Farida’s Story.

Farida learnt what it takes to be a carer from a young age.

As a child she watched her mother care for her grandma who lived with the family for many years.

Today, she too has taken on the role of carer for her own mother.

Farida understands it can be difficult to find a balance between being a carer, supporting a family and achieving one’s own personal goals.

But what her experience as a carer has taught her, is not to feel guilty about caring for herself.

She believes carers too deserve to feel confident pursuing their own goals and learn to accept support themselves.

Alongside her role as a carer, Farida works as a Carers Advocate in the Carers Employment Support Program (CESP) at Uniting.

Farida says it gives her “a sense of pride”, when she can support her carers to accomplish their professional, educational or personal goals.

Her specialist training and personal experience means Farida understands that carers all face their own set of unique challenges.

This is why she focuses on designing service plans which are specific to the needs of each individual carer.

“I look forward to meeting all the amazing carers who play such an important role in our society.

“I do hope to support them to find a bit of themselves while they are busy caring for their loved ones.”

No Federal Election commitment to review income support rate ‘disappointing’

Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Victoria’s largest not-for-profit community services organisations, described the decision of Australia’s major political parties not to commit to a review of the income support rate as disappointing.

Our No Fighting Chance: Impact of the withdrawal of COVID-19 income and tenancy benefits report with Swinburne University – released last year – found the COVID supplement, which effectively doubled the income support rate during 2020 and 2021, had helped lift many families out of poverty.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said the report found the supplement made people’s lives easier, but the withdrawal of the additional support impacted their mental and physical health.

“It’s really disappointing neither of the major parties have committed to reviewing the income support rate. We believe these payments should be benchmarked to the minimum wage,” Ms Pike said.

“Income support, such as the JobSeeker payment, is not a handout, it’s about giving people a basic standard of living while they get back on their feet.

“Poverty has been linked to everything from poor academic achievement, poor mental and physical health and a lack of availability to important community services and resources.

“Nobody should have to make a choice between paying the electricity bill and buying necessities like food or medicine.”

Media enquiries: Cameron Tait – 0407 801 231

Federal election 2022: An opportunity to build a fairer Australia for all

One of Australia’s largest not-for-profit community services providers, Uniting Vic.Tas is calling on all parties and candidates involved in the Federal Election on May 21 to help deliver a fairer, more equitable Australia.

Uniting Vic.Tas represents many of the most vulnerable groups in the community from people experiencing homelessness, family violence, poverty, mental health issues and alcohol and drug related harm.

“We’re hoping all parties and candidates think about how we can tackle some of the major inequities we’re facing right now,” Ms Pike said.

“Poverty is the most significant challenge facing Australia – there are millions of people who are struggling with the cost of living – paying the rent, bills and buying groceries.

“We’re proud to be part of the Raise the Rate campaign to increase the income support rate above the poverty line.

“With the rising cost of living, we also want to see more protections for our most vulnerable from predatory pay day lenders and new forms of credit which often send people into a debt spiral they can’t escape.

“We support Homelessness Australia’s drive to halve homelessness by 2032 and their call for 25,000 new social housing properties to be built across Australia each year.

“Family violence is a nationwide scourge, so the next Government must commit to properly funding the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.

“We’re looking forward to hearing the plans of the parties and their candidates over the coming weeks and how they will address these issues.”

Media enquiries: Cameron Tait – 0407 801 231

Sarah and Layla’s story.

Sarah* cares for her young daughter, Layla* who was recently diagnosed with Autism.

Layla requires assistance with basic tasks like showering and going to the toilet.

She also suffers from severe mood swings.

Living in regional Victoria, Sarah was finding it hard to access the support she needed through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

When her NDIS support worker suggested contacting Carer Gateway, Sarah didn’t hesitate.

“I’m a single parent trying to juggle full-time work while also caring for Layla, so the help really comes in handy,” says Sarah.

“My parents help when they can, but they are in their 60s and 70s. I want them to be grandparents, not carers.

“Layla has a lot of behavioural issues, which makes it hard on me and my parents.”

Since accessing Carer Gateway, Sarah has received two days of respite.

“One of the Carer Gateway team took Layla out on days trips,” says Sarah.

“Layla really enjoyed her time away. They visited local waterfalls and went swimming.

“It gave me a chance to do the things I needed to do, without having to fuss over Layla.

“Apart from going to school, Layla is always at home. It’s good for her to get out and about and meet new people.”

Sarah says she appreciates the help of the Carer Gateway team.

“My support worker has been really helpful in getting me the two days of respite,” says Sarah.

“We’re working towards getting more support.

“It’s been a big help for my family.”

To find out more about Carer Gateway, visit Carer Gateway.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the people featured in this story.

Rita and Alice’s story.

Rita* resides in a caravan with her daughter, Alice* who lives with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability.

Rita and Alice were forced to live in the caravan after the family home became unliveable following a landslide.

“We nearly lost our home to bushfires a couple of years ago and then the landslide happened,” says Rita.

“I was running a small business from a shed on the property, so we lost that too.

“It’s just too traumatic to go back and rebuild.”

Rita says living in a caravan with Alice, who needs full-time care, is challenging.

“Alice is in her late twenties but has a significantly reduced mental capacity for her age,” says Rita.

“It’s challenging at times, especially in the confined space of a caravan.

“My son lives about two hours away and helps when he can. He’s the only other person who understands her needs.”

Rita was referred to Carer Gateway to seek practical and emotional support.

“It can be difficult when people call and say: “how can I help you” but you don’t really know what services they offer and how they can help,” says Rita.

“But (Carer Gateway) were great from the start.”

Rita and Alice received a voucher to buy bedding.

The team also purchased an annex for the caravan and a microwave to cook meals.

“The annex has been a godsend,” says Rita.

“Having the extra space has made life a lot easier for us.

“I can’t express how grateful I am for the practical and emotional support I get from them.

“(My support worker) will often call to see how I am and ask if there’s anything she can do.

“Just to have someone who calls to check-in on how I’m doing is really helpful.”

The family are on the waiting list for permanent housing.

But for now, they have everything they need.

“Alice is comfortable here, so I’m not in a rush to relocate,” says Rita.

“To me, the Carer Gateway staff are the most wonderful, helpful people I’ve ever met.”

To find out more about Carer Gateway, visit Carer Gateway.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the people featured in this story.

Hannah and Sandra’s story.

Many people don’t see themselves as carers.

They are just children, parents, partners, relatives or friends who care for someone close to them.

Hannah* has been caring for her mother, Sandra* for most of her life.

Sandra was born deaf in one ear and has had significant health complications throughout her life, which have required many surgeries.

Now 16, Hannah took on a carer’s role at a young age.

“I’ve always had trouble hearing, so Hannah helps me to communicate when I’m having trouble hearing someone,” says Sandra.

“She helps with the cooking and washing.

“I’m so grateful for everything she does. I’ve always tried to just get on with life as best I can, but I do need help. And Hannah is always there for me.”

Sandra’s two older sons also help when they can.

The family have received practical support from Carer Gateway, including financial help for Hannah’s schooling.

The have also received emotional support, in the form of a listening ear when times get tough.

“The Carer Gateway team are so helpful,” says Sandra.

“It’s not just the financial assistance that has helped, but the emotional support too.

“They regularly check-in to see how we’re doing. It’s lovely to talk to someone who understands exactly what we’re going through.

“We received financial support for Hannah’s laptop and school uniform.

“It means we don’t have to stress at the start of each year about where the money is going to come from for the necessities.”

Hannah, who is working towards a career as an English teacher, says the support from Carer Gateway has been invaluable in helping her juggle her carer’s role, school and work commitments.

She has attended a carers retreat, completed online courses on how to manage her wellbeing and participated in activities to help stay connected to her peers and community.

“It has been nice to connect with others who are in a similar situation,” says Hannah.

“A lot of people don’t know they are carers. It’s just what they do.

“It’s what I’ve grown up with and it’s something that comes naturally to me.

“Even if you are helping other people, you have to take care of yourself.

“That’s what I’ve had to learn over the years.

“You can’t help someone if your cup is empty.

“I’m really grateful to Carer Gateway and other organisations who have helped me connect with other carers and access support and resources when needed.”

To find out more about Carer Gateway, visit Carer Gateway.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the people featured in this story.

Wanda and Barry’s story.

Wanda* has been caring for her husband, Barry* since he was diagnosed with gastric cancer and depression.

The couple are in their late 80s.

Wanda had been feeling overwhelmed by her caring role, having to attend regular hospital appointments with Barry and also nurse him at home.

While still doing the cooking, she was struggling to clean her home.

A house-proud person, Wanda was becoming increasingly anxious that her home was unkempt and disorganised.

Our Carer Gateway team organised a weekly cleaning service to help around the house.

Wanda was thrilled with this service.

Her daughter said that Wanda’s eyes lit up when the cleaner, Anne* arrived for the first time.

They have since formed a friendship and Wanda often chats to Anne while she cleans.

Our team also organised an over-the-phone counselling service, which Wanda says has been very helpful in discussing some of the underlying struggles she encounters in her carer’s role.

This service is easily accessed by phone and the counsellors arrange times to suit Wanda’s availability.

To find out more about Carer Gateway, visit Carer Gateway.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the people featured in this story.

Care for the whole family.

Carer Gateway offers practical, emotional and financial support for families caring for a loved one.

Our team work with families to make sure everyone receives the support they need.

“I’m currently working with a mother, son and daughter,” says Carer Gateway team member, Alannah.*

“The mother was initially referred to the program, but after meeting the family I encouraged the daughter and son to also register for Carer Gateway.

“Their husband and father recently had a stroke, which has left him physically and mentally impaired.

“When I first met the family, they had all stopped working, were very stressed and had started to fall apart as a family unit.

“They were all taking turns in the carer role. They were concerned about their ability to care for him due to challenging behaviours and their lack of understanding about his needs.

“It got to a point where the family were considering permanent residential care for their loved one, which was really upsetting given he was a healthy man only weeks earlier.

“We were able to provide in-home care and respite services for the family.

“They received funding for equipment to help care for their loved one at home

“The children were referred to a young carers’ program to connect with peers who also care for a loved one.

“Counselling services were also offered to the family.

“I recently did a review with the mother.

“She has had a tremendous turn-around from my first phone call with her.

“She is now very positive, feels confident in her role as a carer and how to best manage her husband’s behaviours.

“She is much better at taking time for herself, practicing self-care and prioritising her own needs when she can.

“She now accesses carer payments and has the equipment needed to keep her husbane at home.

“The children have returned to work, studying and are getting back to a more normal lifestyle.”

To find out more about Carer Gateway, visit Carer Gateway.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the people featured in this story.

Thank you for digging deep.

So many of you generously responded to our requests for gifts with warmth and kindness.

This has helped us raise vital funds for the year ahead to help people move from crisis to stability.

In the lead-up to Christmas, we helped a Hobart woman who reached out to our emergency relief service for the first time.

A single mother of 2 young children who both have a disability, the woman was distressed when she spoke to our team.

She had just received a large vet bill after the family dog became ill, followed by her quarterly power bill.

The young family were struggling to get by, with perpetual medical costs and a recent rental increase.

The money she had put aside for Christmas presents needed to be used to pay the vet bill.

Thanks to your generosity and compassion, we were able to help this family with a food hamper and vouchers to buy Christmas gifts.

We were only able to do this thanks to your wonderful support.

Putting the fun in fundraising.

We have opportunities for individuals, congregations, schools, workplaces and community groups to come together to support our work.

The Uniting East Burwood Volunteer Group, also known as The Sizzlers, hosts regular sausage sizzles at their local Bunnings to raise funds for Uniting.

The group have been organising the sausage sizzles, along with other small fundraisers, for over a decade.

In that time, they have raised more than $20,000 to contribute to the work of Uniting.

We recently provided them with an EFTPOS machine for their events.

“We were missing sales opportunities due to the rising number of people using card over cash,” says volunteer, Ron Porter.

“We’ve done a few fundraisers over the years.

“One of the first fundraising initiatives was collecting and selling aluminium cans.

“Then we moved on to the Bunnings sausage sizzle.

“It’s very rewarding to know the money is helping people in the local community.

“It’s also been a good way for our volunteers to come together, socialise and have a laugh.”

To find out how you can host a fundraising event, visit unitingvictas.org.au/fundraise-for-us

Better mental health for youth.

The Uniting-run Headspace in Horsham supports young people aged 12-25 to reduce the impact of mental illness and offer an inclusive space for local youth.

The program is designed to help improve mental health outcomes for young people.

It involves people wearing a headset with goggles so they can enter a virtual environment.

“There’s an increasing number of young people needing mental health support and this program allows for an earlier intervention on issues such as depression and anxiety,” says Headspace Horsham Clinical Lead, Sandi McLaughlin.

“Virtual reality has proved a powerful tool and this technology allows young people to recreate reallife experiences in controlled environments where they feel safe, such as at Headspace or at home.

“It equips young people with the tools they need to deal with challenging situations, confront their fears and learn coping strategies to feel better about  themselves and the world around them.”

Sessions include:

  • Working on breathing techniques
  • Scuba Diving and swimming with the dolphins
  • Listening to the sounds of water falling, wind blowing or people chatting
  • Learning about stress, its causes and techniques to better manage it
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.

Facility manager, Liz Rowe said the program, which was designed before the start of the pandemic, has proved a handy tool over the past 2 years.

“In 2019 we rolled out telehealth services because social isolation is not something new when you live in a rural town,” says Liz.

“We had wait lists for local youth seeking help for their mental health, so we looked at how we could deliver services to those in need.

“We’ve had some great results with young people who’ve used the tool so far. Most have found it very valuable.

“We will never take away face-to-face services. This is just another tool in the belt that we can offer young people.”

The Headspace team tackle various issues, including:

  • Mental health
  • Sexual health
  • Alcohol and drug challenges
  • Education, employment and more.

An LGBTIQ+ support program is also available.

Support for people escaping family violence.

Family violence is one of the leading causes of poverty for women in Australia.

With a surge in family violence cases since the start of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in demand for services to support families.

We have joined with nine other Uniting Network organisations across the country to run a program providing financial assistance and wrap-around support to people escaping family violence.

The Escaping Violence Payment provides up to $5000 for anyone leaving a violent partner.

Payments can be used to help find safe accommodation, buy essential items and connect with support services to help people get back on their feet.

Financial insecurity is one of the main barriers stopping women from leaving a violent partner.

Kerry* is a single mother who escaped family violence.

As the abuse escalated, Kerry took out an order of protection and fled to safety with her child.

“It was terrifying,” says Kerry.

“We left with the clothes on our back. I had no idea how we were going to survive.”

Our team were able to provide Kerry with support when she needed it most.

She was referred to a financial counsellor who provided information and advice regarding her debts, income and budgeting.

Our team helped Kerry access the basics like food and toiletries.

Kerry has now found somewhere to live and is working towards setting up a secure future for herself and her child.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do this without the help of Uniting,” says Kerry.

“It’s great to have financial support for rent and I have been able to save money to buy a secondhand washing machine and lounge set.”

*This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the person featured. The photo accompanying this story is for illustrative purposes only. It is not a photo of the person featured in this story.

Peter leaves a lasting legacy.

For over 35 years, Peter regularly donated to the work of Uniting (formerly through Wesley Mission in Victoria) with the aim of helping people in their time of need – all while enduring his own challenges.

“He talked a lot about (Uniting) and helping the less fortunate,” says Peter’s niece, Jane.

“He grew up during the Great Depression and Second World War and the family struggled.

“He knew what it was like to go without. And he suffered significant mental health issues until the day he died. He suffered terribly, so he empathised with people who struggle to get by in life.”

Peter passed away in August 2020 at the age of 93. In 1994, he confirmed a gift in his Will to Uniting.

“He was a very generous man,” says Jane.

“He never married or had children. But he loved his family dearly. Family was everything to him.

“He loved spending time with his nieces and nephews and their children.

“Peter loved a family celebration. He was always there to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and Easter. And he was obsessed with his birthday. We always celebrated his birthday with him.”

The youngest of four children, Peter lived most of his life in the inner Melbourne suburb of Kew. He studied at Trinity Grammar and then Melbourne University, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1948.

In 1950 he started a career at the Commonwealth Public Service, which spanned 39 years.

An avid gardener, Peter had a love for native plants.

“He liked to keep himself busy through his many hobbies,” says Jane.

“He enjoyed gardening, tennis, community theatre, physical fitness and nutrition.

“He kept himself very fit and was passionate about exercise and healthy eating.”

Peter enjoyed attending Uniting supporter luncheons, receiving Christmas and birthday cards, and looked forward to his visits from the team, where they shared stories of the difference his contributions were making.

He also liked to keep himself informed about Uniting’s work by reading annual reports and newsletters.

“He supported numerous (community service) organisations that help people doing it tough,” says Jane.

“We’re proud of the legacy he has left.”

Because Peter left a gift in his Will for Uniting, his legacy is helping individuals and families in crisis to access practical support.

For more information about leaving a gift in your Will, visit unitingvictas.org.au/gift-in-will

Stephen’s story.

He had spent his childhood in foster homes, children’s homes and with stepfamilies.

Later in life, he settled down, married, had children and led a successful corporate career.

One day, everything changed.

Stephen lost his job and his home. His wife left with his children and he hit ‘rock bottom.’

At the age of 50, he was left to wonder where it all went wrong.

“I could only put it down to my childhood.

“A part of history I had managed to bury for many years. My past was a blur and I needed clarity.”

Stephen met Heritage Service manager Catriona, who began the search for his foster care and adoption records.

She was successful, and in November 2019, Stephen and a close friend went back to see Catriona.

“We waded through the documents and for the next 3 hours the emotional roller coaster ride ensued. Anger, pain, hurt, helplessness, hopelessness,” says Stephen.

The records only covered 2 years of his childhood from the age of 4 to 6, but it was a start.

Catriona’s search continued and just a few months later, she was able to locate the rest of his records with OzChild.

By this stage, COVID-19 had restricted his ability to meet with Catriona in person, so his records were posted to him to read and digest.

“I was one of the lucky kids in the process. I could see the social workers involved actually cared, the department did try to do the right thing and make the best choices for me,” Stephen said.

Uncovering his past has not been easy, but Stephen acknowledges that the discomfort has been helpful in validating his feelings and taking the guesswork out of his past.

“I finally feel like I do exist now. There are records, evidence that my memories aren’t imaginative but that it did happen,” he said.

“Thank you Uniting for supporting me on this journey of discovery and healing.”

Do good by looking good this National Op Shop Week

Our op shops have been operating across Victoria for over 60 years.

If you’re looking for something to wear and you want to help others, shopping at your local op shop is a great way to do both.

You can donate quality goods, bag a bargain or even volunteer your time.

Whichever way you want to help, you will make a difference in your community.

Uniting op shops raise funds for programs and services in local communities.

Local emergency relief programs are the main beneficiary. Other Uniting services supported through op shops include:

  • Breezeway Meals Program in Ballarat
  • Hartley’s Community Dining in Prahran
  • Lifeline in Ballarat
  • Meals for Change in Ballarat.

Some of our shops in Victoria have reopened as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Find out which shops in your region are operating and/or accepting donations.

It is our dedicated volunteers who keep our op shops running to raise funds for our services and offer affordable goods to local communities.

This National Op Shop Week, we thank them for all that they do, especially during these trying times.

We would also like to thank everyone who supports our op shops by donating and buying goods.