Aboriginal Artist teams up with Barnardos Canberra

Artwork by Eddie Longford

The Intensive Intervention Service Team at Barnardos Canberra teamed up with local Aboriginal Artist Eddie Longford. Together they came up with the beautiful idea on how to represent Barnardos Canberra in the local area with Indigenous Art.

Sitting on top of all in the Centre is a large circle, this is Barnardos Canberra.  Around it is U shapes of all different sizes – this represents staff and clients – it also represents being welcoming and inclusiveness. You will also see that there are U shapes on the outer edge that lead to the Centre – this represents the work the staff do externally with families and children in the community. The outer U shapes on these are the clients – the track behind them represents them coming and going as needed. These symbols in this cluster also represent learning.
Eddie Longford 

At Barnardos, we approach our work with children, young people and families in a way that is respectful and curious of all cultures. We acknowledge Sorry Day in an effort not to repeat the mistakes of the past and recognise the great trauma caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families by successive government policies.

We are committed to be brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for all, especially Aboriginal children, young people and their families.

Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians. We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures, and futures.

sass & bide x Barnardos 2022 tee now launched!

We are thrilled to announce the release of the 2022 “Universal Love” limited edition tees from sass & bide with 100% of profits coming to Barnardos Australia.

A symbol of love, identity, and a sense of belonging.

Centred around a gold heart, the tee is a homage to the richness of the relationships the family workers and children share.

Twins Ka’iulani and Mirriyindi aged 10 affectionately shared:

“Barnardos tells us that we are all a family and give us opportunities to play with our friends and be creative with our art and culture.”

Shop the tee here

sass & bide 2022 tee


Barnardos Australia and Rainbows Families celebrate Family Pride Day at Petersham townhall

On Sunday, Barnardos Australia joined their partner, Rainbows Families, to celebrate Family Pride Day at Petersham townhall.

The event was a wonderful success, with beautiful families in all shapes and sizes enjoying activities such as a photo booth, face painting, and a free raffle prize (kindly donated by Sass & Bide) drawn by the fabulously vibrant Drag Queen, Joyce.

Thank you to the staff who assisted on the day, Rebecca Villarreal, Tracey Mulligan, Amanda Budden, Timothy Hunt, Bill Greenfield, Leonard Brown, Chelsie Bedding, and a shout out to the key people who worked behind the scenes to make this event happen, Natalie Logan, Alana Indratheb, and Mariam Rifai.

Auburn Centre: A roof over the head is a basic need for families!

When you have a roof over your head, you can get on with life; family and friends can visit; you have an address for forms and applications; you can enroll your children in school; you are eligible for support from services; you can feel basic safety! If you don’t have one, life becomes unbelievably tough!

Our Youth and Families Homelessness Service at Auburn is very fortunate to come with transitional accommodation. Many of the families and young people coming into our program do not have anything but some bags of clothes. For example, in the past 6 months, we have helped 2 families whose houses burned down and a young pregnant mum who recently aged out of her foster family placement.

Supporting families and young people at risk of homelessness includes a lot of practical and material assistance, especially at the beginning.

Along with all the family support case management, our team is also helping to set up properties for families to move in.

We provide weekly groceries from Oz Harvest. So, pandemic or not, we regularly move around a lot of stuff!

Barnardos & Australian Mutual Bank lend a hand at Youthchella Art and Music Festival

On Wednesday 13th April 2022, Australian Mutual Bank (AMB) who has long been a supporter of Barnardos Australia through their association with the Australian Mutuals Foundation (AMF) lent a hand at the Youthchella event. The event was held at Marrickville Youth Centre, where the Barnardos Sydney Youth Services team (aka Reconnect) hosted a market stall.

Youthchella Art and Music Festival is a creative and fun event organised as part of the NSW Youth Week, a NSW government initiative that began in 1989 dedicated to young people aged from 12 to 25 years. The event featured a live interactive performance hosted by local artists, an art exhibition, local service providers stalls, health nurses offering COVID vaccinations, and free food and drinks.

At the Barnardos Sydney Youth Services (Reconnect) market stall, jewellery and information were up for grabs to encourage engagement and conversations with young people in attendance. AMB employee Debby, along with volunteers from other organisations came to assist with stall set up, presence, pack down and generally getting involved and having fun.

“Despite the rain later in the day, it was a good day and the kids appeared to have a ball” said Debby post-event.

A massive thank you to everyone for providing support to the wonderful work that day!

‘Through thick and thin’: Landmark study backs open adoption

Damien Fitzpatrick says adoption changed his life. IMAGE CREDIT:NICK MOIR

Damian Fitzpatrick bounced between foster families between the ages of three and six after he was badly injured by his mother’s boyfriend. He was told the families would be permanent – but they weren’t. “You start not to believe the things the adults in your life tell you,” he said.

Then one couple finally adopted him, making Mr Fitzpatrick (his biological father’s name) their legal son while agreeing to facilitate contact with his biological mother. “It changes your life,” said the 35-year-old. “It takes a while to sink in [that] they can’t give you back.”

Oxford and Loughborough universities on Wednesday published a study of 210 children, including Mr Fitzpatrick, who were involved in a NSW program that allowed the adoption of abused, neglected, non-Aboriginal children between 1987 and 2013, but mandated contact with their birth family.

The study was done in partnership with Barnardos Australia, which ran the program, and found that educational and employment outcomes for the children were significantly better than for those who remained in foster care, and almost as good as the general population.

While the adopted children were more likely to have estranged or minimal relationships with their adoptive parents than the general population, those relationships were twice as likely to persist into adulthood as those between care leavers and foster parents.

“One of the most significant findings was the extent to which the adoptive parents acted as a protective factor for the children. They stood by them through thick and thin,” said Harriet Ward, Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Research at Loughborough University.

A key focus for researchers was the contact between children and their birth parents, as in other jurisdictions that contact is rare and often takes the form of letters.

Almost all birth parents of children in the study were struggling with issues such as mental illness and drugs and alcohol, and serious maltreatment was the main reason for removing more than 90 per cent of children from home. Like Mr Fitzpatrick, many had multiple foster placements before they were adopted.

More than 85 per cent of adoptees had continuing contact with at least one birth parent, and 87 per cent continued to see a grandparent or other relatives. In 40 per cent of cases, contact visits went smoothly, but more than half of the adoptees and their parents found them problematic. Nonetheless, two thirds found them beneficial.

Issues included birth parents’ behaviour during contact – some arrived affected by drugs or alcohol, and some brought the person who abused the child. Two thirds of decisions to cease contact were made by the child themselves.

“It’s not about creating happy families,” said Professor Ward. “Everyone had to confront the issues they had. Adoptees had to learn why they had been placed for adoption. Birth parents had to confront their views of adoptive parents.

“The myths dissolved. They came to see that their birth parents were people who had many difficulties in their lives. The birth parents came to see the adoptive parents as people who loved their children.

“The adoptees could see that the grass was not greener on the other side. A lot of them had good relationships with grandparents, and because of mandatory contact.”

Professor Ward said the study demonstrated that when the choice was between adoption and foster care, an adoptive placement “is more beneficial for the child. It’s more likely to last, and the outcomes are better.” However, she said permanent fostering could give children security if it was well-supported, and cited Scandinavia as a region in which this was done well.

Adoption remains a highly sensitive and contentious issue in Australia, due to the trauma faced by stolen generations of Indigenous children and decades of forced adoption last century. Barnardos refers all Aboriginal children to Aboriginal foster agencies.

In 2014, NSW introduced reforms to make adoption the preferred option for children who are removed by courts from their families, and where no other relative can care for them. Only the ACT has similar laws.

Barnardos chief executive Deirdre Cheers hoped the study would prompt other states to consider NSW’s model, and prompt NSW to make the adoption process smoother.

“Foster care is not permanent,” she said. “Some states have permanent care orders, but the reality is they can be challenged over and over again in the court, and that is very destabilising for children and foster carers.

“We are seeing very few open adoption care plans going to the children’s court, we’re seeing lawyers who are advocating strongly on the basis of adult rights, and not considering the children’s rights issues.”

Professor Amy Conley Wright from Sydney University said adoption – which permanently severs the legal relationship with the birth family – worked for some children, but not all.

“It is particular for the individual, that’s why you always have to be cautious in saying there’s a simple solution,” she said. “That’s why it’s good to have different types of arrangements for different circumstances.”

This article first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

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Barnardos Mudgee assist 132 individuals as the Federal Government rejects national homelessness strategy

Picture by Jay-Anna Mobbs. Barnardos Mudgee program manager, Mark Hoare said homelessness is prevelant in the Mid-Western Region.

As more Mid-Western residents become homeless, the social housing system continues to buckle, with years of wait times and next to no affordable options available to alleviate the pressure.

From January 1 to February 16 this year, the Mudgee Barnardos Specialist Housing Service (SHS) assisted 132 individuals, adults and children in the Mid-Western Local Government Area experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

This comes as the Federal Government rejects the recommendation from a Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness to develop a 10-year national strategy to address the growing crisis.

“The Morrison Government’s refusal to develop a homelessness strategy is deeply disappointing, not only for our most vulnerable who desperately need assistance, but also to our homelessness services around the country who work so hard to help them,” Homelessness Australia Chair, Jenny Smith said.

“Homelessness Australia’s data projections show 25,000 new social housing properties per year, as well as the implementation of the Housing First programs needed to sustain those homes and keep people well, would end 275,000 instances of homelessness, and prevent 175,000 more in the 10 years to 2032.

“The Federal Government can and must do more to help end homelessness in Australia.”

With a shortage of affordable options, rising rents, and a surge in short-term stay, the ability to offer relief to those experiencing homelessness in the region has become a challenge, according to Barnardos Mudgee program manager, Mark Hoare.

“The Mid-Western Region continues to provide the much sought-after balance of country lifestyle and small town feel with just enough energy and access to services to be a desired place to live. Unfortunately, this brings a double-edged sword to the public and private housing market,” Mr Hoare said.

A search on the Airbnb website revealed there are approximately 350 short-stay accommodation sites available across the Mid-Western area, with 281 in Mudgee alone.

“Tourism drives the need for additional Airbnb style get away destinations and financially makes sense for landlords to invest in the housing market this way. However, it forces many once, affordable rental properties out of the market and spins vulnerable families into a desperate cycle of homelessness and disruption,” Mr Hoare said.

“Visiting contractors into town also provide property investors with ideal short term and medium-term leasing opportunities, with many corporate companies securing ‘crash pads’ for the teams of workers at above market rental rates.

“Financially, this cost is too much of a stretch for many of our singles who fall into the lower income earning bracket but have no housing.”

Demand for public housing is just as high, with a five to 10 year wait on a one or four plus bedroom property in Mudgee, and a two to five year wait for a two or three bedroom home in the locality.

And with only 16 of the 95 applications listed as a priority as of June 30, 2021, Mr Hoare said the crisis needs to be addressed.

“Public housing waitlists are stretched and the priority housing list for people in this space also has the issue of greater numbers than available property stock in order to meet the demand.” Barnardos Mudgee program manager, Mark Hoare

“There are multiple pathways to homelessness, and they all need to be addressed within a person’s personal experiences themselves, as well as within the context of our wider community responses and dare I say, responsibilities.

“It is only in this inclusive way that services like Barnardos can operate in order to effectively create positive, measurable and long-term change.

“We desire to see a future where it is possible for families to enjoy a sustainable housing future and a ‘breaking out’ of people caught up in the cycle of homelessness or at the very least, the continued risk and threat at the loss of a safe and secure place to live and thrive.”

This article first appeared in the Mudgee Guardian here.

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Empowering children to achieve

Shaniece at the Bundaleer Community Centre in Warrawong

My name is Shaniece and I grew up on the Bundaleer Housing Estate in Warrawong. I moved here when I was 10 years old – and it was a pretty scary place. There was a lot of violence, drugs and alcohol abuse.

I would often come down to the Bundaleer Community Centre, where Barnardos would support kids like me. They provided homework help, breakfast or afternoon snacks and a safe space for us
to hang out with friends. Coming here showed me I wasn’t alone. That others shared the same feelings as me.

As a teenager, I dealt with this stigma of people looking down on you because of where you’re from. You felt that because you lived in a bad area, you’re not worthy of support. But Barnardos believed in me. I joined their youth group and they got me a tutor during high school. This place helped me out so much with my education.

The best thing about youth group was it made me feel important. It made me feel valued. And it led me to my current job at Beyond Empathy, where I now do community-based work at Bundaleer. I talk to neighbours, kids and teens. I support them, give them advice and we work together making movies and podcasts. It’s a great opportunity for kids to get creative and gives the community an avenue to speak out. To have their voices heard. I’ve come full circle. I used to come here as a kid, as a teenager and now I’m an adult coming in here helping the kids out in my community. I couldn’t think of anything else better to do with my life to be honest, it’s the best thing ever.

I know what it’s like living here – it’s really not a bad place. So, it feels good to give back to Bundaleer for what it’s done for me. To see kids that I used to play with now growing up into teenagers, and me giving them support, just like Barnardos supported me, is just surreal.

I’m so thankful that Barnardos were part of my childhood and it’s great to see them continuing to support children and families through the Bundaleer Community Centre. It’s important to invest in children because they’re the future. They absorb so much from what they see and from what adults do. Barnardos gives them the opportunity to learn and gives them the space to be who they are.

Penrith Youth & FCS Skate It Up

Last week on Thursday & Friday, our staff made the big trip up to Lithgow and Portland in the Blue Mountains to connect and share some fun times with the local community.

A free skateboard workshop, yummy sausage sizzle, games, prizes and most importantly spending time in Portland. Portland is a small rural community with a population of 2000 and no support services close by. This was a great way to show that even though we aren’t in Portland, FCS Lithgow is the closest link and want to ensure they know we are here to help when they need it.

The Family Connect and Support team with Penrith Youth Support were lucky enough to partner with Totem Skateboarding and Lithgow City Council for a day of community engagement and FUN.

The sun was shining, families were smiling, parents were socialising and children were playing. Something that has been so uncommon with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone wore masks and remained safe, a demonstration of our commitment as workers to health and wellbeing.

The team worked superbly together to inform everyone of Barnardos services and provide drug and alcohol educational workshops to both parents and young people in a very fun and engaging way.

Games and crafts were designed to cater to all ages and abilities and laughter filled the air.

It was beautiful to watch the pure joy on the young people’s faces as they won skateboards, pogo sticks, scooters, items for the lake and many more prizes. It was such an honour to work alongside this Penrith team and focus on providing these families with a fun day out and educational information that will help them in the future.

A new life together

Bernadette and Matt Latimer, adoptive parents to four siblings (L-R) Zander, Isaac, Matt, Eve, Bernadette and Zavier.

One of the things that made us want to look after siblings, is that we didn’t want anyone to be pulled apart. We didn’t want them to go to different homes where they’d grow up not knowing their family.

That’s why we have decided to give Zander, Eve, Isaac and Zavier a permanent place to call home. It has changed all our lives forever, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

When they first came into our care, my husband Matt and I were over the moon. I just wanted to hug them and not let them go. And now that we’ve adopted them, we can stay together as a family.

We’ve watched each and every one of them grow in confidence and blossom into their own unique personalities. It’s such a proud moment for us as parents to know that we’re making a real difference to their lives. We have built so much trust with them and as a result, the love between us just continues to build.

As the eldest sibling, Zander had to shoulder a lot of the responsibilities caring for his younger brothers and sister. But now that he has the chance to simply enjoy his youth, Zander’s a whole new person. He is in the top 10% of his selective high school and has been awarded the Volunteer of the Year Award for his involvement with our local surf lifesaving club. As parents, we give them every opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. We want them to experience everything life has to offer.

I would definitely encourage people to take on siblings because these kids need that security. So many have been pulled apart already, that’s why open adoption is so fulfilling – it transforms
their lives.

And as our beautiful 13-year-old daughter Eve said about being adopted with her brothers, “We all get to feel safe and happy together and we all get to be in the same new life together.”

Learn more about how you can make a difference through fostering.