Anyone at any time can become a carer – a parent, a friend, a child, your partner, a sibling.

National Carers Week  (October 15-21) is an opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding and diverse role Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers play in the lives of the loved ones they support.

At Centacare, we encourage you to take a moment this week to think about people you may know who have a caring role. Perhaps you are a carer yourself.

We acknowledge that those who are dedicated carers of our clients are there before, during and after our involvement.

For some, caring will be something they do over time as the health of a love one slowly deteriorates. Others may assume a caring role more suddenly, as a result of an accident, crisis or mental health challenge. A child may juggle school and the care of a sibling or parent.

We value carers maintaining an active role in their loved one’s life
– Lauren Lo Basso, Assistant Executive Manager, Disability Services


Every situation is different but the impact they have on the life of those they support is significant.

Lauren Lo Basso, Assistant Executive Manager of Centacare’s Disability Services, says working in partnership with carers leads to positive outcomes for clients.

“Centacare is grateful for and acknowledges the continuous role our client’s carers have in contributing to the quality of care through sharing their knowledge, experiences and expertise.

“We value carers maintaining an active role in their loved one’s life and believe that through building a strong partnership with Centacare, we are able to achieve positive outcomes for the individuals we support.’’



One in eight Australians is in a caring role, with around one in ten aged under 25 years.

Sharon Hoffman is General Manager Client Services at Davoren Park-based Northern Carers Network and says the role of one carer is often multiplied within a family, across generations.

“The percentage of parents of children with a disability or mental health challenge who are also caring for their own mother and father is increasing,’’ she says.

“There are complex issues in many families; some parents may be caring for more than one child in addition to an ageing parent. That impacts the whole family, including siblings who essentially then become young carers.’’

Parenting carers are the `invisible backbone’ of national schemes designed to place the care of loved ones in independent hands, Sharon says, highlighting the NDIS.

“The level of support they provide in making such systems sustainable is crucial but it is often overlooked. Carers are essential to the success of these schemes.

“They are almost a partner to those schemes, and the NDIS and aged care systems may not be sustainable if carers weren’t playing their role.

“If you know someone who is in a caring role, express your gratitude, and take the time to connect with them socially. It’s important that carers are supported too.’’

For more information about National Carers Week, please visit the campaign website.


It’s school holidays – and time for fun and friendship at Kolbe Cottage.

With its state-of-the-art renovation complete, Kolbe is offering daily activities from Monday to Friday for young people aged 5 to 18 years with NDIS funding.

The Plympton service has been providing support for children with intellectual disabilities for more than 34 years.

Come along and join in:

  • Leisure and recreation activities
  • Community programs
  • Games and sensory learning opportunities
  • Outdoor learning and play
  • Swimming and music programs
  • Friendships and fun

Overnight stays and day respite on weekends is also available.

For more information or to book a spot in our school holiday program, phone our Disability Services team on 8215 6818 or email

To explore our NDIS support services, visit our new website.



Centacare’s K17 Challenge team are putting their feet up after walking the Kokoda Track earlier this month.

The Track offered up the usual mix of heat, humidity, rain and mud, snakes, spiders and, of course, relentless hills.

The K17s met the challenges with quiet determination and a good natured acceptance of hardship.

Assistant Director Bernie Victory says the group was one of the most efficient and disciplined in his 13 years of leading teams on the Track.

“The Track hasn’t got any easier but the K17s were well organised, had put in the required training, and looked out for each other.

“Every day was still hard but there was a remarkable absence of injury, illness, meltdowns and falls.

“All the tears were reserved for the emotional memorial services held at Isurava and Brigade Hill .’’

The team featured a diversity of ages with someone born in every decade from the 50s to the 2000s, and an equally diverse geographic and employment spread.

These differences became largely irrelevant as everyone trudged together up the endless bulk of Maguli ridge or cooled off together in the cool waters of Ofi Creek.

From Nik leading impromptu Yoga sessions on the banks of the Agu River, to KC breaking speed records, Paige making friends with local children, Jarden getting up close and personal to World War II ordinance, Gordon introducing a whole new music repertoire to the jungle, Jeff negotiating the intricacies of local currency and politics, Jacqui’s morning dance/exercise sessions or Paddy cheerfully accepting whatever tasks and challenges his youth invited, all contributed to a memorable journey across the Owen Stanley Ranges.

The group raised over  $50,000 for Centacare’s Kolbe Cottage and Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service, and donations have continued as the team have returned to normal life.

The K17s realised that you don’t ‘conquer’ Kokoda but that the Track offers a fleeting glimpse of its heroic and tragic history, its stunning beauty and rich culture and its relentless testing of body and mind.

They embraced that opportunity and can feel justly proud of their achievement.

Parents can nurture their children’s mental health by getting “back to basics’’, Centacare’s Lynne Thorpe says.

Manager of Family and Relationship Services at Murray Bridge, Lynne is urging families to take the time to reconnect.

“Parents can become so engulfed with what’s going on in their life that while they take care of their child’s basic needs, they forget that little person wants to be heard too.

“They want to talk about what they’re seeing and what’s happening in their life.

“Even though your grown-up world might be full, take the time to listen to them. See your child’s strengths and abilities and spend some one-on-one time with them.’’

Sharing household chores is a good opportunity to chat to your kids about their day, says Lynne, highlighting the benefits of standing together and doing the washing up.

“Get back to basics, put the phone down, and do the dishes together.

“Your children will talk about their day and will really feel heard. Everything now is so complex, those little things are what we all still need.’’

Parents often underestimate the impact on children of challenges such as financial hardship, transiency, unemployment and marital breakdown, says Lynne.

“They might not be the reason a child is at risk, but those sorts of factors are often in the background. They can be isolating.

“Families who are connected with their children and their extended family, and have social supports around them, fair better than those living in isolation.’’

Centacare is playing a key role nurturing the mental health of young people living in regional South Australia. Through our Supporting Children & Youth (SCY) program, we work with families to build their resilience and overcome challenges in their lives.   

Every week Centacare’s SCY team travels hundreds of kilometres to bring sunshine to the bush.

A mental health outreach service operating across the Murray, Mid Murray, Coorong and Mallee regions, SCY sees children and young people who are showing early signs, or are at risk, of mental illness.

SCY team members, from left: Christine Hazel, Alison Oppelaar, Lynne Thorpe and Angelica Valderrama

For many families, the free Murray Bridge-based service is their only support.

From Morgan to Pinnaroo, Mount Pleasant and Tintinara, the SCY team engages children aged 0 to 18 years to improve their wellbeing and overcome challenges.

“…we are doing a lot in the present to help the future”
– Angelica Valderrama, SCY Family Practitioner


These include family breakdown, grief and loss, bullying, loneliness, peer pressure, low self-esteem and self-labelling.

“Some stories can be difficult but if we don’t address things now, they can escalate even more, so I feel we are doing a lot in the present to help the future,’’ says Family Practitioner Angelica Valderrama, who has been with SCY for two years.

“Children can sometimes be very silent but we give them a voice and a chance for their feelings to be heard.

“It can be difficult for a child to talk about hard stuff, so I feel very proud when they tell me precious things because I have their trust.

“They have a lot of wisdom and sometimes we forget that as adults; the way children say some things can be so simple but so powerful and perfectly applied to our adult lives.’’

SCY provides intensive long-term early intervention, short-term supports and opportunities for young people to reconnect to community.

Manager Lynne Thorpe says a rise in the number of self-referrals, in addition to those from local schools, doctors and other service providers, shows the program is having a positive impact in communities where `rural stoicism’ and stigma around mental illness has traditionally deterred people from seeking help.

“We see the relief from parents because in a lot of these areas, there are no other services that will come to them,’’ says Christine Hazel, SCY Family Practitioner.

“When you live in a remote location, distance is a huge barrier to accessing supports for your children if you have a four-hour round trip there and back and have to take them out of school.’’

Social isolation can exacerbate life stressors in vulnerable families, with the rate of suicide in rural Australia about 40 per cent higher than in major cities. Drug and alcohol use and smoking is also more prevalent.

SCY Family Practitioner Alison Oppelaar feels privileged to work with young people as they navigate childhood and adolescence.

“Just saying to a child ‘buddy, I believe in you’ can be super powerful for them and for their parents,’’ she says.

“Some children have challenging behaviours but every kid we work with is awesome. If they can see that and believe in themselves and understand why they react to certain situations, a lot of positive change can happen.

“When you praise them and build them up gradually and really listen to them, they look at you with this beam – it’s very rewarding.’’

For more information about SCY, please phone Centacare Murray Bridge 8215 6320 or email

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Let’s take care of it together!

Help us spread the word that mental health is important for everyone by joining in Mental Health Week (October 8-14).

The annual national campaign is this year calling on South Australians to mind their health, with a focus on wellbeing, support and community.

Centacare and headspace Port Adelaide are taking part in events throughout the week. There will be exhibitions, stalls, discussions and more as we share positive reflections on mental health and work together to reduce stigma and discrimination.

Find us at:

  • Stall in the Mall – Monday, October 9, from 9.30am – 3.30pm, Rundle Mall, Adelaide.

How can we support you to mind your health? Explore headspace Port Adelaide’s support services, talk to our teams and take part in fun activities on the day.

  • Family & Friends Night – Monday, October 9, from 6-7.30pm, headspace Port Adelaide, 78-80 Vincent St, Port Adelaide.

Growing up can be tough at times! Come along and meet our team and explore how we can support you to look out for loved ones aged 12 to 25 years. Learn how to recognise mental health concerns and ways to nurture a young person’s wellbeing. For more information or to register, phone 8215 6340 or email

 Two per cent of Australians live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. PACE counsellor Di Nayda will give an overview of OCD and how it can be managed. The event is free. For more information, phone 83360333 or book online at

  • The Festival of Now – Friday, October 13, Light Square, Adelaide

In its fifth year, the Festival of Now brings the mental health community together to showcase creativity used in the healing journey and break down the stigma of mental illness. Festival attractions include live music and performance, free food, peer sharing circles, arts and crafts, circus skills, animals, face painting and more!


For more information about Mental Health Week, visit the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia. To explore how Centacare can support you to realise your own strengths and skills, and to achieve your goals, phone 8215 6700.




Attention Penola: Centacare’s Family Connections team wants to hear from you!

Based in the South-East, Family Connections is a mobile resource support program, with a focus on children aged 0 to 12 years, parenting support and education. We work in partnership with local communities to build child-safe environments where  families can thrive.

To meet your needs, we would like you to tell us what supports you require in Penola. What activities would you like to see? What services are needed?

We have developed a short online survey and would value your input. If you can spare a few minutes, please complete the survey and help us to map a plan for Penola.


In addition, we invite you to join our free community playgroup for children aged 0-5 years. The playgroup is run at Penola Primary School Hall, every Thursday from 10am to 11.30am, during weeks 2-9 of the school term. See you there!

Family Connections snapshot
  • Supporting families in Penola area for the past 2 years
  • Strong child development focus
  • Works in partnership with families and communities to provide fun and educational services to support child development, including playgroups, family activities at local events (such as the Coonawarra Arts Festival), parenting support and workshops
  • Free playgroup every Thursday at Penola Primary Hall, from 10am-11.30am

For more information, or to talk to our Family Connections team, please phone Centacare 8724 0500

When Elly was born, her grandparents stepped up to give her the best start in life. Thirty-seven years later, their principles and values are guiding Elly as she raises her four daughters and a foster child.

“My mum was only 16 when she had me so I lived with my grandparents for probably the first nine or ten years of my life,’’ says Elly, who joined Centacare’s Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care (SFPFC) program in February.

“My grandpa was in the army so he was a bit strict and about routine, and a lot about respect.

“I definitely feel that tough love was a really important love to have because it really did make me respect others and be non-judgemental and not look at a problem – but maybe why the problem is there – and the solution, instead of focusing so much on the negative.’’


A chance meeting with fellow Centacare foster carers Lyn and Roy inspired Elly and her husband Adam to join the SFPFC program.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, even as a young child. One of my friends was adopted and I always said `I’m going to do that when I get older’ not really understanding what it was,’’ Elly says.

“But it was something I didn’t think that I could do now. I thought it was something I’d have to do when I was older, when the kids had grown up.’’

There’s no greater love than a parent’s love for a child
– Elly, specialist foster carer


With five children under one roof, Elly says the house is now a lot louder but that her family is much closer: “He’s certainly brought so much joy. He’s a centre point for us to focus on and do things together for. I thought I had a connected family. It’s just been wonderful and brought us together as a family so much more than before.’’

Through SFPFC, children on a reunification plan with their birth family are placed in households for up to 18 months while they are unable to live at home.

“For me working with the birth parents is really important,’’ Elly says.

“This program isn’t just working with the child, it’s working with the whole family. There’s no greater love than a parent’s love for a child, so if we can get that child back home and they are able to give that child that love, there’s no better outcome than that.

“To look at this little, innocent person and to think of everything he’s gone through, and to think that we can make a difference in his life – even if it’s a small difference – or in his parents’ life to help them be parents, that is the greatest gift anyone could give us.’’

Seeing the boy’s attachment with his mother grow is a highlight.

“Building that attachment is one of the most important things you can teach a child but it’s giving them the skills to be able to do it again and again so they know they can be safe and have a connection with people.

“I’m hoping he will feel safe enough to build those relationships with people so he can have that connection, and love, and inner strength.’’

Elly is grateful for the training and support of Centacare’s SFPFC team, which enabled her to quickly settle into her new role as a foster carer.

So, will she do it again?

“Definitely, you can’t stop me! We are super happy it’s going to end with him hopefully going home.

“Obviously (there’ll be) a few tugs on the heart because we have spent so much time with him but this is the best result you could ask for.

“We are really excited about what the future holds and what the next child will bring to us.’’

For more information about how we can support you to support a child through specialist foster care, visit, phone 8159 1400 or email
Foster & Kinship Carers’ Week (September 10-16) in South Australia has begun. Today we are highlighting the role of foster care support workers who play a vital part in Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care.


Kate Hawkshaw learnt early in life about the value of helping children less fortunate than herself.

From age 13, Kate and her family welcomed foster children into their home, on respite and short-term placements.

“The reason I became a social worker was because Mum and Dad were foster parents; they definitely inspired me,’’ says Kate, a support worker with Centacare’s Specialist Family Preservation Foster Care program.

“It was a bit of a shock at first. We saw different behaviours from quite a young age but my parents set aside time for us and helped us understand that those behaviours were a reflection of the children’s backgrounds.

“I enjoyed it as a child because I knew our home was helping them. And I think it made our family a lot closer; we had more family discussions and were more connected through outings.’’

Today, Kate draws on this experience in her role supporting specialist foster carers.

The carers are incredible; they are such strong advocates for these kids
– Kate Hawkshaw, foster care support worker


Through the SFPFC program, children on a reunification plan with their birth family are placed in households for up to 18 months while they are unable to live at home.

Many children come from a background of trauma and neglect.

“Many of the children who we work with haven’t had a secure start to life,’’ says Anne Bartholomaeus, foster care support worker

Foster care support workers, Kate Hawkshaw, left, and Anne Bartholomaeus

“Parenting a child with that background can be quite different to parenting your own, so we work with the foster parents to help their foster child to make sense of their world.’’

Part of a care team, foster carer support workers visit households every week for the first eight weeks of a placement. Support is then ongoing, with foster carers encouraged to reflect on their role – and how they are nurturing their child’s development and healing – with their support worker.

Telephone help is available 24-hours, seven days a week.

“We carry them through those times when it can be hard, when they do need support,’’ Kate says.

“It’s lovely to watch the foster carers grow in confidence with the children. Over time, you can really see their relationship building. The carers are incredible; they are such strong advocates for these kids.’’

Foster carers receive ongoing training and are supported to nurture all areas of a child’s life, including family access, education, personal achievement, emotional and physical health, sense of identity, culture, and social relationships.

“Each week we are looking at what’s changed,” Anne says.

“Change can take a long time. Sometimes you won’t see any change in certain areas of the child’s life but other times change happens really quickly. We are all part of a team working together with the birth family.

“Most of the foster carers will tell us they wished they’d done it long ago and hadn’t waited so long.

“It’s rewarding for us too, to watch them forge such strong relationships with the children in their care, and know that we have played a role in that.’’

For more information about how we can support you to support a child through specialist foster care, visit, phone 8159 1400 or email

Clinical nurses play a crucial role in Centacare’s Family Preservation Program and Targeted Intervention Service. Their work is opening up new nursing opportunities in child protection, with a focus on improving health outcomes in vulnerable families.


CLINICAL nurses are joining social workers on the frontline of child protection in an Australian-first partnership at Centacare.

Working in multidisciplinary teams, the nurses are paired with vulnerable families to help address and prevent poor health outcomes, such as learning difficulties and developmental delays in children.

Honed over the past eight years, the model enables the early detection of health issues, as well as advocacy and referral to specialist supports for parents, children and extended family.

“The nurses are absolutely vital in the quality of service we provide,’’ says Michelle Warner, Manager, Targeted Intervention Services (TIS).

Michelle Warner

“When parents have a trauma background and limited resources or family support, everyday struggles can be really overwhelming. Health needs can get lost in that.

“The inclusion of clinical nurses in our programs has helped us to better understand how health issues impact parenting capacity and children’s behaviour, and has also provided families with links to crucial health supports and early interventions.’’

Annette Brown is one of four clinical nurses at Centacare and works in TIS, a child-focused case management service for families where early child wellbeing or safety risk factors have been identified.

Annette was specialising in sexual health when the opportunity arose to pair her skills, and previous experience as a midwife and mental health nurse in remote locations, with vulnerable families.

“I come from a base of really strong and happy family life, so I always think other people should be able to experience that in some way,’’ she says.

“You might only see glimmers of it sometimes, but you are always hoping this generation of children will grow up knowing families as positive places.’’

Annette Brown

In her role, Annette obtains a health and medical history for each family, identifies where intervention is needed and provides advocacy and support to obtain referrals to specialist services as needed.

“A lot of my work is reconnecting families with health services they might have lost touch with due to the complexities of their lives. They may have had a negative experience and so they’ve shunned away from supports. I help them with health literacy, and to navigate the systems.

“I’m always hoping I can make some shift or change that improves their lives.’’

In 2016/17, TIS worked with 120 families, including 283 children aged 0 to 18 years across metropolitan Adelaide, the Riverland, Murray Bridge, the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Mt Gambier.

Referrals come from State Government departments, Child and Family Health Service nurses, and non-government organisations.

Common challenges experienced by families include mental health, poor hygiene, hoarding, pet management, accumulation of debt, difficulties parenting and managing children’s behaviour, social isolation, substance misuse and neglect.

“We look at all areas of a family’s life: what is working and what is not working, and how that is impacting on the children,’’ Michelle says. “We are really a brains trust for them around where to from here, always with a focus on the positives. It’s a privilege to work with them and their children.’’


Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700 | F 08 8232 8920

Opening Hours

Monday – Tuesday | 9am – 5pm
Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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