Three children's search for their 'Forever Families'

Permanent homes urgently needed for three very special children aged 6-13.

We are appealing to the local community to help find loving, nurturing, and devoted homes for three children in need through our Permanent Care program.

Connections’ Permanent Care program facilitates the placement of children, who are unable to live with their family of origin, due to risk or experience of serious abuse, neglect, or harm.

Leo (8) and his sister Minnie (6) have been living in care together for over four years. They are currently with a foster family, but we are desperate to find the right 'forever family' for these two very special kids.

Both children have some trauma related behaviours due to early life experiences, but are engaged with a therapeutic service and attend weekly counselling sessions. Like so many brothers and sisters, Leo and Minnie love talking about one another, and obtain comfort from each other when it comes to new situations.

Luca (12) has been living with his grandmother for two years now, but things are now at the stage where she is unable to continue caring for him. Luca is in Grade 5 and has been assessed with a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He enjoys school and doesn't require an aide in class, and is emotionally mature.

All three of the children have specific requirements around contact with their remaining family members.

Program Leader Prue Walker believes many members of the local community are unaware of the need for permanent care families, particularly for older children and siblings.

"It is important that couples wanting to start a family realise there are other options out there that exist beyond traditional methods,” said Ms Walker.

“All of the children who come through our program are longing for loving and caring families. They each have their own unique stories but unfortunately, they have all had an unstable start to their lives.

“We are calling out to anybody who thinks they may have room in their lives to provide these special children with a home, to make contact with us today,” said Ms Walker.


For more information about Connections' Permanent Care program, visit or call us on 03 9521 5666

UnitingCare Australia Redoubles Efforts to Address Housing and Homelessness

A national forum of 40 frontline UnitingCare service providers held in Sydney on 27 October 2016, has committed to developing a national action plan to work with government to address housing and homelessness in Australia.

“Every day our frontline community services across the country despair at the number of people living in Australia without the fundamental human need of housing,” UnitingCare Australia Acting National Director, Martin J Cowling said.

“Our services have told us that the issue is getting worse, not better. In fact, we believe it now represents a national crisis.

“As such, we believe the issue requires strong national leadership and a national response strategy.

“Our service providers yesterday committed to developing a UnitingCare Australia response strategy as we seek to work constructively and collaboratively with government to help shape the way forward.

“We recognise that governments are already contributing large amounts of funding and resources, but believe it’s time to seriously examine new directions.”

Mr Cowling said the forum also provided an opportunity for services to share the many innovative solutions they are implementing to address the pressing needs of the homeless in their communities.

“Stable and safe housing underpins functional families and communities.

“Australia has the resources to ensure that everyone experiences belonging in a safe and supportive community, with appropriate housing.

“Homelessness impacts on the health and wellbeing of older people, on the capacity of children, youth, Indigenous people and those from a culturally diverse background, to achieve their potential to contribute to society and the economy, and on the ability of Australians with disability or a mental health issue to lead a dignified life.

“To successfully address the issue it will be vital for different levels of government, and private and not-for-profit organisations like ourselves, to work together,” Martin Cowling said.

UnitingCare Australia operates at 1,600 sites across the country.

For more information, visit

Empowering children today for a better tomorrow

Alice Wojcik, 26, has been acknowledged in the 2016 Anti-Poverty Awards, for the significant contribution she has made to the lives of young refugees and migrants in Melbourne’s West.

Receiving the 2016 Encouragement Award, Alice founded the Tomorrow Foundation, a charity which has evolved from a community group running a homework club at a local school to opening Victoria’s first Refugee Migrant Children Centre.  

After leaving her corporate job in risk management four years ago, Alice has been able to build a dedicated and passionate team of staff and volunteers who support over 100 children and young people each year.  

“Both of my parents immigrated to Australia from Poland with next to nothing. I was faced with many difficulties including culture shock and having to learn a new language.   

“I long for a world where every child is loved unconditionally, that they have the support network they deserve, and the opportunities that will define them as adults. The most vulnerable children in our local and global community deserve our support and love,” said Alice.  

“My vision is to empower refugee, asylum seeker and migrant children and youth between the ages of 5 to 18, who are encountering disadvantage by providing direct tailored services that empower, build their knowledge and develop their confidence,” said Alice.   

The Tomorrow Foundation’s programs seek to prioritise the wellbeing of children, so that a sense of agency, value and identity can be developed within the broader Australian community.

Connections UnitingCare Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes said the Awards presented a great opportunity for young people to come forward and be celebrated for their work.  

“The desire to be recognised by the many young people we have spoken to over the years has not been one of glory for themselves, but for the particular causes for which they have such enormous passion, and in showing leadership to other young Australians,” said Ms Forbes.  

“These remarkable young people know that genuine investment in an individual is worthwhile, just as Connections knows that honouring their work and contributing positively for better outcomes for the families with whom we work, is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves as well as to others,” said Ms Forbes.   

To read Alice's full Anti-Poverty Awards application, click here.

Released: Connections News - Spring Edition

The Connections News, Spring Edition is now available.

It is core to our philosophy that we are absolutely committed to preventing violence against women, and consequently, children.  

As a community service organisation with a strong reputation in the community, we can use our status and our influence to enter into public conversations about preventing violence against women and support a workplace where we have conversations about gender equality.

It is with this in mind, we are thrilled to be one of four organisations, and the only community organisation piloting an exciting new project with Our Watch. The Workplace Equality and Respect Project was launched on Wednesday 24 August 2016 by Fiona Richardson, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Minister for Women.  

I encourage you to read more about this important initiative in our newsletter.  

I also want to extend a very warm invitation to you to attend the 30th Annual WJ Craig Lecture and the Presentation of the 2016 Anti-Poverty Awards. This year we are delighted to have Seri Renkin, CEO of the ten20 Foundation delivering what we think will be a powerful lecture.  

If you haven't already, may I also encourage you to read about the work of the talented young people and schools who have been nominated for the 2016 Anti-Poverty Awards.  

Each year, I am moved by the motivation and commitment of the young people who apply. Through their actions, whether they are working in communities in Australia or overseas, they have taken up the challenge of making a difference and are working toward the common good.

Once again, I thank you for your support and hope you continue to be inspired by our work in your local community.

If you would like to receive the newsletter each season, please register here.

Click here to read Connections News – Spring Edition.

Thank you for your continued support of our work.

With best wishes,
Angela Forbes
Chief Executive Officer

National Child Protection Week

National Child Protection Week invites all Australians to play their part to promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. “Protecting children is everyone’s business.”

National Child Protection Week, now in its 26th year, supports and encourages the safety and wellbeing of Australian children and families through the Play Your Part Awards, events, programs and resources.

NAPCAN’s campaign aims to provide communities and individuals with practical information on how to ‘Play Your Part’ and to embed primary prevention messages into social discourse. It also provides a platform for communities to be empowered, resourced and mobilised to take action at a local level.

Playing your part can range from encouraging children and young people’s participation in their community to hosting a National Child Protection Week event or promoting a family-friendly environment at your work.

This year NAPCAN encourages you to build on “Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business: Play Your Part” by focussing on the theme ‘Stronger Communities, Safer Children’. This theme emphasises the importance and value of connected communities in keeping children and young people safe and well.

Communities in which children are seen and heard, where their participation is valued and where their families can get the support they need are stronger communities which contribute to keeping children safe and well.

Connections has a zero tolerance towards child abuse and is committed to establishing and maintaining child safe and child friendly environments.

To find out how you can play your part keeping children safe, click here.

07 Sep 2016

Gawler East Primary School students are true global citizens

Gawler East Primary School in South Australia was the recipient of the 2015 Anti-Poverty Awards School Award.

It is the first time in the awards’ history that a primary school has won the award; highlighting children are learning early the value of thinking about others and the call to action which can occur.

“Throughout this whole process our students learnt they can be true global citizens. They realised they have a voice and can promote real change around the world”, said classroom teacher, Ms Anita Marling-Bauer.

“We hope this experience will be just the start of them thinking of others less fortunate than themselves.

“The Anti-Poverty Awards make real for children and young people the knowledge that they can contribute, no matter what age they may be, for the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow,” said Ms Marling-Bauer.

  • Do you know a young person aged 16-30 working towards tackling inequality and injustice within Australia or abroad?
  • Do you know a school involving and educating its students about poverty-related issues?

If this sounds like you or someone you know, apply now!

Any school or young person aged 16-30 working on a project to overcome poverty within Australia or overseas is encouraged to apply.

Applications for the 2016 Anti-Poverty Awards have been extended until 11:59pm AEST Friday 9 September 2016.

For more information about the awards, visit or contact

Music Together Dads Inc.

Connections UnitingCare Music Together is a music program that helps enhance family relationships, attachment and communication between parents and young children through music, instrument play, drama, dance and creative arts.

Bayside City Council has provided a grant to support a father and child(ren) Music Together Program. This program aims to promote positive interactions between father and child(ren) and to regulate emotional wellbeing in young children between 0 to 5 years of age through a 45 minute structured music session.

Sessions are conducted by qualified music therapists and are aimed at developing positive relationships between father and child/ren. Mothers are welcome to attend.

Details are as follows

Dates: October 8, 15, 22; November 5, 12.

Time: Saturdays at 10:00am - 10:45am

Venue: Hampton Community Centre. 14 Willis Street, Hampton 3188

These sessions are free. Participants must reside in the Bayside local government area.

All participants will be given a free music CD and handouts to take home.

As spaces are limited; please contact Ringwood reception on 03 9871 0221 or email to register your interest.

music together, music therapy, community, fathers, children, bayside

30 Aug 2016

Leading the way in workplace equality

Connections UnitingCare has been selected to take part in a pilot program aimed at preventing violence against women.

The Workplace Equality and Respect project was launched on Wednesday 24 August by Fiona Richardson, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Minister for Women. It is being led by Our Watch, a not-for-organisation established to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence against women and children.

The project will see Our Watch develop workplace guidelines to prevent violence against women. This includes promoting women’s participation and opportunities, challenging gender roles and encouraging respectful, healthy and equal relationships.

Connections is the only community organistion and not-for-profit selected to take part. The other organisations are La Trobe University, North Melbourne Football Club and Carlton Football Club.

Trish Chapman, acting CEO of Connections, said the organisation is excited to participate in the pilot.

“Core to the philosophy of our programs is that we believe we have an absolute commitment to prevent violence against women, and consequently, children,” she said.

“We think, as a community service organisation with a strong reputation in the community, we can use our status and our influence to enter into public conversations about preventing violence against women and support a workplace where we have conversations about gender equality.”

Ms Chapman said it was important gender equality is carried through from their community programs into the workplace environment.

“We help staff make the link between gender equality and preventing violence to women,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time in the workplace and I think it will be true to say that people take on the culture, norms and values of their organisation both in their professional lives and private lives too. Therefore our staff are able to take back the notions of gender equality into their everyday lives and consequently into communities in which they live.”

Under the pilot, each participating organisation will assess its own performance and come up with a series of actions and benchmarks to help it improve. This includes examining how its workplace reinforces gender stereotypes, whose voices are prioritised in decision-making, whether there are flexible workplace policies for both parents and how comfortable staff feel in raising concerns.

Our Watch CEO Mary Barry said tackling structural discrimination and disadvantage at work can be a catalyst for wider cultural change in the community.

“Workplaces are a key setting for the prevention of violence against women, not only because violence can occur in the workplace but because workplaces significantly influence our attitudes, beliefs or behaviours,” she said.

“Within the workplace itself, sexual harassment affects one in five people aged 15 years or over, and four out of those five harassers are male employees.”

Ms Barry said as long as women are seen as less equal than men, disrespect and violence against women will continue.

“We know women’s experiences of violence outside the workplace, such as in the home, can also impact on the workplace,” she said.

“By implementing programs and policies to help prevent violence and provide support to those who may experience violence, workplaces can really benefit through increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and improvement in staff health and wellbeing.”

The Workplace Equality and Respect Standards are supported by accompanying tools, which will be continually improved until May 2017. At the completion of the project in May next year, these resources will be freely available to all workplaces.

family violence, women, children, our watch, community, connections

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

This original article was found on

Shine a light on road safety

Connections is playing a part in making our roads safer by supporting Shine a Light on Road Safety. The campaign aims to raise awareness, to stop deaths and injuries on our roads and to raise funds to support those impacted by road trauma.

Motorists are encouraged to turn on their headlights on Friday 6 May to demonstrate their commitment to road safety. This will happen on all freeways in the metro area thanks to Transurban, Connect East, VicRoads and the Western Freeway between Ballarat and the SA boarder will also have signage.

Landmarks will also be illuminated for the week or part thereof (including: Parliament House, AAMI Park, Bolte Bridge, State Library of Victoria, Geelong Carousel and Ballarat Town Hall). Watch the video here.

You can also participate in various community events:

  • Community Festival Friday 6 May at Traralgon Showgrounds from 6:00pm.
  • Walk Sunday 15 May at Jells Park, Mount Waverley at 11:00am. It's a short walk (2km and 5km options) with entertainment and a BBQ afterwards.

The aim of this event is to raise awareness and much needed funds for the Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV), a not-for-profit organisation contributing to the safety and wellbeing of Victorian road users. RTSSV provides counselling, information and support to people impacted by road trauma, and address attitudes and behaviours of road users through education.

Make a difference:

  • Share the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • Use hashtag #shinealightonroadsafety on social media
  • Subscribe to the Shine a Light on Road Safety newsletter for updates
  • Download free resources in the Shine a Light on Road Safety toolkit, including posters, adverts and flyers
  • Fundraise to support Road Trauma Support Services Victoria campaigns
  • Partnerships: find out how your organisation can help Shine a Light on Road Safety for 2016

Road trauma continues to have a devastating impact on the whole community. We can all play a role in reducing road trauma by shining a light on dangerous behaviours and highlighting ways our friends and family can keep themselves safe.” – Doug Fryer, Road Policing Assistant Commissioner.

Supporting the community:
If you have been impacted by road trauma contact the RTSSV for free information, support and counselling on 1300 367 797.

School Attendance Support Project is a real class act

The School Attendance Support Project is another Connections' program which supports children in their education.

Connections’ Family Services Worker, Sarah works in the School Attendance Support Project (SASP). Mid last year, Sarah received a complex referral to support Michael*, a child in Grade 6 with severe anxiety issues. Michael had only attended school for 1.5 days at the time of referral.

Sarah developed strategies to manage Michael’s anxiety particularly around him leaving his mother. Sarah reinforced a team approach in his return to school with him included in discussions.

Sarah started with driving Michael from home to the school and parking outside the school gates. As his trust grew, Michael progressed by exiting the car and walking around the school oval and eventually meeting with the principal and his class teacher.  

Within a month, Michael started attending school for a one hour block with Sarah providing support the entire time in the classroom.
Together, Sarah and Michael discussed and monitored his anxiety levels and provided ongoing positive encouragement when small goals were achieved. Michael talked through and challenged his negative thoughts enabling him to participate in a return to school plan.

Open communication continues with the school to ensure all parties are aware of the return to school plan. The school principal and reception staff continue to provide positive affirmations when Michael attends school.

Since becoming involved with SASP:

  • Michael initiated social catch ups with friends for the first time in two years.
  • Michael participated in a sleep over at a friend’s home and continues to develop positive peer friendships.  
  • Michael is wearing his school uniform.
  • Michael attended his Grade 6 graduation and transitioned to secondary school.
  • He attended Year 7 camp – his first camp ever.

Michael recently advised Sarah, “My long-term goal is to finish school and go to university and do [sic] social work like you because I would also like to help kids like myself when I grow up. Because I know how awful anxiety can feel. I would be good at helping kids like you do.”

The School Attendance Support Project aims to increase school attendance, facilitate school connectedness, and support community integration. Service delivery is aimed at supporting vulnerable families through intensive outreach family support and addressing blockages to education.

If you would like more information about this program, please contact the Pakenham office on 03 5945 3900.

*Names have been changed


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