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.