Communities for Children (CfC) is an Australian Government Department of Social Services initiative. It fosters the development and wellbeing of children from birth to 12 years old who are living in communities experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.
CfC is delivered through Facilitating Partners (FP) who fund other organisations (known as Community Partners) to provide services to the community. This model has been shown to achieve positive results for children and families.
Windermere is an independent, not for profit organisation which provides services across Gippsland and Melbourne’s south-east.
The CfC site consists of five local communities in the postcode of 3977, being:
Cranbourne is an area of relative social and economic disadvantage where many families experience intergenerational poverty. Compared to the figures for Australia, on average in Cranbourne:
Windermere has been the Facilitating Partner of CfC Cranbourne since 2005. In this time, the population of the Cranbourne area has undergone rapid and sustained growth.
The high number of family violence incidents in Cranbourne reported to police is concerning and therefore remains a focus of the CfC work.
Data accessed via request from:
CfC Cranbourne uses strong evidence of what works most effectively to support children in the early years of their lives.
We help build capacity amongst local services and community members to enable better and safer futures for children and families.
Our vision is for a community where:
To achieve our vision, CfC Cranbourne funds and enables Community Partners to deliver a range of Cranbourne based programs and services. They build on local strengths to provide:
The CfC Facilitating Partner team undertook a range of initiatives during the year which enhanced outcomes for families by building a safer, more child-friendly community.
Working ‘with the community for the community’ is central to our work.
Spending time with children, talking to them, making sure that you are actively listening and taking seriously what they say is an essential safeguarding activity.
The child’s voice is important because:
Students from Cranbourne Park Primary School and Rangebank Primary School took part in a classroom-based activity in term 3, 2019 highlighting where they felt safe.
As part of the AusVels (Victoria Curriculum) Health and Physical Education; Personal, Social and Community Health; Being healthy, safe and active unit, children took part in a fun activity of drawing, colouring or writing on a paper t-shirt template I feel safe when…
The School Safety Project was delivered to two schools, Rangebank Primary and Cranbourne Park Primary.
At Rangebank Primary all 20 classes from Prep to Year 6, with children aged 5 to 12 years, completed the activity, a total of 400 students.
All 20 classes from Prep to Year 6 at Cranbourne Park Primary, with children aged 5 to 12 years, also completed the safety project. This was a total of 400 students, or 800 students across both schools.
Two t-shirt designs from each class were selected. These students were then given the opportunity to take part in converting their design onto a fabric t-shirt to be displayed at another time in the school.
Over one day, selected students from all the year levels came together to design their shirts. Two workers from Windermere’s CfC team facilitated the activity at the Cranbourne Primary Schools.
During this time the workers actively engaged and listened to the children about where they felt safe.
All children were able to take their paper t-shirt designs home once their responses had been collated. The children were also presented with a Kids Helpline wallet card of contact phone numbers to call if they ever needed help.
Some of the children interpreted the question of safety to mean where they might feel safe such as crossing the road at traffic lights or swimming between flags at the beach
Whilst others understood this to mean a place where they felt safe such outside or at school.
Some chose to select certain people who made them feel safe, with teachers ranking highly.
From these responses, a word art design was created capturing the words used by the children to describe where they felt safe. Each class was provided with their own copy to display. A copy was also hung up in reception as a reminder to children of where they might feel safe or who they could go to if they didn’t feel safe.
The more frequently words/images were used by students in their drawings, the larger they appear in the word art image.
CfC Cranbourne, in conjunction with the Cranbourne Library, displayed the t-shirts from Cranbourne Park Primary School at the Cranbourne Library over the term 3, 2019 school holidays. The children could visit the library and share their designs with their families. Cranbourne Park students were enthusiastic about going out into the Cranbourne community and seeing their t-shirts on display.
In addition, five t-shirts were displayed at the Department of Education and Training (DET) office in Dandenong in honour of Children’s Week. These t-shirts sparked conversations amongst staff members at the DET who were interested in the voices of children, specifically around safety as this is in-line with the AusVels curriculum.
The Project Team installed the Clothesline Project art display voicing the Cranbourne community’s rejection of Family Violence at Cranbourne Library; Casey Stadium; and Monash Health.
The CfC Project Team identified a gap in the sector’s skills and knowledge about the illicit drug methamphetamine (ice) within the community. The team liaised with 360Edge to promote the training to Cranbourne frontline workers and register participants. In February, 45 workers from 18 different organisations, (including the CfC team) attended the training.
The training was part of a series of free practical workshops funded by the Victorian Government’s Ice Action Plan and delivered by Australia’s leading consultants in ice responses.
The CfC team hosted an information table at the City of Casey Children’s Week family day along with Windermere NDIS and Family Day Care staff. Approximately 1,500 people attended the event.
Windermere partnered with a number of other service providers to stage the ‘Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk’ (Family and Friends) NAIDOC Week Celebration event at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria – Cranbourne. The theme for 2019 was ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth’ and over 2,000 adults and children attended from Cranbourne and beyond.
Project Officer Ellen Wachter oversaw the recruitment and coordination of approximately 30 volunteers from ten different organisations as well as some community volunteers.
The CfC FP team hosted a stall providing information about CfC Cranbourne and provided free back to school resources to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The resources included coloured pencils, grey lead pencils, erasers, ruler sets and Koorie themed colouring-in sheets. We engaged with 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and children.
In October 2019 we planned and staged a ‘Coachable Moments’ professional development workshop facilitated by the Parenting Research Centre to help build Community Partner capacity to serve our Cranbourne community. Twelve workers from six organisations attended. They learned new ways of interacting with parents/carers to help them build their personal sense of agency, confidence and competence.
Safe Families and Communities raises awareness of family violence issues and provides services to families experiencing violence. Anglicare delivers Baby Makes 3 and Beyond the Violence (BTV) group program for children and their non-offending parent. It also provides BTV facilitator training for staff and volunteers.
Baby Makes 3 is an evidence-based primary prevention group program for first-time parents. The discussion-based program assists parents to adapt to the demands and expectations of parenthood, and promotes equal and respectful relationships.
The first Baby Makes 3 program was completed between July and September 2019.
Twenty participants attended the first session and 12 completed evaluations, with over 80 per cent stating that the program was helpful. Some of the feedback from participants included:
A second Baby Makes 3 program included sixteen participants between January and March 2020. Out of the 14 participants who completed evaluations, all of them agreed the program was helpful.
Some of the ways participants described the program were:
One facilitator training program was held during July-September 2019. There were 28 participants during the three days of training with 25 evaluations completed. Three participants were not able to complete the training due to illness and work commitments, however, they plan to attend another facilitator training to complete their three days.
All the participants who attended the training stated that the training had met their expectations and that the program was beneficial.
Sixteen of the 25 participants have indicated their intention to volunteer to co-facilitate a program in the next 12 months.
Some of the ways participants described the impact of the program were:
Twelve participants completed a second BTV facilitator training which commenced in January-March 2020. Two participants were unable to complete it due to their workloads.
Below is an example of responses from participants stating what they had achieved as a result of the program:
Beyond the Violence is an eight-week group program for children and their non-offending parent. It supports families to be safe and move forward with their lives.
Beyond the Violence, October to December 2019
One BTV eight week program was held between 1 October 2019 and 31 December 2019. St Johns Anglican Church, Cranbourne generously hosted the program and out of the nine families who enrolled, six completed the program.
As a result of the program:
Some of the children’s reflections about the program:
The BTV program held in the period 5 May to 30 June was adapted to an online Zoom format due to COVID-19 restrictions. Seven families enrolled and six families completed the program.
Children were all present for the first four weeks on the nine sessions, except one child who had permission to attend school. The children then returned to school in staggered starts and finishes.
All the women who expressed interest in the program were asked to complete an online risk assessment with the coordinator of the program.
Four women were unable to take up the opportunity to be part of the program.
The one family who enrolled but ceased the program did so after the first session because another group member was known to them. They were subsequently enrolled in an alternative BTV program.
During one group session, two lawyers from Legal Aid answered legal questions from the group.
Participants were asked to rate themselves on a range of items on a scale of 1-10 before the group commenced and during their final session, with following results:
During the online BTV group, the child of one family was referred by an external counsellor to Child FIRST for counselling. Child FIRST accepted the referral and family Services were assigned the case. The assigned caseworker refused to state “there is nothing else we can do as you have met all your goals”. During the session, the mother spoke of feeling powerless. She was asked what you would like to do next. Mother stated that she felt she needed to talk to someone higher up in the family services team.
The following week the mother stated to the group that she had spoken to the team leader and the referral was accepted. She reported that before this program she would not have followed this up.
The Library has Legs – Early Years Literacies Outreach Program supports the development of children’s literacy and a sense of community connection in Cranbourne.
The program works with the families in Cranbourne who have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This includes local Aboriginal communities and families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. It also assists with facilitating outreach to playgroups and community activities that:
The Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup delivered to eight children and six families at the Royal Botanic Gardens – Cranbourne on a weekly basis during school terms and online during COVID-19 restrictions. The playgroup brings families together in the country to learn and share their experiences about culture and language.
Yam Daisy Bush Playgroup Christmas 2019
At the Bush playgroup 2019 Christmas party, we had yam daisy cooked on the BBQ, a staple diet for Aboriginal people before hoofed animals damaged the soil. The children planted these and watched them grow.
Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup
It was noticeable that during COVID-19 many families experienced increased isolation, the pressures of remote schooling and high-stress levels.
The Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children ran virtually over Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. Support was offered remotely, with activities restructured and designed for families to do together through their week, sharing experiences, songs and stories with the group, rather than holding activities over a screen.
Due to the challenges of screen fatigue, the usual two-hour program in the bush playgroup was reduced to an hour. To supplement this, families were provided to take away activities designed to support them to spend more time engaging with each other. The facilitators also sent them messages during the week.
For all groups, the workers were available for individualised support. This included:
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day
Library Has Legs usually starts planning for Children’s Day in April or May. The program usually distributes bags from SNAICC (the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children) for the event.
This year, due to COVID-19 the program had to find a new way to connect with families. They delivered packs to families that were far more extensive than just the SNAICC bag. The packs consisted of the SNAICC Children’s Day bags, two hardcover picture books released in June and July from a local Elder, a large craft pack filled with a huge array of materials and a handmade card for each family. Toys or stationery from Windermere, including a selection of coloured pencil sets, large bouncy balls, footballs and/or pencil and ruler sets were also included.
Families were told that they would be sent a parcel and were contacted individually to ensure their details were correct.
The parcels were sent in the last week of July in order to arrive before Children’s Day on 4 August. The program received extensive thank you messages and positive feedback as a result. Two highlights included photos from a child with a huge smile holding his new football and another photo of a child using their craft pack.
It was great to see the parcels bring so much happiness to families in what was a very stressful and isolating time.
On the day, the Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup met via Zoom. Families have texted a scavenger hunt and SNAICC Children’s Day cultural activity sheet in advance, so they could share some adventures from their scavenger hunt in the session and also learn a related word in the local Aboriginal language. They also had a dress-up opportunity and shared their favourite pages from the new books received in their parcels.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency was not meeting, but all participants were sent a message and care packages for Children’s Day. The SNAICC activity sheet, as well as another resource from OzChild that was produced by the Dhiiyaan Mirri Bridging Cultures Unit, was included with this package.
Cranbourne InfoLink is an entry point to other supports offered for families in Cranbourne. It is designed as an outreach service for members of the local community who may find services hard to access or engage with.
Outreach workers connect with people in a relaxed way at locations across Cranbourne where people go such as Centrelink Cranbourne, Monash Health, the local shopping centre, the library and Bunnings.
During the year a facilitated ‘ADHD Support Group’ ran on one Thursday per month at the Cranbourne Community House.
Cranbourne Women’s Multicultural Group was held each Wednesday during school terms at the Cranbourne Library.
These programs are important as they support the Cranbourne community to be aware of, and access important support services that are available within their community.
Due to COVID-19, Cranbourne InfoLink kept in phone contact with regular clients rather than in face to face settings.
Fortunately, most ADHD support group parents and carers settled into a home-based routine during the pandemic. They were happy to hear from program worker Flora over the phone and felt heard and listened to during this time.
However, phone contact was very different from physically seeing people face to face.
InfoLink programs could not run under the COVID-19 restrictions. Ongoing contact with the social workers at Centrelink was still maintained for clients who needed additional help or had received referrals for CISS services.
CISS maintained engagement with the participants who were unable to physically attend the groups and it was apparent that families had been very resilient. It is pleasing that CISS has gained their trust and they had a safe place to ask questions. Communicating via phone worked because there was already an existing relationship built on trust.
When Amanda* initially attended the ADHD support group she could not understand why her son Jake* was not able to follow instructions and was disruptive in the family group when he could behave well at school.
After her second visit, Amanda was motivated to do a lot more independent research and realised that Jake was reacting the way he did because of his ADHD. As a result, Amanda became much more understanding of Jake. She worked with him to understand his needs better and to allow him to have the free time he desperately needed at home but at the same time maintain a routine and regular structure.
“Amanda is an amazing woman and her little boy is going so well. She changed her attitude, asked a lot of questions of the facilitators, and did some independent research which has made a big difference her family’s life,” says Ann, co-facilitator of the ADHD Support Group.
*details changed to protect privacy.
Boys on the Bounce and Girls on the Go are culturally-tailored programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and girls aged 9 – 12 years. The programs support the boys and girls to develop friendships, strengthen their identity and shared experience within their community.
Boys on the Bounce is facilitated by male Aboriginal workers and Girls on the Go by female Aboriginal workers. The programs run for ten weeks across four school terms for students from Cranbourne primary schools. During COVID-19 face to face activities were suspended and the program was adapted to support the families.
A huge highlight from last year’s program was when the Girls on the Go group joined the Boys on the Bounce group and went to the gym together. The children were very engaged and they loved being with their family (some of them were brothers, sisters or cousins).
The eventual aim is to make the program more about culture, such as mapping language and finding out more about their own families, rather than just group activities.
Connecting with the girls was challenging during COVID-19, as they were not always able to join in via Zoom. There have been reports that this was due to practical difficulties at home, such as there not being enough computers in the family.
The girls who engaged during the lockdown indicated that they were bored and missed their friends, family members (who they see through the program) and some seemed to be struggling.
The biggest challenge during the pandemic was communication. As communication is directed through schools and parents, it was difficult to provide ongoing support. This was a particular concern for the girls who found the group a safe place to open up in the face to face format.
Eleven-year-old Jasmine* moved from regional Victoria to primary school in Cranbourne. She didn’t know anyone and was very shy and quiet. Rebecca, the facilitator, started yarning with her and told her about her own family connections from the area she had moved from. As the weeks went by, Jasmine started to speak more and come out of her shell. She was scared at first but became more confident. Rebecca asked her who she hung out with at school, and Jasmine stated that some days it was with some of the Girls on the Go girls and on other days it was with others. Rebecca noticed that the grade 6 girls who had been in the program for two years had made Jasmine feel really comfortable.
Last October, Cathy,* was having trouble with school attendance. She wanted to join Girls on the Go and was told she could try the program when her school attendance was better. Cathy started to attend school every day and even received a school award at the end of the year.
*details changed to protect privacy
The Early Matters group programs support the development of children by strengthening relationships between parents as well as parents and their children.
Participants learn alongside each other, allowing them to build relationships and social support. The highly skilled and experienced facilitators all have strong backgrounds in mental health promotion and family violence prevention.
Tuning in to Kids (TiK) teaches parents how to recognise and respond supportively to their children’s emotions. Parents are also taught strategies to identify and regulate their own emotions.
The program is based on attachment theory and focuses on helping parents to develop strong, sensitive and secure relationships with their children by listening and responding to emotional experiences. This year the program also ran additional COVID-19 emotional regulation sessions.
This group program is catered particularly to fathers. It contains the same core skills as Tuning in to Kids as well as further relevant content. During COVID this program transitioned to online delivery.
This group program supports fathers who have been violent towards their families and completed the Men’s Behavioural Change Level 2 program. The Repair-enting program supports men to:
During COVID this program transitioned to online delivery
I like, like you for Upper Primary (ILLY UP) encourages respectful and equitable relationships amongst year 5 and 6 primary school children. RAV delivers the program in partnership with schools.
Due to COVID 19 restrictions, this program was suspended from April 2020.
COVID-19 greatly affected RAV’s clients in both the way they accessed services and the impacts to their mental health.
As a result of the pandemic, RAV changed the service delivery to the groups. This ensured participants still had access to parenting programs and also to additional support and social support, which would usually occur naturally through the group processes.
TIK, TIK for dads and Repair-enting groups were offered over Zoom and participants responded well to this transition. Some provided feedback that Zoom was preferable as it was easier for them to attend; removing barriers such as travel time, limited access to childcare and work commitments. As a result, in the future RAV will now consider offering both online services and face-to-face sessions.
RAV also understood from relevant stakeholders, including clients, that Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) TIK groups might not be able to be conducted during the pandemic situation via Zoom or other online platforms due to language barriers and potential cultural issues.
In response, RAV converted one CALD group to 36 individual sessions for clients where the work was completed on a one-to-one basis. It is hoped that this can be delivered to the other group during the second half of this financial year as a normal group.
TIK general parents reported feeling “stressed, anxious and frustrated” due to the pandemic and associated restrictions. They also reported difficulty regulating their emotions, difficultly practising emotion coaching at times and experienced increased stress within their family unit.
RAV understand that when parents can regulate their own emotions, they are better able to practice and use emotion coaching with their children. Therefore, RAV offered three additional sessions focusing on strategies to help with the increased stress associated with COVID-19 restrictions. These sessions focused on both teaching and practising strategies such as deep breathing, mindfulness relaxation and other self-regulation strategies.
Nina* is a mother of two daughters aged 5 and 2 years old who attended the Tuning in to Kids general parenting group over Zoom. Nina is of overseas background and lives with her husband and two children. She advised she does not have any family support in Australia. On assessment, Nina reported perfectionism traits and was concerned about how this might affect her daughters. She also advised that she was seeing a community psychologist.
Nina engaged well with the TIK content and reported practising the strategies regularly in her home environment. She also commented favourably about the program and after the first session, she emailed her thanks to the reception.
Unfortunately, during the program, Nina had to have an unexpected medical procedure, which was distressing in nature. At this time, Nina was able to request and receive individual one-to-one TIK enhanced sessions for advice regarding discussing her procedure and impacts with her children in an age-appropriate manner.
Nina also attended the additional COVID-19 emotional regulation sessions, as she reported increased stress with homeschooling and her husband working “long days, six days a week” with no family support. After the sessions, Nina advised that she was able to start practising diaphragmatic breathing regularly and reported feeling calmer after only one week of practising. Nina was able to increase her levels of self-care by finding ways to incorporate self-care into her daily activity.
The TIK group including TIK enhanced and additional sessions provided Nina with important information regarding parenting and understanding her children’s development and emotions. As a result, Nina reported that she felt able to respond to her children differently and had a greater understanding of their behaviour. Nina also mentioned that she can now be kinder to herself, and allows herself time for self-care, something she previously struggled with.
‘“When I was going through a hard time you were able to provide advice and assistance about how I could speak with my children. The program was so beneficial and helpful for how I respond to my children. The group was helpful and a beautiful opportunity to share with other parents,” says Nina.
*details changed to protect privacy.
The School Attendance Support Program (SASP) works with Cranbourne families and schools to support primary school-aged students at risk of school disengagement.
SASP delivers case management to:
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on clients especially with restrictions around school attendance and remote learning. As a result, there has been limited face to face contact with families and most service delivery has been over the phone or by video call using various platforms.
Some children have engaged better with remote learning, particularly children who have anxiety and behavioural issues. During the lockdown SASP, practitioners offered support and coaching to parents who were having difficulties with remote learning. Interestingly SASP received several referrals for children who had difficulties with remote learning, although these children usually engaged well with school.
The transition to remote service delivery was more effective for those who were already engaged with SASP as relationships were already established. New families struggled a little to engage and it was particularly difficult for children to meet their workers for the first time online. This was overcome by engaging the parents which assisted in building relationships. Staff liaised with schools to promote school engagement for children at risk.
During the lockdown, SASP evolved new ways of engaging with the children online. This also included a much bigger focus on supporting parents, particularly those who were struggling with their parenting capacity, especially around education. SASP practitioners also spent time supporting parents, so that they had the capacity to assist with remote learning.
The COVID-19 situation provided the opportunity for a whole family approach for a family of four children.
Initially, Fiona, the SASP worker had met with the eldest child at school, but when the COVID lockdowns started phone and video calls commenced instead. This meant she could meet weekly with all four children, who ranged in age from four to 11 years old.
Fiona used a play-based approach to assist the children to develop their listening skills, emotional regulation and manners.
She also had phone calls with Vivian,*the children’s mother. This gave Vivian the opportunity to see strategies in action and to talk them through with Fiona.
“To start off with, it was chaotic. In the end, the children would listen, do the activity and Vivian was able to get more of a break, and feel more confident in responding to her children. I could step back in the video calls and allow mum to take on that role, and reflect with the kids on how things used to be, and how it feels at home now that mum isn’t angry,” says Fiona.
COVID-19 provided the opportunity for the whole of family approach. One on one meetings with each child would not have been possible otherwise. Importantly the family had already been engaged prior to the lockdown, so support was more easily transferred to video.