child’s plate to the side, and calmly told her child that she would return the dinner when the child could sit and be calm. The child was able to settle herself quickly and the mother returned the dinner saying “thank you for sitting so calmly, you are able to eat your dinner better when you sit still”.

What do you think? Which of the above criteria does this consequence meet?

You don’t have to be mean to your child for them to know better and do better.


“Where did we ever get the idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?”

Jane  Nelson


Author: Narelle Smith
Family Worker and Chaplain
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services

11 Top Tips to ease the transition to High School

With young people up and down the country having just made the transition from Primary School to High School it is important that we understand how stressful this time can. High school is the place where so many of our greatest friends and memories are created, which means that if our young people aren’t able to settle into the routine with a good core group of friends, it may cause them many problems in their ongoing school life, and after all we want our young people to have the best possible start they can get.

Mental Health Month-4

After a quick browse of the internet looking for issues for young people in their transition to high school, the learning links web page highlights the varying emotions young people may experience through their transition these include:

• concern over safety,
• a feeling of belonging versus independence,
• grief and loss associated with the loss of childhood, missing people such as teachers and friends, loss of environment, loss of safety and familiarity,
• concerns over their identity,
• self-esteem and confidence issues,
• confusion,
• a feeling of being overwhelmed,
• anxiety, nervousness and worrying,
• a strong desire to do everything right,
• isolation and feeling misunderstood,
• and/or depression and sadness.

As you can see a lot of these issues revolve around social, academic and personal issues highlighting significant reasons for young people to become unsettled and vulnerable whilst in this transitionary period. If these issues are not managed correctly and addressed it could create a significant risk of the student dropping out altogether, due to the young person becoming disengaged. This then creates a problem risking future career and employment opportunities due to a young person leaving school early (Darmody, 2008; Frey, 2009), highlighting the need for a young person to ensure they are best equipped for their time in high school.

Ok… so it’s important not to panic!! I mean seriously, don’t, we have found a resource that will help ease our young people through the transition. But first our young people need to know that they are not the only person going through this change of school and that most students will feel the same too, reassurance will help so here are the tips that will help to steady the stress of attending a new school.

• Stay in contact with your “old” school friends, particularly while you haven’t made close friends at high school.
• Give it time. Everybody starts off with no friends but soon you will have a new group of friends that you hang out with and have fun with.
• Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know – they will probably appreciate it and then you will know someone.
• Ask the student counsellor or one of the teachers to help you if you are struggling with school in any way – maybe you can’t manage the workload to start with, or can’t find your way around the new school. Help will be there if you ask.
• Get involved in school activities (music, sport, debating), and you will meet new people with the same interests.
• Look at the positives of being at high school – new school facilities, more independence, more variety in classes, some choice in what you want to study.
• If you feel like you are being harassed by anyone at your new school, go to someone you trust and talk about it.
• Get organised. Use your timetable and diary to keep on track.
• Pack your school bag the night before so that you are sure you have everything you will need for the next day’s lessons.
• Be yourself. Don’t try to impress others by showing off your skills or being a ‘try hard’. You will be spending a lot of time with the same people in the next few years. You have plenty of time to get to know each other.
• Make the most or your chance to learn, asked questions if you don’t understand. Use your time well. It’s your time wasted if you don’t do your best.

Hopefully these tips will help your young person make the best start they possibly can to their life in the new big school, which over the next 6 years of their life’s will give them a multitude of memories that will last a lifetime and the education to build their futures!

Author: Aldo Trapanese
Youth Worker – Youth Team
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services



Darmody, M. (2008). Mapping Barriers to Successful School Transitions in Comparative

Frey, A., Ruchkin, V., Martin, A. and Schwab-Stone, M. (2009) Adolescents in Transitions:

School and Family Characteristics in the Development of Violent Behaviors Entering High School. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 40, 1-13.

Hanewald, R. (2013). Transition Between Primary and Secondary School: Why it is Important and How it can be Supported. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(1).

Is missing breakfast a big deal?

It is commonly accepted and understood that education is important – opening up opportunities, empowering young people to live the best life they can – and one of the most effective things we can do as parents, schools, and services is remove barriers to obtaining that education. One of those barriers is coming to school hungry, and so not being ready or able to learn.

In 2013, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted a national survey with 23,745 student volunteers. The survey revealed that 14.8% of these students, across Australia, did not eat breakfast before school. In NSW, it was 14.1% (ABS – 2013 CensusAtSchool).

In 2015, Foodbank Australia surveyed 500 school teachers, nationally, to better understand the issues facing students who did not eat breakfast prior to school (Foodbank May 2015 Report):

– 67% of teachers reported students coming to school hungry
– Hungry students usually lose 2 hours of learning capacity per day
– Even if a student comes to school hungry just once a week, that student can lose up to one term of learning capacity in a year
– 4 out of 5 teachers find it harder to teach a hungry student, as 73% of those students will lose concentration, 66% of students will feel lethargic and 52% of students will demonstrate behavioural problems
– When students have breakfast before school, teachers find that 97% of those students are healthier; additionally, 91% of the students have increased mental health outcomes
– Schools also found that when students eat at a before school breakfast program, 70% of the students have a more positive relationship with their broader community

Enter the Cranebrook Breakfast Club! 12 years ago, NCNS recognised this issue, and created the Breakfast Club, which runs every Monday to Friday between 07.30am to 08.45am (during school terms). At the Breakfast Club, students can eat healthy bowls of cereal, toast (with various spreads) and ham & cheese toasties. During the week, students can enjoy a glass of orange fruit juice and on Thursdays, a cup of Milo and milk. Students can also make and wrap a fresh sandwich to eat at lunchtime, and take a piece of fruit.

Breakfast Club

By Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services providing our disadvantaged primary and high school students with a healthy breakfast every morning these same students will have the capacity to concentrate more in the classroom. With more attentive students, teachers can educate more effectively to inspire those same disadvantaged students to go on to achieve their lifelong dreams and in turn, significantly reducing intergenerational disadvantage.

In addition to accessing food, students are also encouraged to join in with activities including board games and UNO, while interacting with NCNS staff in our friendly, safe, non-judgemental environment, building important relationships.

On average, over 200 hungry and disadvantaged students each week called into the Cranebrook Neighbourhood Centre, in 2015, to eat breakfast before going to school.
NCNS would not be able to operate our unfunded Breakfast Club without our amazing partners: Kelloggs Breakfast Buddies, Braddock Primary School, Cranebrook High School and Penrith City Council, and we are very grateful for their support.

Want more info about the issues surrounding missing breakfast? Check out Youth Action’s report here.

Message from the Manager 2015

2015 has certainly been a BIG year – and I’d like to share some of my highlights!

New Projects

  • This year saw the Work for the Dole at Kooly program kick off, with facilitator Stewart engaging Cranebrook residents in activities that continually improve local amenities.
  • The Partners In Recovery Innovation-funded Aboriginal Mental Health project has also been a big highlight – it’s been a dream since we started Kooly to be able to work in a grassroots way with community around mental health, but to also look at how the sector can respond better to the needs of Aboriginal people living with mental illness.
  • Adding Kingswood Park Public School to our Chaplaincy portfolio has given us the opportunity to be provide support to kids at school, as well as in the community.
  • And the Platform Youth Service’s funded Youth Homelessness Prevention Caseworker has worked with Cranebrook young people, and pregnant young women from across the area – to reduce homelessness and provide stability and certainty, keeping young people at school and focused on providing a future for their new bubs.
  • As Penrith continues to grow, it has been an absolute pleasure to be involved with  the Thornton community from the ground up, where we provide community development activities for this inspiring community.

Meeting changing community needs and new challenges…..

Youth Team:

  • Our Youth Team relocated and launched the Cranebrook Youth Hub, with drop-in, school holiday activities and an out-of-school suspension program, casework, Work Development Orders, life skills, and material support.
  • The Chaplaincy work continues to be a large part of the Youth Team’s work – meaning we can work flexibly with young people in schools – whether that’s one-to-one support, playground engagement or supporting challenging behaviour in the classroom. This works particularly well to provide extra support in school to Youth Hope kids. Thanks to our schools – Penrith Valley; Cranebrook High; Mulgoa PS; Kingswood Park PS.

Community Development Team:

  • Thornton community has been a melting pot of new community development ideas as we work with new residents who have great ideas for the formation of their new community identity. New ways of working with Social media has been a prominent part of the work here, and into the next phase as the community comes to life.
  • The Harwood Community Conversation model has had a positive influence and re-focused our consultations into aspirational community conversations this year.
  • The Cranebrook Collective Impact project has re-energised and re-focused the many partners and stakeholders involved (schools, NGO’s, government agencies, residents, businesses) – with NCNS as the backbone, our partners and the community have already implemented actions and ideas to make the community more liveable, safer for kids, and inspire community ownership of social norms and standards that provide opportunities for everyone to thrive. The Launch event – Colour Run and Concert was awesome! Watch the video here.
  • A new group to start was the Sudanese Women’s Group, which we will continue to support in 2016.
  • Kudos to all the NCNS staff and our dedicated volunteers who are there every day at 7.30am for the Cranebrook Breakfast Club – where every week 200-300 children and young people enjoy a safe and supportive social environment and a healthy brekky; and make their lunch as well.
  • Every week this team run countless womens groups, kids activities, oldies groups, gentle exercise and lifestyle activities; plus important programs like Foodbank and JP services.
  • Convening the inter-agency networks at Cranebrook and Kingswood Park remains an NCNS priority – and the participation of partners and stakeholders is highly valued.
  • The Community Choir has kicked off in partnership with Nordoff Robbins – and is engaging those who might not have the confidence to join a choir, might have mental illness or have other barriers to accessing activities. This group has been a hit, with participants experiencing the joy and freedom of singing with others – and the lightness of mind and soul that accompanies it.
  • The outreach activities in Beecroft with Wentworth Area Community Housing – has seen our teams working together out in the streets, and our work with Housing has seen us organising social and support activities in the large public housing complexes from Emu Plains to North St Marys.

Aboriginal Projects Team:

  • There have been a lot of changes to the local Aboriginal service system in recent years, and it’s great to see the number of Aboriginal workers in Penrith having increased so much.
  • Koolyangarra (Kooly) Aboriginal Family Centre co-convenes (alongside Mitch from PHN) the Penrith BM Aboriginal Worker’s Network Meeting – an important monthly gathering of Aboriginal workers in the area, which has really consolidated, in both attendance numbers and purpose, over the past year.
  • We are so, so proud and excited that our Aboriginal Mental Health Worker – Sarah O’Brien – has been accepted into Medicine at UWS, and will be leaving us to commence her studies to be a doctor. So, So Proud Sarah!
  • Our partnership with the LHD Aboriginal Health Unit has resulted in some fabulous outcomes for community – including the Immunisation Clinic outreach; and the first trial of an Aboriginal-specific version of the Go4Fun program – which was highly successful; the close working relationship we have with the Aboriginal Health Unit team is a real highlight and demonstrates how effective partnerships work to achieve our combined goals of overcoming barriers to access and improving health outcomes across the lifespan, in the Aboriginal community.
  • The Culture Tent at NAIDOC Jamison Park was a highlight – bringing in a series of workshops (weaving, art, story with Uncle Wes) – to provide the opportunity for families to engage in cultural activities as well as the usual fun activities.
  • This theme is continued with our regular monthly Cultural Afternoons at Kooly.
  • The big one for me this year – is the launch of the web film series “Kasey Is Missing”.  This project began nearly 6 years ago with multimedia workshops, each year the team at Information & Cultural Exchange (ICE) would return with more demanding programs for the young people which included – camera skills, script-writing and story workshops, character development – where the basic outline of “Kasey Is Missing” was formed. ICE then sourced funding for a professional film treatment of the story. The whole process has been owned, driven and is the creative work of the young people involved throughout – a group of Aboriginal young women, who have grown up through the long genesis of this process. Also behind the scenes and in front of the camera, is Mary Ridgeway who was NCNS Aboriginal Family Worker, and who helped support the young people throughout the process.
  • In October, we saw the finished product – a five part web film series – which screened at a special viewing at Hoyts Cinema Penrith. The film itself is a thing of beauty – the young people (all Cranebrook kids) give incredibly honest and powerful performances as actors – that reflect the trust built up from the commitment and long term relationship that ICE have committed to this community. The reviews have been very positive, here is a link to what Margaret Pomeranz had to say about Kasey is Missing (Skip ahead to 24.40) OMG – reviewed by Margaret Pomeranz!!!!!!!
  • For me, it’s one of the proudest achievements of this year – it demonstrates all that is great about community development, it’s been an outstanding collaboration between NCNS and Information & Cultural, and its seen a group of kids learning skills, expressing their culture, experiencing the personal growth that comes from giving yourself to a creative process, and having strong mentoring relationships with the great people at ICE and NCNS. From all of that – we’ve seen these young people flourish in their confidence, self-worth and identity.
  • See “Kasey is Missing” here

Casework Team:

  • Our Casework Team of 9 full-time staff are now based at Werrington.
  • The Brighter Futures and Youth Hope teams have been on the frontline of change over the past 12-18 months. Program change meaning that all clients are above ROSH and referred from the Helpline, with fewer community pathway places available. It goes without saying that these cases are increasingly complex. In addition, they have learnt to use a new casework management tool – SDM – and a new computerised case file management system.
  • For Youth Hope, there is the additional pressure of being a pilot program under scrutiny. The team have been outstanding in their positive approach to change and working really hard to learn the new skills that go with these changes. They never lose sight of the family, in their context in the community.
  • As always, NCNS supplement casework with groupwork – and the tutoring, life skills and parenting workshops are an important part of making positive change for families. This is intensive work for families to go through, and we celebrate their achieving their goals –whether big or small –recognising that most families have suffered generational trauma and hardship, making their achievements even more significant.
  • Thanks to Wesley Mission, as consortium Lead Agency across both programs – for the support throughout the year and through changes.
  • Our new Aboriginal Family Worker – under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy – will be running Triple P (Aboriginal) every term in 2016 to supplement our existing parenting programs.

Early Childhood & Parenting Programs:

  • Interest in parenting programs has hit new highs – with record numbers of registrations for Triple P.We scheduled an additional last-minute, second Triple P program in Term 4 – with both groups over-subscribed due to overwhelming demand.
  • Every term, our Triple P groups attendance reflects a combination of dads, Aboriginal parents, mandated parents, and general community self-referred parents. The reason we remain committed to running so much Triple P, (apart from the unrivalled evidence base) – is because of the feedback from these parents. Without exception, every term, parents write, ring, post on Facebook – how the techniques they’ve learnt in Triple P have restored the balance at home, making parenting less stressful, and enjoyable again. This is the best endorsement for Triple P you can get. Narelle spends a few days each term at Westfields – talking to parents and promoting Triple P, as well as going out on the Council Playvan – seeing families “in the wild” – to promote Triple P.
  • Keeping Children Safe, Special Playtime, and Circle of Security – have also been well attended this year.
  • We have seen an emerging gap in support for parents with kids with ADHD, and this year ran an ADHD Info Session (2 hours) – which had nearly 50 people attend! Our after-hours ADHD Support Group continues to provide a much-needed support for these families.
  • One-to-one sessions with referrals to ATAPS for children from disadvantaged communities has been important for getting targeted services to the kids who most need it, at the time it can be most effective.
  • You can see the Paint the Town ReAd tent at both Braddock & Kingswood Park Public Schools’ every week at school drop-off time – for early literacy and reading goodness.
  • Another highlight is Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup, and its off-shoot, the 10-week Aboriginal School Readiness program for 4-5 year olds about to start school. Kooly Playgroup is bursting at the seams and a Very big thanks to our many partners – Lapstone Preschool, Building Stronger Foundations Team, Northcott, Penrith City Council, LifeStart, Aboriginal Health Unit and others……
  • This is the best Aboriginal Playgroup around – thanks to our amazing Aboriginal staff and commitment from the wrap-around services that support child development and parents. Kooly Playgroup was the Aboriginal site that was selected to participate in a UTS longitudinal study looking Developing Early Literacies in Informal Settings : Linguistic and Cultural Diversity, Disadvantage and Supported Playgroups.Morgan, Liam, (Author.). We were so thrilled to contribute to the evidence base for Aboriginal early literacy and the role of supported playgroups – particularly for an urban Aboriginal setting.
  • In 2016, we will expand our Aboriginal Supported Playgroup to St Marys – where the Lifestart Team have offered the use of their children’s room – it will be a great partnership. We can’t wait to bring the structured Supported Playgroup format, with all the wrap-around services (immunisation clinic, baby clinic, early intervention screening, ear & eye testing, OT & Speech therapies) to the Aboriginal community of St Marys and North St Marys. Watch this space for more details……

Thank you to our MANY, MANY partners – you are too many to name. But our enormous thanks to each of you for your commitment to our shared vision – communities of respect, reconciliation and resilience.

The Board, Management & Staff at NCNS thank you for your support this year; we look forward to your continued collaboration next year; and we wish you and your families a peaceful and joyful holiday period.


The Cranebrook Collective Impact Project moves to its next stage!

With hundreds of entries, from primary schools, high schools, services and community members, our Name Our Project competition gave the Steering Committee a huge choice of names. After much discussion and negotiation, a decision was made.



Thank you to our winning entrants – Amy, Isabella and Mikayla, all from Braddock Public School!

To celebrate, and introduce the project to the community, a Colour Run and Concert was held, open to all residents.

In spite of the weather threatening to spoil our fun, people turned up in droves – first to join in the Colour Run, starting at Sherringham Oval and then at Koolyangarra Park, where the festivities continued, finishing up with a concert from the amazing Aboriginal Hip Hop group – The Last Kinection!

The Colour Run saw members of the community joining in to grab a white shirt and glasses, cups of powder, and get stuck in, running, walking or crawling to the finish line, while getting covered in coloured powder (and covering their friends).

The community enjoyed food galore, from sausage sizzle and steak sandwiches, pancakes and icecream to corn, fairy floss and slushies. There was Tumbletown for the smaller kids, an obstacle course for the bigger kids, crafts, and entertainment by Cranebrook High School students, and the Cranebrook Learning Community Band, as well as The Last Kinection!

A big shout out to all the volunteers, services and partners that helped out and supported the event, including FaCS, Barnardos, Ability Options, Housing NSW, Wentworth Housing, Health, Penrith City Council, Braddock Public School, Cranebrook High School, Platform Youth Services, Foothills Vineyard Church, and of course NCNS staff that also gave up their time to be part of this event.

Cranebrook Connects is off to a great start, with services, community and schools energised and passionate about working together to make Cranebrook the best it can be, and we look forward to working hard in 2016 to see our vision come to life.

Risky Business Trivia Challenge

As part of the Penrith Youth Interagency (PYI), a working group was established called Risky Business, which is run by local service providers within Penrith with a focus on bringing awareness to Young People on areas such as Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol, Sexual Health and Healthy Relationships.

The Risky Business Working Group, in partnership with Cranebrook High School, ran the Cranebrook Trivia Challenge on Wednesday 28th October at Cranebrook High School. There were 6 categories – Mental Health, D&A, Sexual Health, Healthy Relationships, Communication and Adolescent Development with bonus questions added in.
Seventy five young people, parents, teachers and service providers attended the evening and all had a great time. Many said they learnt a lot about what young people experience and where to find assistance. Our main prize, the iPad Mini, was won by Joshua Buller, Year 8 from Cranebrook High School, best Trivia table won Hoyts Movie Vouchers with runner’s up winning iTune cards. The evening went so well that we were asked to run it again next year!

Some of the information talked and quizzed about:
Mental Health is thought to be the underlying factor in 90% of Youth suicide in Australia alone. Depression is one of the main risks of suicide and self harm. The stigma and lack of awareness surrounding mental health in Young People is also a contributing factor to early intervention and prevention. Providing awareness is key to getting Young people support in the early stages.

Drug & Alcohol has seen a recent increase in Young People especially Ice (Crystal Methamphetamine). Ice is seen to be the popular street drug. 7% of Young People in Australia aged 14yrs & over have used meth/amphetamines (which also includes Ice) one or more times in their lives.

Chlamydia is actually the most commonly reported STI in young people in Australia. It’s caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis and it can be passed on through sexual fluids during oral, vaginal and anal sex. Encouraging sexually active Young People to get regular check up’s is very important.

From 15-19 years, romantic relationships can become central to social life. Friendships might become deeper and more stable. When a parent encourages conversations about feelings, friendships and family relationships, it can help the Young Person feel confident to talk about teenage relationships in general.

Teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, thoughts of suicide, and violent behaviour. It’s therefore essential that we promote healthy relationship behaviours within Young People so they can learn to identify positive behaviours and know when to walk away from an unhealthy relationship.

If you know of any Young People needing help or assistance please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800-55-1800.

Mission Australia’s Annual Youth Survey

Mission Australia’s Youth Survey is the nation’s largest online annual ‘temperature check’ of teenagers aged between 15 and 19. Run every year, this highly influential survey gives young people the chance to have their say. The Youth Survey tells us what concerns young people, where they turn to for support and how they see the world. The results are of great interest to the media, community and policy makers.

What we learn each year – coupled with the latest research from Australia and beyond – helps shape better support services for young people in urban, rural and remote areas.

Each year Mission Australia survey young people aged between 15 – 19yrs. This year 19,000 young people completed the survey compared with last years 13,600. The results are as follows;
Of the respondents 52% felt there would be barriers to the achievement of their study/work goals, with a greater proportion of females (55.5%) than males (47.5%) reporting the presence of these barriers.

The top three barriers young people saw impacting the achievement of their study/work goals after school were academic ability, financial difficulty and lack of jobs (18.2%, 16.9% and 12.2% respectively). Just over one in ten respondents indicated that they saw family responsibilities and physical or mental health as barriers to the achievement of their study/work goals after school.

The 2015 Youth Survey also found that:
• Alcohol and drugs was the biggest concern facing the nation identified by young people at 27%, followed by equity and discrimination at 25% and the economy and financial matters at 18.9%.
• Young people continue to report coping with stress and school/study problems as their two biggest personal concerns.

The 2015 survey findings aren’t too dissimilar to 2014. A couple of new concerns for young people are Drugs & Alcohol and Equity & Discrimination.

Nepean Community & Neightbourhood Services work predominantly with disadvantaged young people who have multiple barriers to achieving their academic and career goals. Many don’t complete secondary education placing them further behind than the average young person, giving them even more reason to be concerned by the lack of jobs. It is hoped that our policy makers read this year’s report and adjust legislation and career pathways for our most vulnerable.

NCNS take information and trends from schools, government and non-government reports, and directly from the people that we deal with everyday, and continuously ensure that our programs are meeting the real needs of our community.

What is NCNS doing to assist young people in education and work? Earlier this year, the NCNS Youth Team started an Out of School suspension program to help young people keep on top of their classwork whilst on suspension, as many fall so far behind that returning to school is extremely daunting, creating yet another barrier to achieving their goals. This program, in conjunction with our other programs, is giving our young people more options and skills, and hopefully reducing those barriers.

See more at:

NCNS Youth Team promote Mental Health Month at Nepean High School

Mental illness is thought to be an underlying factor in about 90% of all youth suicides, which according to research is the leading cause of youth death in Australia. One of the defining factors for better mental health outcomes for youth, is to encourage them to seek help early. The stigma of mental illness held by young people and a lack of awareness can both be barriers to early intervention.Mental Health Month 1

So for Mental Health Month the NCNS Youth Team held a stall at Nepean High School to promote Mental Health in Young People. We also had a photo booth on the day which was a success. We had approximately 60 Young People approach our table to get flyers & information plus get a photo taken with their friends. A lot of the Young People that spoke to staff mentioned that they all knew someone in their lives whether it was a parent, aunt, brother or a friend with mental health issues. There also seemed to be a particular interest around suicide and getting enough sleep for your mental health. Other students took information for their relatives and friends. The event was in partnership with the School Counsellor and through this partnership we are possibility looking at working with young girls in year 9 around self esteem and self image. Overall it was a successful event for the NCNS Youth Team and it was great to partner with Nepean High School. Hope to do it all again next year in 2016.Mental Health Month 2


Women of Penrith – they made a difference!

The Taste of Everything Women’s Workshops is one of the groups that run out of the Floribunda Community Centre at Glenmore Park. It was created around four years ago, as an opportunity for women to come together to learn something new each week.

Groups such as the Taste of Everything Women’s Workshops are valuable in that they are a soft entry point for members of the community to engage with services, they reduce social isolation, and they teach new important skills.

Over the past few years, we have learnt many different things – we have learnt how to make cards, create candles, paint with watercolours, decorate cakes, fix taps, make gardens out of besser blocks, meditate, make chocolates, arrange flowers and much more.

Last year, one of the women, Linsey, came to me with an idea to make a wall-hanging, and the concept was born. Another of our women is Lesley, a very very talented lady, one of her talents being quilting. We had been creating items such as bags, table runners and sewing machine covers, but thought a larger project would be fun.

I applied for a CAP grant from Penrith City Council, and we all crossed our fingers. One day, as we were exploring the Arms of Australia Inn Museum, I got the call – we were successful in our application! We were so excited! We were going to make a wall-hanging celebrating powerful, influential women of Penrith, and present it to Council, to be displayed in the Floribunda Community Centre!

So the work began. It was more than just creating a quilt – we learnt how to budget, to plan the project, to research the women we wanted to include. We learnt how to approach the women or their relatives for permission to include them, we learnt how to create such a huge quilt, and we learnt how to work together as a team. We planned the Presentation, we planned a book. Each woman played a big part in creating this wall-hanging, and we couldn’t have done it without each and every one.

It was a huge job, and it culminated in a Presentation of the wall-hanging to the Penrith Mayor, Councillor Ross Fowler OAM, a lovely morning tea with many of the women and/or their relatives and friends that we displayed on the quilt, we had speeches from two of our women, talking about what the group meant to them, and explaining the process of creating the quilt. And finally, the wall-hanging was revealed!

All of our guests were amazed by the beauty and handiwork of the wall-hanging. The amount of work put in was evident, and it was wonderful to see the women recognised for their hard work.

We are in the process of producing a book, telling the women’s stories in detail, and also about the process of creating the wall-hanging.

My favourite part of the project was seeing the women sitting around the quilt together, hand-stitching it to finish it off. I am very grateful to have been a part of this project, and am so, so, very proud of all of the women.

Feel free to pop on down to Floribunda Community Centre, 3 Floribunda Avenue, Glenmore Park, to view this amazing work of art!

Lessons learned from an outreach session

As a Community Development Worker, I want to make a change. I want to help those that are struggling, with big or small struggles – I’m not picky.

Some of those that are struggling in our community are the residents in social/public/affordable housing. Sometimes, they need more than just support in affording to keep a roof over their head. Sometimes, they need help dealing with some big issues, and sometimes issues that seem small. Often times, they don’t know where to get that help, and are too socially isolated to try.

Earlier this month, I began an outreach service at a public housing estate close by. The idea was to take my laptop and my work, and work out of the common room on the estate. Residents could come and see me at their leisure, have morning tea and a cuppa, say hello, or talk to me about anything. I wanted to remove the difficulty in accessing help for residents, not just those with mobility issues, but those that are isolated, and those that just wouldn’t think to ask for help, or even know where to go.

I popped a note in their letterboxes the week before to let them know I was coming, and then crossed my fingers on the day that someone would turn up.

Well, I turned up – and there were people waiting for me. I went inside, set up, got the morning tea things out, made my first cuppa, and started chatting. And you know what – not only was I chatting (one on one for the most part), but the residents were chatting, laughing, and interacting together as well. It was fantastic to see.

Previous attempts at engaging the residents with movie mornings and other structured events had received a small attendance, and generally the same few residents. This time – I had eight residents sitting in the (usually empty) common room. A few other people stuck their head in, thought it was a bit crowded, so I popped outside and had a chat with them there.

During the three hours I was there, I signed two residents up for an Opal Card, activated one Opal Card, and set someone up on Facebook. What we might think of as small struggles. I took some questions about Housing and their units, and arranged support and meals for a resident going in to have major surgery – big struggles! And I saw that even dealing with the small struggles made a big difference in the lives of these often isolated people.

I had many conversations, made cups of tea and coffee, and watched many others have conversations. They watched TV together, had a laugh together. Offered support to each other. Connected. And asked me when I was coming back. To me, it sounded like success.

So what lessons did I take from my day?

I learnt that sometimes, people don’t need a structured activity to interact – they just need a place to go, and a reason to go there.

I also learnt that the small things that we take for granted (like having an Opal Card, or a Facebook account to keep in contact with a child in America) can be a huge thing to someone else.

My last lesson was that connection with others is a huge thing – it really can light people up. I could see it on their faces, hear it in their voices.

And the best part? When I finally got them all out of the common room, and packed up – there they all were, gathered at their post boxes, still chatting and laughing. Connecting.

NCNS and Chaplaincy in Schools

With the expansion of her role, our not-so-new staff member, Emma – a Youth Caseworker in the Youth Team – is excited to be able to take on the Chaplaincy role at Kingswood Park Public School. This means that NCNS now has three chaplains in four schools – two high schools and two primary schools.

Chaplains play a unique and vital role in schools.

They listen to children, young people, parents, and teachers – really listen, and without judgement. The chaplain provides a safe emotional space for the duration of the crisis or until other professional services can be arranged. Narelle, NCNS’ Family Worker, has been working in this capacity for some time, and says, “In my three years as a chaplain I have had the honour and privilege of walking alongside children, parents, and teachers experiencing a wide range of issues, including grief, loss, depression, anxiety, diagnosis of various disorders, domestic violence, suicide, social issues, mental illness, transitions, parental separation, abuse and neglect.”

The chaplain becomes woven into the fabric of the school. The principal of the school, when faced with applying for the next round of chaplaincy funding always says “we would survive without a chaplain, but we would prefer not to”. Having a chaplain at school is like having a third leg on a stool, much more stable and grounded. The connection, care, and communication that the chaplain facilitates for teachers, students, and parents enriches the school environment, and provides a soft landing place for those people bumping up against the constraints of his/her world.

It is not a chaplain’s job to convert people to Christianity. They are required, however, to demonstrate grace, compassion, and humility to all people regardless of race, faith, gender, circumstance, or ability. Chaplaincy is about bringing out the values that all humans need – care, nurture, attention, acceptance, kindness, and feeling heard and understood. This is important work in the life of a school, and it does effect life-altering and sustainable change.

Good luck, Emma, the children at Kingswood Park Public School are lucky to have you on board.

NCNS are helping Aboriginal kids get ready for school!

This term, NCNS have been running the Aboriginal Speech & Language Supported Playgroup out of Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child and Family Centre.

This is a program aimed at 4 to 5 year old Aboriginal children – and it’s a school transition program with a difference! Not only do the children learn new skills to help with their transition to school, but professionals attend to check on the children’s speech, vision, hearing and more.

Hearing Test at the Aboriginal Speech and Language Supported Playgroup
Hearing Test at the Aboriginal Speech and Language Supported Playgroup

While the children are enjoying fun, learning activities, each professional – speech pathologist, occupational therapist, Community Health – spends time individually and in groups with the children. While there is a focus on language and communication, other skills and stages of development are assessed, and where there are concerns, treatment plans are determined and referrals made.

It is wonderful to be able to have all of our partners attend the playgroup at Kooly – it is not only easily accessible for the families, but it is a familiar and comfortable setting for them, allowing everyone to relax and get down to business – for the kids, the business of having fun.

Vision Testing by Cranebrook Community Health
Vision Testing by Cranebrook Community Health

Early intervention is widely recognised as being extremely important, particularly relating to those transitional stages of life, such as beginning school. NCNS could not offer this program without the support of our partners – Northcott, Health and Penrith City Council – all vitally important, and excellent at what they do.

This term, we tested nine Aboriginal kids, two of which were referred for further testing. Imagine the difference this alone will make when the children start school. Kooly’s Aboriginal Speech & Language Supported Playgroup is early intervention at its best!



Deborah Emelhain - Occupational Therapist from SDN
Deborah Emelhain – our Occupational Therapist from SDN
Emma Maharg from Penrith City Council
Emma Maharg from Penrith City Council working on the Speech program
Kate McIntosh - the Speech Therapist from Northcott
Kate McIntosh – our Speech Therapist from Northcott

Quirky Kids

The following article appeared in the July issue of the monthly Gazettes distributed throughout Penrith.

Do you have a child who is different? A quirky kid? He or she does things differently to other children?

When does ‘quirky’ stop being an expression of the individual and an indication that some intervention is required?

I met a special needs teacher recently who has over thirty years experience teaching quirky kids. I put the above question to her. She said “those who could, would”. So if children in general are able to draw at the age of four then your four year-old child should be able to draw, even if she isn’t that keen on it. If your 6 year-old child isn’t making friends when other 6 year-olds have fit in nicely and found a group of children he can relate to, then your child is experiencing some limitations in his social and emotional development.

The special needs teacher also said that the labels don’t help – lazy, stubborn, aggressive, naughty, bad, stupid, a typical boy/girl, etc, – they get in the way of finding out what is really happening for your child. Is it a medical problem? A physical problem? A neurodevelopmental problem?

It’s very  good advice. I’ve seen anxious children labelled as lazy. After I’ve had a chance to observe the child I have asked ‘lazy or terrified?’. The earlier that we seek help for our child, the better our child’s prospects will be.

There is too much reliance these days on Dr Google. Too many parents are trying to diagnose their child’s difficulties and apply ill-fitting solutions. I can’t tell you the number of times a parent has spoken in a parenting group about his/her child’s difficulties and the other parents have jumped in with solutions based on what they think the diagnosis could be. Or a well-meaning relative or friend has told a parent that she thinks her child has autism because she knows someone who has autism and they have tantrums just like that. Chances are your mother-in-law, friend, neighbour, or local shopkeeper is not qualified to make that call.

NOTHING beats an assessment by a qualified professional – community health, paediatrician, clinical psychologist, occupational therapist, speech pathologist. The first point of contact should be your General Practitioner (doctor) because you can get financial assistance from Medicare to help with the costs if you get a treatment plan from your GP.

Quirky is absolutely fine, but if your child is limited in one or more areas of development (fine motor, gross motor, social, emotional, intellectual) it can lead to psychological or mental health problems later in childhood or during adolescence, and it’s often much easier to get help when a child is young rather than when the behaviours have become entrenched later.

Of course, you are your child’s best advocate. So if you think that some pieces of information are missing or lacking, or you think you are not getting a quality service, it may be wise to seek another opinion. Keep pushing on because when you do find the right service for your child and he or she is happy and achieving  (and possibly still ‘quirky’), it is worth all of the effort.


Narelle Smith
Family Worker and Student Wellbeing Worker
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services

Cranebrook Trivia Challenge

School Holiday Program-1
As part of the Penrith Youth Interagency (PYI) a working group was established called Risky Business which is run by local service providers within Penrith with a focus on bringing awareness to young people on areas such as Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol, Sexual Health and Healthy Relationships.

Young people can struggle with many of the unsafe situations they face, and can make poor decisions due to lack of experience and knowledge. The areas in which the most difficulties arise are:

  •  Mental Health is thought to be the underlying factor in 90% of youth suicide in Australia alone. Depression is one of the main risks of suicide and self harm, and reducing the stigma and lack of awareness surrounding mental health in young people can contribute to early intervention and prevention. Providing awareness is key to getting young people support in the early stages.
  • Drug & Alcohol use has seen a recent increase in young people, especially Ice (Crystal Methamphetamine). Ice is seen to be the ‘popular’, easily accessible street drug. 7% of young eople in Australia aged 14 years & over have used meth/amphetamines (which also includes Ice) one or more times in their lives.
  • Chlamydia is actually the most commonly reported STI in young people in Australia. It’s caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis and it can be passed on through sexual fluids during oral, vaginal and anal sex. Encouraging sexually active young people to get regular check ups is very important.
  • From 15-19 years, romantic relationships can become central to social life. Friendships might become deeper and more stable. When a parent encourages conversations about feelings, friendships and family relationships, it can help the young person feel confident to talk about teenage relationships in general.

    Teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, thoughts of suicide, and violent behavior. It’s therefore essential that we promote healthy relationship behaviours to young people so they can learn to identify positive behaviours and know when to walk away from an unhealthy relationship.

To promote awareness, and open the conversation for young people and their families, the Risky Business Working Group has decided to run the Cranebrook Trivia Challenge towards the end of Term 3. Light refreshments will be provided, and many prizes can be won including an iPad Mini, Movie Vouchers, and iTune Cards. Please contact Nerida for more information on a date and times on 02 47 293 907.

If you know of any Young People needing help or assistance please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800-55-1800.

5th Annual NAIDOC Cup

5 years ago, NCNS worker, Donna Hancock, came up with the idea to show off the natural athletic skills of our Aboriginal kids and their friends, bring schools together, learn about culture, and create a fun competition. And so NAIDOC Cup was born.

This is the fifth year of NAIDOC Cup, and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Bringing around 550 kids from 13 local schools together, NAIDOC Cup is not only a celebration of sporting prowess, but an opportunity to cultivate culture and friendship. As Joy (GM of NCNS) noted, “Aboriginal kids often excel at sport, and by utilising this strength, we can increase engagement with school and civic life – promoting values such as teamwork, and skills such as communication.”

We began the day by herding the 550 kids into one area – can you imagine? – for the Welcome to Country given by Uncle Wes, followed by the smoking ceremony. Then the students split into their groups, ready to go to their activities. Older kids played Oztag or Netball, while the younger kids got to enjoy Aboriginal cultural activities, like traditional games, learning about artefacts, getting their faces painted in the traditional way, and listening to Aboriginal music.

In addition, we had craft activities to enjoy, a message tree, and a free BBQ. We were also fortunate to have students from Cranebrook and Glenmore Park High Schools helping us out.

The schools that were involved are: Cambridge Park PS, Braddock PS, Cambridge Gardens PS, Blackwell PS, Werrington PS, Kingswood South PS, St Clair PS, Mulgoa PS, Samuel Terry PS, Emu Plains PS, Clairgate PS, Kingswood Park PS and Penrith PS.

Winners on the day were:

Netball Seniors – Samuel Terry PS

Netball Juniors – Braddock PS

Oztag Seniors – Werrington PS

Oztag Juniors – Penrith PS

Staff and children alike thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful sunny day, and can’t wait to do it all again next year.

NAIDOC Week 2015

Friday, 10 July, was a chilly, chilly morning, but that didn’t put the slightest dent in the NAIDOC Week event at Jamison Park. NAIDOC Week is always a time for celebration at NCNS, and NAIDOC at Jamison Park is a huge event that we are excited to be a part of. All of the NCNS staff braved the cold morning, to help out on the day.

This year, we wanted to give people the opportunity to learn about and enjoy Aboriginal culture, and to do that, we introduced our Cultural Tent.

The Cultural Tent was a hive of activity – with Aboriginal artefacts displayed, and workshops held every hour.

The first workshop was a weaving workshop run by Tracey and Saraya, where kids and adults alike learnt how to weave little baskets. Everyone was engrossed in getting their weaving just right, while hearing about the different methods and materials used in creating beautiful items including bags, hats, mats, bowls and much more.

Next up, Aboriginal Artist, John Boney, held an art workshop. In this workshop, we were able to learn the different symbols used in Aboriginal art, what they mean and how the symbols are put together to tell a story. We were then given canvases and paint pens, and asked to create our own story. There were some amazingly creative kids, and beautiful works of art created.

Performers from Koomurri then joined us for some singing and dancing, and had the kids shuffling, making animal sounds, and laughing!

Next was the Storytelling session by Uncle Wes, an amazing man that kept us enthralled with his stories about the Dreamtime.

And finally, we held Traditional Games, where the kids were able to enjoy a variety of traditional indigenous games and activities.

As always, in addition to NCNS’ Cultural Tent, there were many other activities available for families, including information stalls run by local services, the health tent, Mr Germ was in attendance, there was music and entertainment, and of course the food tent. Thousands of people joined in the celebrations, and it was great to see families and friends come together to enjoy the day and each other’s company.

The Youth Committee Community Garden & Mural project

The Youth Committee formed after Naomi Stevenson – Community Development worker and Artist, from Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services, saw a real need for positive and sustained engagement opportunities for children and young people in Kingswood Park. “Kids and young people in this area, don’t really have a say about what goes on & there is not much to do. This leads to a lot of issues with disengagement from school, anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood and as they get older, some even end up on the justice system. The youth committee is a first step in the direction of re-engagement and positive change in the Kingswood Park neighbourhood. Not just for young people, but the Kingswood Park community as a whole.”

The Youth Committee – Community Garden & Mural project was funded by Penrith City Council through their Magnetic Places Community Cultural Grants Program which supports creative placemaking projects that bring artists and communities together in identified neighbourhoods of Penrith, including Kingswood Park.

Youth Committee members were chosen from a poster competition run at the local primary school, Kingswood Park Public School. The young people were asked to design a poster that celebrated the positive aspects of Kingswood Park and to give examples of why they would make a good committee member. Katrina Berwick, principal of the school, praised this project, ‘This opportunity has provided aspiring young leaders the opportunity to shine in our school and wider community. Their dedication and motivation to the project inspired their peers to become involved in this project and future projects. Working in partnership with NCNS has strengthened community involvement in our school and pride in our local area.’

Those that were successful, were then given the opportunity to attend a Leadership Training day, to develop their understanding and skills around being a strong leader in their community & how to manage the community project that was before them. Committee members diligently attended regular committee meetings, hosted community arts workshops & gardening days and the response and involvement by the community overall has been “overwhelming & humbling” says project artist and co-ordinator Naomi Stevenson.

On Saturday 27th June, committee members, their families and stakeholders, attended a Fun day to celebrate the success and hard work of their first project. Committee members were presented with their certificates and all were treated to a small film, edited by the talented Vanna Seang of Roar Footage, that highlighted the positive outcomes fro the youth committee overall.

When asked, where to now? Naomi Stevenson is excited and enthusiastic about where the Youth Committee is heading. “We are already recruiting new members to add to this amazing group. Whilst our new members are found, we are also seeking funding opportunities, to grow and develop the committee and better the community with creative and positive projects for all. The key to positive change in a community such as this, is for those that live in it, particularly young people, to feel they have a voice and can make a real difference in their neighbourhood.”

If you would like to assist with tax deductible donations or support this amazing project in some way. Please contact Naomi Stevenson on 0417 550 382 or via

It’s Happening – the Cranebrook Youth Hub is up and running!

It’s been 6 months in the making! NCNS Youth Staff have relocated to a new building, set up the centre and made renovations. We are opening the doors officially with a launch on Monday, 29 June, and we will be up and running at full capacity in July 2015.

We want the young people to own this space and put their mark on it. At the launch, young people will not only be treated to a BBQ lunch and have the opportunity to check the hub out and what we have to offer, but they will also have the opportunity to tell us what they want – by deciding on colour schemes, art work, what they would like in the outside spaces and in general.

We want them to tell us what they would like to do when they come, and what other services they think would be good. We are creating a safe, fun place for young people to hang out, where we can engage with them and assist them as they need it.

The services available at the Youth Hub are:

  • The Learning Hub Program: which caters to Students from Cranebrook High that are currently suspended from school and need assistance in keeping up their school work within a structured environment.
  • Drop In: will run every afternoon Monday to Thursday from 3pm to 5pm for all Young People in the Cranebrook and Kingswood Park area that would like to come and use the internet, have some afternoon tea, do activities, need assistance with homework, or those Young People that would like to have safe place to hang out. Staff will also be available each day during drop in.
  • Advocacy
  • Referral
  • Food packs
  • Hygiene packs
  • Internet/free WiFi
  • Xbox
  • Work and Development Orders (WDO)
  • Laundry facilities
  • Shower facilities
  • Cooking facilities
  • Assistance with Job Search/ Resumes
  • JJ Conferencing/Community Monitor
  • Centrelink reporting

Services that we also provide outside of the Cranebrook Youth Hub are:

  • School Holiday Program: for Young People ages 11-18 years from Cranebrook & Kingswood Park.
  • Nepean Young Parenting Support (NYPS): Tuesday 9:30am to 12:30pm during school term at 13 Reserve Street, Penrith (The Cottage). For Young Mums under 18 years of age that are pregnant.
  • The Baby Bootie Club: Tuesday 1pm to 3pm during school term at 13 Reserve Street, Penrith (The Cottage). Support group for Young Mums 24 years and under that have babies between 0-6months.

The Cranebrook Youth Hub is located at 3 Kington Place, Cranebrook, next door to Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child & Family Centre, off Pendock Rd. The Youth Hub is for all Young People aged 11-24 years of age. You can contact us on 02 4729 3907 for more information and ask to speak to someone in the Youth Team.

This is the start of a new era for our Youth Team, and they are excited to work with and get to know the young people of Cranebrook.


This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of the Gazette newspapers which are distributed throughout the Penrith area.

‘Resilience’ is a bit of a buzz word these days.

We all want our kids to do well and to be well. One of the things that determines social and emotional wellbeing is “resilience”. Resilience is defined as the ability of an individual to access resources to prevent, minimise, or overcome hardship.

My favourite definition of resilience comes from a draft paper titled “Whole School Matters” (September, 2008)…

“The capacity to deal constructively with change or challenge, allowing the person to maintain or re-establish their social and emotional wellbeing in the face of difficult events.”

The problem, I think, we have when talking about resilience is that we treat it as something separate to our parenting and teaching. We treat it as something separate that our children must learn, like they learn maths, or the rules of whichever sport they choose to play.  It is treated as something that we do to, or for, our children.

But really, resilience is learnt within environments through children feeling heard and feeling that they belong. Children learn coping skills in relationship with parents and teachers. They learn about feelings and how to manage them, from birth, in relationship with us. The most optimal environment is a positive one, in which parents and teachers regard themselves as guides and educators.

There is no point learning how to apply resilience in environments that are harsh, punitive, or unyielding, and having caregivers that shame children on a regular basis. It’s like applying a band aid to a gaping wound. For this reason, I think that parenting programmes like Circle of Security and Triple P are better programmes for promoting resilience in our children that any resilience programme available for children.

There has been a steady decline of resilience and mental health in young people over the past 3 decades. What I am increasingly finding in my work with children, is that they feel they cannot bring their struggles and problems to their parents. The message from parents to their children resoundingly is “build a bridge and get over it”, “stop being a drama queen/wuss/sook”, “suck it up princess”, or “man up”. Up to 90% of the children I work with feel they cannot talk to their parents, or when they do they are dismissed, rescued, punished, or ignored. The majority of Year 6 children I speak with, young people heading into high school and adolescence, feel their parents don’t listen to them. No wonder 1 in 4 of our young people will go on to develop clinical depression. In this ‘lucky’ country. Too sad.

As an Aboriginal woman said to me many years ago, “you can’t be a strong tree, if you don’t have strong roots”. So how do our children grow strong roots? Australian psychologist, Andrew Fuller, cites the research and advises that those children who are most resilient have been found to have three factors in their life…

  1. Feeling love, connection, and belonging within their family;
  2. Having a few friendship groups, so that if they fall out with one group they can align themselves with another group;
  3. Having an adult outside the family that likes them.

Parenting is the most important factor in children’s resilience. Children grow up in the context of family. I would like to see the resilience debate going forward as placing an emphasis on parents to learn positive parenting skills and providing an environment in which our children grow their resilience skills, rather than placing the onus on children to bear the responsibility for learning resilience skills. How are you creating an environment in which your children can grow strong roots?

Author: Narelle Smith
Family Worker & Student Wellbeing Worker
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services


NCNS Reconciliation Week Event 2015

On Friday, 29 May, all of the Cranebrook community, and the local service providers were invited to join Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services in celebrating Reconciliation Week – bringing awareness of Reconciliation Week and what it means to us.

Reconciliation Week is between 27 May and 3 June, which commemorate two significant milestones.

27 May marks the anniversary of the 1967 referendum that saw over 90% of people vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and recognise them in the national census. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its land mark Mabo decision which recognised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land.  This decision paved a way for land rights.

It is important that this story is told so that people understand the reasoning behind the celebration of Reconciliation Week and its importance to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services’ event was held at Koolyangarra Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, and was a jam-packed couple of hours, attended by more than 60 people including local service providers.

In addition to a delicious BBQ lunch, Aunty Carol Cooper spoke the Welcome to Country as beautifully as ever, and guests were invited to have their handprints sprayed onto the Reconciliation Week banner.


But the highlight of our event was our NCNS Youth Team Leader, Nerida Silver, speaking about the upcoming Referendum on Constitutional Recognition:

“Despite many years of progress in the understanding and respect between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians, our founding document, the Constitution, does not recognise the unique contribution of the First Australians to our nation. Currently, there is a campaign to “Recognise” Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution and there will be a Referendum (probably before the next Federal Election) where all Australians will be asked to vote yes or no. Historically it is quite difficult to achieve a yes vote in a referendum. Only eight out of 44 referendums have been successful. Having said that, the latest polls say that 75% of all Australians would vote yes if a referendum was held now which is fantastic!”

Nerida also spoke about the Western Australian community closures:

“Both the Federal Government and the WA Government will not provide power, water and management of infrastructure in remote communities past June 2016. They intend on closing up to 150 remote communities. The closing of these communities is unacceptable and will have far reaching and long term negative consequences. I’d just like to read you a few quotes:

 Professor Patrick Dodson said closing down communities would: “be disastrous, increasing access to drugs and alcohol and exacerbating social tensions, which would flow on to antisocial behaviour and incarceration. The immediate consequences would be to create an internal refugee problem for Indigenous people”. He also said that breaking connection to land “would threaten the survival of Aboriginal knowledge and culture, because in towns people were restricted from camping, lighting fires, hunting and fishing”.

Even Premier Barnett of WA acknowledged that closing communities would: “cause great distress to Aboriginal people who will move, it will cause issues in regional towns as Aboriginal people move into them”.  

As I said the closing of communities anywhere in Australia is unacceptable….it’s not so dissimilar to past Government policies of removing Aboriginal people from their homelands.”

It is important that our greater community understands the implications of these important issues and continues the conversation. If you would like further information, please follow these links:


Mission Australia Annual Youth Survey

Mission Australia’s Youth Survey is the nation’s largest online annual ‘temperature check’ of teenagers aged between 15 and 19. Run every year, since 2002, this highly influential survey gives young people the chance to have their say.

The Youth Survey tells us what concerns young people, where they turn to for support and how they see the world. The results are of great interest to the media, community and policy makers.

What we learn each year – coupled with the latest research from Australia and beyond – helps shape better support services for young people in urban, rural and remote areas.

Youth Survey 2014 Highlights

13,600 young Australians aged 15-19 took part in Mission Australia’s 13th annual #youthsurvey.

The 2014 survey explored what young people value, their issues of concern, where they turn for help, their engagement in community activities and feelings about the future and included a particular focus on young people’s aspirations.

The survey revealed that while over 8 in 10 young people felt that achieving career success and being financially independent were highly important, only around 6 in 10 of young people who highly valued these aspirations felt that they would be achievable.

At the same time, the issue of greatest personal concern for young people in 2014 was coping with stress, with more than one in three respondents expressing high levels of concern, highlighting the immense pressure young Australians are facing in their final years of school.IMG_4297

Other survey highlights :

Around 80% of young people ranked education and hard work as the top two factors they believe will influence their career opportunities in the future.  Almost 50% of young people believed where they live will affect the career opportunities available.  More than 70% of young people ranked owning their own home as a key aspiration, and most felt this was also achievable despite falling rates of home ownership in Australia.

Coping with stress is the number one personal concern for young people, alongside school or study problems. Young women in particular are increasingly overwhelmed with more than half saying they are either extremely or very concerned about coping with stress. See more at:

Understanding the concerns and aspirations of our young people means we can better support them, and can appropriately focus programs and services creation and delivery.

For young people to complete this year’s survey click on the following link:

Caseworkers! You’ve got to look after YOU!

As a caseworker working with complex clients one of the key attributes that is needed is personal resilience. Most people are drawn to this industry because they want to help others better their situation, this is of course a very positive motivation. The reality is often that people are very entrenched in their unhealthy and complicated life situation and often have multi layered complex personal barriers to making positive change.

When we scratch the surface with our clients what we find can seem overwhelming, and over a period of time this complexity, our hopes and dreams for clients not being fully realised and the sheer amount of human suffering we witness can lead to the phenomenon of burnout. Burnout can happen in any industry but I think it is particularly prevalent in social services because we are working with people’s lives and thus the stakes appear high, plus many workers feel it is their personal responsibility to “fix” clients. Those positive intentions we start this career with become a source of stress as timeframes, outcomes, competing priorities, funding and client complexity and human suffering all add pressure to an already difficult job.

The emotional strain of this becomes too much over time and then one day people just stop caring about their role as a self defence mechanism to that emotional strain. They then lose their ability to be strengths based and positively focused in their client work and have lost effectiveness as a worker. This is why so many resources are put into looking after workers in this industry.

But this is a personal responsibility first and foremost: I have been able to work over ten years in this industry with a range of extremely complex clients by having some firm beliefs set in my mind around casework practises, some are as follows

  1. We are not here to save the world, we are here to support clients by facilitating an opportunity for positive change. Whether they take that opportunity or not is up to them.
  2. We are not here to rescue our clients. Teach them to fish rather than feed them. To this end my efforts for clients tend to mirror their efforts for themselves. Never then do I get a martyr complex over client outcomes.
  3. Do not impose our hopes and dreams onto clients. If clients are leading the process, that leaves little room for our personal expectations and subsequent disappointments to be a source of personal suffering.
  4. Don’t get drawn into client drama! Nothing will drain you faster.
  5. Take a mental step back regularly from the work – keep some perspective.
  6. Most importantly: Don’t take life too seriously – it will not make you any better a worker.


Article written by: Gareth Houghton, Team Leader – Youth Hope
Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services