Make an impact in 2024 by becoming a foster carer.

Ever felt something tug on your heartstrings, calling you to make a difference?

Now is your opportunity to answer that call.

With more kids needing safe temporary care, there’s no better time to become a foster carer.

As growing numbers of families face challenges such as family breakdowns, substance abuse, and mental health issues, more children are finding themselves in need of safe and nurturing care.

This is why now is the right time for you to become a foster carer.

Home is where the heart is.

We all know that foster carers make a difference. By opening your door and offering a loving home to a child in need, you can make that positive difference in the life of a child.

Foster care is about much more than just about providing a place to stay.

Beyond providing all-important stability for a child, being a foster parent is an opportunity to create positive relationships and joyful experiences that help children build resilience and the life skills they need.

A decision to offer your home as a foster carer is about providing compassionate nurturing care that empowers children to thrive. While many children stay in foster care for a short time, the positive impact you can have will last a lifetime.

Time for some self-blossoming.

Foster care is the nurturing soil which allows children to grow. Every foster carer is provided with comprehensive training on parenting approaches that include first aid, behaviour management and self-care.

But the good stuff is in the self-discovery. Like the kids in your care, you will also cultivate your resilience, empathy and interpersonal skills. Interacting with children from diverse backgrounds creates an understanding of human complexities, which will assist you to expand your perspectives and hone patience, adaptability, and flexibility, all while fostering inner strength and the capacity to remain composed when navigating life’s challenges.

The village supports you, too.

When you become a foster carer with Uniting, you’ll have a specialised support team with you every step of the way.

Access to our dedicated expert care team includes having a designated Case Worker for ongoing support and practical assistance. We provide around the clock support so you’re never on your own.

Although foster care is a voluntary role, you will receive a reimbursement towards the day-to-day costs of caring for a child or young person. These payments are tax-free and made fortnightly by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH).

Where extra expenses are incurred beyond what is considered the ordinary costs of care, additional financial support may be available.

If you’re considering becoming a foster carer, you will have all the assistance you need to do so with confidence.

Foster the way you want.

One of the misconceptions about foster care is that it requires a long-term commitment.

While some placements may indeed be long-term, there are various flexible options available to suit you.

Fostering a child can be short or long term option. A range of care types are available to ensure the best fit for every carer and child. You can choose to care for a night, a weekend or longer, including months or years.

Some carers may choose to provide only one type of care, while others may provide a combination of care arrangements. We understand that you may be new to fostering, so we’ll match you to a type of care suitable to your current lifestyle and responsibilities.

It’s a ride of rich experiences.

Becoming a foster carer isn’t just a role; it’s a collection of rich experiences brimming with profound moments of connection, growth, and fulfillment.

As a foster carer, you’ll witness the transformative power of love and support while shaping the lives of vulnerable children and young people.

It’s an experience that will challenge you, yet inspire you, and ultimately leave an indelible mark on both carer and child, creating memories and bonds that last a lifetime.

Ready to embark on an epic quest in 2024?

As you contemplate your goals and aspirations for the year ahead, consider the profound impact you could make by opening your heart and home to a child in need.

The rewards of fostering are immeasurable, not only for the children you support but also for yourself.

So why wait? Start your fostering journey today with Uniting and be a part of something truly impactful.

We support foster cares across the eastern, south-eastern and western regions of Melbourne, as well as Ballarat, the Central Highlands, Wimmera and Gippsland.

Get in touch and take the first step towards making a difference in 2024.

Making the most of retirement.

Margaret and Jackie will be the first to tell you that retirement is busy and fulfilling. Residents at Gardiner Lodge in Glen Iris, they are part of a closeknit and bustling community.

Ive always liked theatre, movies, reading, meeting people my life hasnt really changed! I really make the most of retirement. says Margaret. Having lived at the village for 7 years, she felt at home as soon as she moved in. She says the residents care about each other, and check in regularly, while being aware that each resident is busy pursuing their own hobbies and interests.

Jackie now in her 80s was working up until a few years ago. Doing all the things, being with people. Im still able to make a difference, she says.

Having worked as a CEO for a wellknown notforprofit organisation, community building is in her blood, and she hasnt stopped her deep commitment to making others lives better.

Gardiner Lodge is one of 12 villages owned and managed by Uniting. With a focus on independence and flexibility, Uniting retirement villages are designed to encourage residents to continue to live life on their own terms.

Jackie likes that everyone in the Gardiner Lodge community has a say, and can be involved. She believes the strength of the community is its collaboration its a shared belief that society is better if we do it together, she says.

Both women also appreciate that they share the values of the people in the neighbourhood. Its a friendly, welcoming community that celebrates marriage equality, and diversity. It creates cohesion amongst the residents, and allows a dynamic and progressive environment.

Jackie says, We believe its better for two people to connect, no matter what their gender thats much better than two people being isolated and lonely”.

For Margaret, staying in the area of Melbourne she has always called home is important. After she moved from her family home in Camberwell into a small flat, she felt upheaved. But since moving to Gardiner Lodge she has appreciated that the gardens and maintenance are taken care of, and likes knowing that the people in her community care about each other. And she hasnt had to change her life dramatically.

Ive been in the same book club for over 50 years, she says, there are 8 of us from the original group. Weve grown up together, raised families. And we still meet every month and actually talk about the book! she laughs.

Asked what makes the village so special, Margaret says Kindness. Being aware of peoples needs. Thats all it takes”.

Learn more about Uniting’s independent living retirement villages.

Learn more about Gardiner Lodge, Glen Iris.

Uniting program helps young people living with disabilities ace their 2024 Australian Open jobs.

Aiden, Leila, Nathan and Ramadan from Uniting Vic.Tas’ School Leaver Employment Support (SLES) program have had a fun fortnight working retail and hospitality jobs at 2024 Australian Open in Melbourne.

With support from Tennis Australia and Dylan Alcott’s the Field, which connects people with disabilities with organisations looking to hire, the teenagers all gained real-life customer service skills and experience during Australia’s biggest sporting tournament.

The SLES program provides young people living with disabilities with help and support on their pathway to employment including creating action plans for training, work and life skills, to prepare them for the workforce, helping them feel confident and positive about their future.

Aiden, Leila, Nathan and Ramadan were supported to write their job application and to prepare for their interviews.

Speaking after his first shift, Ramadan said: “I feel so good about working in the retail space. It’s really busy and my shift goes quickly, but I’m enjoying learning to use Point of Sale.”

Leila was also excited about her first taste of the workforce: “I was excited and nervous, but on that first day, I was really looking forward to my first real (work) shift.”

Uniting Vic.Tas Acting CEO Amy Padgham said it was exciting to see the young people thrive in their jobs.

“We know how important it is for young people living with a disability to not only find a job, but to keep that job,” Ms Padgham said.

“As well as providing a source of income, a job boosts a young person’s confidence and self-pride as well their independence.

“Only 53 per cent of people living with a disability in Australia are in the workforce compared to 84 per cent of people without a disability.

“Platforms such as the Field and opportunities like this which Tennis Australia are providing these young people help break down the barriers stopping people with disabilities from gaining and retaining meaningful employment.”

Co-founder of the Field, which is Australia’s first disability-driven job search platform and multiple Australian Grand Slam tennis champion, Dylan Alcott, said initiatives like this are critical for improving outcomes with people living with a disability.

Mr Alcott has simple words of advice for employers looking for employees and wanting to make a difference.

“Be inquisitive and lift your expectation of what you think candidates with a disability can do, because I promise you, it’s always more than you think,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ramadan has enjoyed his time in the retail space so much, he’s hoping to return in a similar role with the AO retail team next year.

Learn more about School Leaver Employment Support (SLES).

Generosity funds house for women and children escaping family violence.

A generous Melbourne couple and supportive local businesses have helped create a home for women and children escaping family violence in the Northcote area.

The couple, who do not wish to be identified, have previously donated the use of a two-bedroom house in Abbotsford. They decided to purchase a three-bedroom home in Northcote because they felt it was a better option for women with children.

“It’s an amazing contribution that gives women and children escaping family violence a real opportunity to leave dangerous homes and start afresh,” said Uniting Vic.Tas Senior Manager Housing Services, Louise Daniel.

The couple, who wish to be known as K and B, gave Uniting the use of the first house eighteen months ago in response to media articles highlighting the number of Australian women killed or impacted by violent partners every year.

“We both looked at each other and it was like an epiphany. We both thought about our house In Abbotsford and thought we can do something about this,” B said.

“We are in the position where we can help,” added K.

“If anyone else can do it, I would encourage them to, it’s a really nice feeling knowing you can help,” she said.

“If you’re a boomer and sick of the bad rap we get on housing, here’s a chance to change that perception and do something that is life changing for someone.” K added.

B said the fact Uniting has its own maintenance team and could manage the properties well was an incentive.

“We are forgoing interest paid or received on each house which is around $50,000 per year but we retain ownership of the houses. The way Uniting set up the contracts with us makes it easy. We don’t have to get involved in any direct tenancy management, as Uniting manages any questions or issues raised by the person renting the property.

Uniting pays peppercorn rent for the houses and manage the tenancies. The couple pay rates and some of the outgoings as a donation.

A portion of the minimal rent paid to Uniting by renters is retained as brokerage so when the women are ready to leave, they have some money to pay bond and set themselves up in a more permanent home.

Local business Kreative Design and Interiors furnished and decorated the entire house and Koala Furniture, a Uniting corporate partner provided beds.

Kreative’s director Felicity used furniture and materials from styling houses to furnish the home, including bedding which has only ever been used for display.

Learn more about our Homelessness and Crisis Support services.

If you are interested in donating the use of a property, contact us at [email protected] and include ‘attention Louise Daniel’ in the subject line, or free call 1800 329 133.

Young Victorians are getting help to reach their career goals.

Ask any school leaver today how they feel about finishing school and taking the next big step into the world, and many will say ‘excited’, ‘nervous’, or ‘uncertain’. Leaving school and thinking about university or work can be daunting.

Now imagine how a school leaver living with a disability might feel.

According to a 2019 study1, 64% of young people with a disability felt they faced barriers to finding work – compared with 48% of young people without a disability.

Without targeted support, many of these young people disengage with school, further study, or work experience and eventually lose the confidence to participate in the activities they once enjoyed.

For people like Zoe, having the support of Uniting Vic.Tas Pathways 2 Employment means she can feel positive about the future, and sees some of those barriers fall away.

“I’m happy that I have the opportunity to do work experience at a café doing customer service. I love learning new skills,” she says.
Her friend and Pathways 2 Employment participant Wolfie feels the same.

He works at a local op shop, and at a café. He juggles his responsibilities and enjoys staying active.

“I’ve learned a lot about work safety and my rights in the workplace.

I’ve really enjoyed Pathways 2 Employment.

Uniting’s program – also known as School Leaver Employment Supports or SLES – helps young people build skills, confidence, and discover their strengths and aspirations in a supportive group environment.

According to Uniting Employment Coach Jessica Clenci, the participants love the activities, industry visits, and taking part in community events such as hosting a Bunning’s barbeque.

“Going out and practicing skills they’ve learned in the training room, going out and meeting people in the community – they love that experience,” she says.

Jessica loves watching the participants planning and taking part in social days that the group decides on together as a team.

“They’re the ones organising and planning it – they call up the businesses, they make the bookings, they make the decisions, it’s really important team-building for them.”

 The skills the Pathways 2 Employment participants learn help them feel empowered.

Not only do they learn about money, taxes, communicating in the workplace, how to use public transport and learners permit theory, but they grow together and make decisions about their own lives based on their own aspirations.

Janet Curtain, an Employment Coach working with Pathways 2 Employment participants loves watching the young people grow and develop independence.

“They come in all nervous into the start of the program, thinking it’s all scary…to being so social, and coming out of their shell. It’s amazing to see them develop belief in themselves,” Janet says.

Janet knows she’s done her job when the participants can confidently fill out their own forms, do life admin, choose an interview outfit, make a barista-grade coffee or a sandwich and sell it to a member of the public – and she loves seeing them eventually settle into a job.

Janet keeps in touch with the participants and their parents, and loves hearing about how they’re progressing after graduation.

Archer is another Pathways 2 Employment participant, a friend of Zoe and Wolfie, and is in his second year of the program.

“I like working on my goals, and working in a team. I like learning about money and pay”, he says.

Archer has enjoyed planning and recording a radio show, and visiting Bunnings to take part in team-building projects.

These invaluable experiences are increasing Archer’s confidence and providing a range of skills that he will eventually take into the workplace and draw on as he progresses in his career.

Pathways 2 Employment helps people like Archer, Zoe and Wolfie in 12 locations across Melbourne.

Navigating Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Overcoming Bias for a More Inclusive Environment

Neurodiversity refers to the diverse range of neurological differences that exist among individuals, including conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or dyspraxia.

While the concept of neurodiversity was introduced to reinforce the idea that neurological differences are natural variations of the human brain, individuals who are neurodiverse often face unique challenges in the workplace.

In this article, we will explore some of the common challenges that neurodiverse individuals encounter and discuss strategies to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

1. Misunderstanding and Stigma

One of the primary challenges neurodiverse individuals face is the lack of understanding and the perpetuation of stigmas surrounding their condition. Neurodivergent individuals may exhibit behaviors or communication styles that differ from the neurotypical majority, leading to misconceptions and biases.

Colleagues and supervisors may struggle to comprehend the strengths and unique perspectives that neurodiverse individuals bring to the table, and expect the pace of their work to meet normative stereotypes.

To address this challenge, organisations should prioritise education and awareness programs.

Directives that promote understanding and celebrate neurodiversity spearheaded by leadership of an organisation can help create a more inclusive workplace culture.

2. Communication and Social Interactions

Social interactions and communication can be particularly challenging for neurodiverse individuals. Difficulty in interpreting non-verbal cues, maintaining eye contact, or navigating ‘office politics’ may lead to misunderstandings and isolation. The traditional emphasis on social or networking skills in the workplace may unintentionally disadvantage neurodivergent employees.

Employers can foster inclusivity by implementing clear communication guidelines and providing alternative communication channels. Encouraging collaboration in different forms – such as chat, digital whiteboarding or mind-mapping – and understanding different communication styles can help bridge the gap between neurodivergent individuals and their colleagues.

3. Sensory Sensitivities

Many neurodiverse individuals experience sensory sensitivities that can be triggered by aspects of the workplace environment, such as bright lighting, too much talking, or crowded spaces. These sensitivities can lead to discomfort, stress, and decreased productivity.

Creating a sensory-friendly workplace involves making simple adjustments, such as providing quiet spaces, adjustable lighting, or noise-cancelling headphones. Allowing employees to work shorter or more flexible hours also accommodates for differing needs and routines.

4. Executive Functioning Challenges

Individuals with neurodiverse conditions often face challenges related to executive functions, such as organisation, time management, and task prioritisation. Meeting deadlines, adhering to schedules, and multitasking may present difficulties for some individuals.

Implementing flexible work arrangements, offering organisational tools, and providing clear expectations with the broader team can help neurodiverse employees navigate executive functioning challenges more effectively. Additionally, fostering a supportive work culture that has an awareness of differing needs can create a more inclusive environment.

5. Limited Access to Opportunities

Neurodiverse individuals may encounter barriers when seeking employment or career advancement. Biases in recruitment processes, limited awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace, and a lack of awareness during interviews can contribute to underrepresentation.

Organisations committed to diversity and inclusion should actively seek to eliminate biases in the recruitment and promotion process. Creating mentorship programs and providing professional development opportunities can also contribute to a more equitable distribution of opportunities for neurodivergent individuals.

Promoting neurodiversity in the workplace is not just good for individuals – it is also essential for fostering creativity, innovation, and a truly inclusive organisational culture.

By addressing the challenges faced by neurodiverse individuals head-on, organisations can create environments that celebrate differences and empower all employees to thrive. Through education, awareness, and thoughtful accommodations, we can build workplaces that embrace all working styles and harness the unique strengths of every individual.

It’s not just good for business, it’s better for the community and society.

Learn more about Uniting’s Disability Employment Services.

Uniting Op Shops – where young people thrive.

Uniting Op Shops across Melbourne are celebrating community collaboration and inclusivity, encouraging everyone to discover their unique style, personality and self-expression.

Working with the Employment Services team, Uniting Op Shops are helping young people living with a disability make their way in the world.

Nestled in the heart of communities such as Preston, Yarraville and Glenroy, Uniting Op Shops have long been known for their haven of creativity, community, and diversity. However, what sets them apart from other second-hand stores is their commitment to providing valuable work opportunities for young people living with disabilities via Uniting’s School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) program.

Uniting Op Shops have become thriving spaces where unique abilities and talents converge to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. The SLES participants – each bringing their own strengths to the table – are not only gaining essential skills and confidence but also actively contributing to the shop’s success.

The newly opened Brunswick Op Shop and warehouse on Victoria Street has generated excitement in the area, with a huge Op Shop and warehouse becoming a major hub for collecting and distributing goods. The large space houses kids, women’s and men’s clothing, a huge range of books, homewares, as well as vinyl records and hard to find retro and vintage items. The new space has also meant they’ve needed more hands on deck.

Jacob Miller – Uniting Op Shops Senior Manager says “We are delighted to be able to support the work of our colleagues running the School Leaver Employment program, and have these wonderful young people as part of our team. Our Op Shop Managers love being able to support them on their journey.”

Wolfie – one of the young people gaining confidence through work experience – enjoys learning how to count and handle money, and is beginning to gain familiarity with the workplace. He also likes making customers laugh with his jokes.

“It’s amazing to see [the SLES participants] develop a belief in themselves”, says Janet, one of the employment coaches supporting the young people. “They come in all nervous at the start…and then you see them coming out of their shell”. This is one of the most important aspects of the program – developing independence and confidence, Janet says.

Many of the young people live with a hidden disability, and can find everyday routines and interactions overwhelming. Navigating public transport, interacting with the community, understanding how to fill out forms and paperwork – many of these activities are taken for granted by people not living with a disability. The program helps young people to leave the familiarity of high school and supports them to develop essential skills that will set them up for life.

The community’s response to the Uniting Op Shop’s initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.

Visitors not only appreciate the vibrant atmosphere, but also applaud the young people in creating a space that champions diversity, inclusion and encourages self-expression.

The success of Uniting Op Shops is a leading example of the potential of inclusive employment programs. It highlights the importance of recognising and harnessing the unique talents of every individual, regardless of their abilities.

With understanding and a compassionate approach to young people living with different abilities, barriers to their career aspirations fall away and their goals for the future are brought that much closer.

Learn more about Uniting’s Disability Employment Services.

 

Open your heart to fostering.

Emily initially had her reservations about becoming a foster carer. As a young, single woman living in rural Victoria, she wondered if she fit the bill.

The foster carers she’d seen growing up were typically older couples, who already had children of their own. As the proud aunty to many nieces and nephews, Emily had some parenting experience but feared this wouldn’t be enough to care for a child full-time.

“I was quite worried about being too young when I first became a foster carer,” said Emily.

“I was 27 and single and I haven’t got any biological children. I wasn’t sure how this would come across and whether I was capable.”

It’s now been a year into Emily’s foster care journey and she’s grateful she trusted her gut and jumped in with both feet.

The joy and purpose fostering has brought her, far outweighs any of the challenges she has faced.

“It just means now I have a long journey of fostering ahead of me,” she said.

From respite to full-time care

Emily began fostering as a respite carer. Her role was to care for children in the short-term, for a few hours, days, or over the weekend.

Respite care allows full-time foster carers to take a break. It is mostly planned in advance but sometimes can be required in emergency situations or at short notice.

One of Emily’s respite foster children needed a full-time carer. With Uniting’s support, Emily knew she was ready.

“Uniting has supported me at every step of my foster care experience,” she said.

“Right from beginning, from training and every way through. Every team member is brilliant.”

Emily also stressed that despite being a young person with a single income, expenses haven’t been an issue.

“Some people worry about the money side of foster caring and being able to financially provide for children,” she said.

“But I always know if there is a big expenditure or something extra, I can contact Uniting.”

Emily shared that in her experience children don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’.

“As long as they have somewhere to sleep, food to eat, clothing to wear and someone to love them. If you can provide that then you’re two thirds of the way there,” she said.

Love is at the centre of everything

For those at the beginning of their foster care journey, the idea of disciplining a child that is not your own can be a daunting concept.

Emily explains that when disciplining a foster child, it’s very important to consider the challenges and traumas they may have faced in their lives and how these could have contributed to their behaviours.

“In foster care, we discipline differently. We connect rather than correct. We help the children identify who they are and why they are having these behaviours,” she said.

“Straight up discipline isn’t going to work with these kids and it’s not what they deserve. If you can approach them with a whole lot of love and acceptance, then you can do it.”

Fostering futures

When asked if Emily would encourage others to become foster carers, she answered with an overwhelming yes.

“I would encourage everybody to look into foster care and if you think it’s too hard or too much trouble, think about how hard it is for the kids,” she said.

“We go into this voluntarily, they don’t. So, if it’s hard for us, imagine how hard it is for them.”

Emily explains that you have a lot of flexibility as a foster carer. You get to decide when, how and for how long you foster.

“Just give it a go. You don’t have to commit for 40 years, you can commit for one year or even six months,” she said.

“You don’t know how good it is until you do it. I’m not going to lie, it can be very hard but it’s so worth it. I have grown immensely since becoming a foster carer.

Become a foster carer with Uniting.

*This is a true story about real people. Some details such as names have been changed to respect the wishes of the people featured.