60 seconds with Christine Williams

Name: Christine Williams

Agency: Connections UnitingCare

Role: Communications Officer

Time working with UnitingCare: 20 months

Favourite TV program: Home and Away, however of all time is – How I Met Your Mother

Favourite movie: Inside Out and Shutter Island off the top of my head. Basically anything Disney or a good thriller

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Watching football (soccer), sleeping and having a good feed

If you could have any five people over for dinner, who would you invite? Queen Elizabeth II for a good old fashioned chinwag and I hear she is a chocoholic, David Beckham to talk football, Ed Sheeran to have a beverage with and to sing for me, the Dalai Lama for spiritual enlightenment, and Gordon Ramsey for comic relief and to obviously cook dinner. I assume my husband will be there, if he’s part of the five – I’ll ditch Lizzy

Favourite travel destination: Montreal, Canada

Where have you travelled recently? I went to Daylesford for a weekend getaway. Overseas, I travelled to Mauritius and visited some European cities – Budapest, Rome, Paris, London and Liverpool and Manchester to watch two football games – Manchester United at Old Trafford and Liverpool at Anfield

What do you like the most about working at UnitingCare? It excites me to work for an organisation committed to ‘making lives better.’ In my role, I enjoy sharing our stories through different mediums and bringing colour to our audiences

How would you describe yourself in 3 words? (A) happy little Vegemite

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The UnitingCare Network Project Update

THE UnitingCare Network Project’s Transition and Integration Manager Dr Leanne McCormick and NDIS Transition Manager Helen Killmier began their new roles earlier this month.

Leanne comes to the position with significant experience in program and change management within the not-for-profit and government sectors.

In recent years, Leanne has been involved with a number of organisations undertaking substantial organisational or service model redesign initiatives.

These have included Scope Victoria (supporting transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme), Ambulance Victoria as a change management specialist on a proposed new operating model, as a Program Manager (with the Transport Ticketing Authority) on the myki ticketing project, as well as an active panel member of the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Gateway Review program supporting major infrastructure projects.

Alongside her professional commitments, Leanne’s PhD, completed in 2014, explored the underlying drivers of volunteer engagement.

Helen, who has been seconded from lifeAssit, brings a strong professional relationship with the NDIA, a sound understanding of the disability services system and an extensive working knowledge of Federal and State government policy.

She is a registered community psychologist and has worked within the disability, mental health, aged care, local government, alcohol and other drugs, homelessness, forensic and justice sectors.

The initial focus for both Leanne and Helen is meeting with the agencies around the NDIS and New Agency projects, understanding the significant work that has taken place, and planning the considerable work that needs to continue.

Leanne said the success of the projects was very much dependent on maintaining and further building collaborative relationships with the agencies, and maintaining clarity around the change vision. She and Helen intend to work closely with the agencies and Synod staff across the UCVT unit and other divisions.

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Share launches its Winter Appeal

SHARE’S annual Winter Appeal kicked off earlier this month to raise vital funds for UnitingCare and Uniting Church emergency relief programs. The programs aim to help address underlying structural causes of disadvantage and are preventative in nature.

Share receives applications for grants which highlight the work being done across a network of UnitingCare agencies who respond to the needs of people who experience a crisis.

This year’s appeal focuses on the story of Lisa who was injured and forced to take time off work.

The single mum of two was then dealt a bitter blow after she returned to work to be told they had no hours for her. Read her story here.

Please share this year’s appeal with your networks where appropriate, as we want to make sure that as many people as possible hear about the appeal. It is vital to the future of a whole range of community support programs that the government does not fund (particularly emergency relief services).

If you would like a copy of an email version of the appeal that you can forward to your networks, please email jenni.ferris@victas.uca.org.au

Thank you for your support.

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Page wins Lifetime Achievement Honour

BIRCHIP’S Anne Page has been added to the Victorian Disability Awards Lifetime Achievement Honour Roll, highlighting her dedication to supporting people with disability and their families.

The Victorian Disability Awards recognise people and organisations who make outstanding contributions to empowering people with a disability and creating an inclusive community.

Mrs Page was formally added to the Lifetime Achievement Honour Roll which recognises exceptional individuals who have made a significant contribution during the past 20 years and demonstrated an outstanding commitment to empowering people with a disability and improving outcomes for people with a disability in Victoria.

Up until August last year, Mrs Page was the coordinator for the Wimmera Parent Support Network, auspiced by Wimmera UnitingCare. The network aims to support families who have a child or children aged up to 18 years of age who have an intellectual disability, physical disability, developmental delay, sensory or an acquired brain injury.

Wimmera UnitingCare Service Team Manager Emma Cook said Mrs Page had touched the lives of hundreds of families over a 40-year career.

She said the nomination and honour was well-deserved.

“Anne has a history of supporting people with their life journey and empowering them to make changes and choices,” she said.

“She has been a leader in the region, ensuring that people who live in rural and remote areas of the state are still able to access high quality services.

“She has been instrumental in developing new and exciting programs within the region.”

Ms Cook said Mrs Page originally intended to retire after leaving the network but has since been recruited by the Association for Children with a Disability.

 

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The Servant Community

By Deb Bennett

THOUSANDS of volunteers are often described as the ‘backbone’ of the Uniting Church. The importance of volunteers to the work of the church cannot be underestimated. This is particularly so in relation to the synod’s UnitingCare Vic/Tas (UCVT) network, where volunteers work in a variety of settings to ensure the smooth operation of service delivery. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of volunteers, UCVT recently conducted a detailed Volunteer Strategy Project report which was released during National Volunteer Week 9-15 May.

Bessy Andriotis is a project officer with UCVT. She said the report highlights that, for some people, volunteering is seen as a natural extension of their faith.

“The most common reason people volunteer is the sense of purpose and meaning it gives them and the difference they make in the community as a result of their volunteering,” Ms Andriotis said.

“Unlike secular agencies, the Uniting Church involves volunteers in its congregations and other institutions because ‘we are the body of Christ and we are all part of the servant community’. Volunteers contribute to their mission and support the programs of agencies.”

She said it was important to develop a profile of volunteering throughout the agency network, not only to ensure the needs of volunteers are being met, but to best use the skills and experience of those who donate their time. The impact of volunteers is vital for the work of the church, so it is important agencies continue to support this much-needed resource.

“In some circumstances volunteers play a critical role in service delivery and care. For example, Lifeline relies on volunteers to answer the phones and out-of-home care relies on foster carers to care for children.”

More than 4000 volunteers support UCVT agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria, while 600 people volunteer for Uniting AgeWell and many more donate their time throughout UC schools. The report was compiled from information gathered through surveys, forums, focus groups and interviews.

Ms Andriotis said issues facing agencies in the future are very similar to those facing congregations.

“The two most common factors which make it difficult to attract volunteers is the ageing of the prospective pool of volunteers and the emergence of people who are looking for different ways to volunteer,” Ms Andriotis said.

“Volunteers’ expectations and needs are changing, they are more highly skilled, baby boomers may be less likely to slot into historical volunteer roles and make a regular firm commitment, and many of today’s volunteers like to do things that are of interest, more so than simply ‘helping’.

“Agencies need to provide volunteer opportunities that are innovative and outside traditional models for each of these demographic groups.”

The findings of the report have prompted UCVT to recommend a number of new initiatives. These include establishing a volunteer coordinators network, development of new ways of engaging volunteers, greater use of the online space for recruitment and engagement and promotion of successful volunteering strategies throughout the network.

Ms Andriotis said the report also identified areas where the changing nature of church reflected different expectations of volunteering.

“One presbytery in particular is engaged in a strategy to regenerate the church,” she said. “It is encouraging members to connect with people in the community in new ways, so it is anticipated that new kinds of church will bring about new kinds of volunteering.”

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Making dreams come true – Brooke’s story

CONNECTIONS UnitingCare is committed to its South Eastern Chances scholarship program and providing people like Brooke with more than just an opportunity to succeed.

From a young age Brooke displayed a natural talent for dancing. Her parents worked tirelessly to put their daughter through classes to help her achieve her dream of being a professional performer. But it wasn’t always easy. And when Brooke’s father became unable to work, times got tough.

“Everything for me has always been about dancing. I can’t think of anything else I’ve ever wanted – I’ve always wanted to dance, it’s just what I’ve done and what I know. Every time I’m dancing or on stage performing, I don’t really need to think about anything. It’s just such a different world. Nothing worries me while I’m dancing.”

Brooke’s dance classes were in jeopardy and the family relied on financial support from her grandparents to see them through. Brooke’s parents even put their home on the market, downsizing to a smaller house just to be able to afford her lessons. However it still wasn’t enough to ease the financial pressure on the family.

Unsure of where to turn for help, Brooke’s mother found our South Eastern Chances scholarship program; a program that provides funding to ease the financial pressure on young people to support them in reaching their goals.

The support Brooke and her family received from the program allowed her to continue with her lessons, which lead to her being accepted into an elite dance school where she now teaches and helps mentor other young dancers like her, whilst also completing her studies and a fitness traineeship.

There is no denying Brooke’s drive and dedication to dancing, but without our support she may never have had the opportunity to reach her full potential.

Sadly, there are many young people facing an uncertain future as financial hardship prevents them from following their dreams. By making a donation towards our South Eastern Chances scholarship program you will be providing young people like Brooke with more than an opportunity to succeed, you will also be giving them hope, support and encouragement to follow their dreams.

For more information go to http://bit.ly/1Ov7gLi

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In the Media

Volunteering role adding up for Iranian migrant Elham, Geelong Indy, May 12 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alarm over Craigieburn mortgage debt, Northern Star Weekly, April 18 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regional LGBTI advocates welcome plan to back Safe Schools, urge Bendigo schools to sign up, Bendigo Advertiser, April 18 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lloyd Street Primary School knits blankets for the sick and homeless, Stonnington Leader, April 26 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

UnitingCare meals were found on a Wodonga footpath by a man who is concerned someone might be abusing the service, The Border Mail, April 8 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wimmera UnitingCare calls for more crisis housing, The Stawell Times-News, May 5 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wimmera UnitingCare drought assistance program funding dropped, The Wimmera Mail Times, May 5 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wimmera UnitingCare responds drive in movie night preparations, The Wimmera Mail Times, April 29 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State budget 2016: Wimmera UnitingCare responds, The Wimmera Mail Times, April 28 2016

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Saying thanks to our volunteers

UNITINGCARE Victoria and Tasmania agencies marked National Volunteer Week earlier this month by thanking volunteers for their dedication in delivering services throughout local communities.

The week ran from May 9-15 with the theme Give Happy, Live Happy to celebrate and explore the research that shows volunteers live happier and healthier lives.

Over 4000 volunteers support UCVT agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria, while 600 people volunteer for Uniting AgeWell and many more donate their time throughout Uniting Church schools.

Volunteers work in a range of different settings including emergency relief centres and back office administrative work.

Elham Arvan is just one of them.

Elham was referred to UnitingCare Geelong’s Grovedale agency by a local recruitment company to further develop her skills and meet new people.

Volunteer Elham Arvan

From writing cheques, processing payments and managing accounts Elham says she enjoys the varied role.

“I enjoy working with numbers and getting a taste of what it would be like to work as an Accountant,” Ms Arvan said.

“The team are very friendly and have welcomed me with open arms.”

While volunteering at UnitingCare Elham is looking for paid employment.

“In Iran, I worked as an Accountant for a couple of different businesses. I find the role is much the same here in Australia,” Ms Arvan said.

Chief Executive Officer Des Younghusband said it takes a special type of person to be a volunteer.

“At UnitingCare Geelong we have volunteers from all walks of life, who share an enthusiasm for helping those in need,” Mr Younghusband said.

“Elham has proven to be a great addition to our finance and administration team. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation. Without them we wouldn’t be able to provide practical assistance to 5,500 locals a year who experience financial and personal hardship.”

Jordan Miller, 26, volunteers at Kildonan UnitingCare as a mentor for the Youth Mentoring program since 2013. It came after he saw an advertisement looking for people to work with teenagers and build a young person’s confidence by being a supportive role model.

“It seemed like something that was very worthwhile,” Jordan said.

Jordan was paired with a 13 year-old teenager who is living in residential care after experiencing family breakdown.

“He had been moved around quite a bit and chose to couch surf with his friends,” Jordan said.

“I got to appreciate he had to deal with a lot for someone his age.”

Jordan aims to meet with the young boy once a fortnight to encourage him to make better choices and boost his self-esteem.

“Young people in his situation don’t have a lot of people they can turn to,” Jordan said.

“I have worked with people in similar situations and it really does impact you.”

It’s estimated 90 per cent of young people who are mentored have a more positive view of the future while 71 per cent increase their school attendance.

The Youth Mentoring program has seen many young people work with influential role models who have gone on to further education.

Jordan, who is studying his Masters of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne, says he has always had an interest in helping vulnerable young people.

‘Volunteering gives me a purpose and allows me to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

“I’m happy I volunteered to be a Youth Mentor in my local community.”

From 2014-2015 Kildonan UnitingCare has matched 23 young people with Youth Mentors as a way to give them direction and guidance at a pivotal time in their lives.

Jordan has this message to anyone who would like to become a volunteer.

“If you have some time to devote to young people and are willing to make a commitment, it is definitely worthwhile,” he said.

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