There’s a new toy library in town – and it’s full of fun for your children!

A trailer of treasures has hit the road in the Wattle Range, offering new play experiences for families to nurture children’s early learning and development.

In addition to borrowing educational resources for children, parents can access other supports – such as parenting education and referral to community services – through the mobile toy library, which is run by Centacare’s Family Connections Program.

Family Worker Romlea Smith said the toy library evolved out of discussions with families, and a survey to identify gaps in services based on their needs, conducted by Centacare late last year.

“Sometimes we take for granted the role that play has in children’s learning and development.’’

Toy libraries can:
Lighten your impact on the environment
Save you money and clutter in the home
Foster new learning and play experiences for your children
Support them to forge new friendships


From scooters and step-a-stones to puzzles and educational games, the toy library aims to help children develop a range of skills through play and imagination, Romlea said. Toys can be borrowed for two weeks at a time.

The 2015 Australian Early Development Census measuring child development in specific regions across the nation found children living in the Wattle Range were behind in areas of development compared with their state and national counterparts.

“We hope the toy library will provide opportunities for families to address these issues,’’ Romlea said.

“For example, puzzles can not only assist children with their cognitive skills and problem-solving but also their fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, confidence and resilience.

“Playing games with others can also help children to learn important social skills, such as taking turns, patience, dealing with disappointment, perseverance and self-control.’’

The toy library was generously funded by Stand Like Stone Foundation, One Forty One Plantations and the Sidney Myer Fund.

Family Connections is funded by the Australian government Department of Social Services and has been working with families with children aged 0 to 12 years from across the South East since 2015.

For more information about the toy library and when it will be visiting your region, please phone Centacare’s Family Connections team on 8303 6630.

A new nature playground has been opened at Louise Place, complete with chicks, chimes and a giant chalkboard.

The $70,000 space which is built around four key features – a waterhole, cave, grassed mound and hen house – was officially opened by Director Dale West and will provide a much-needed sanctuary for young mothers and children.

“The way this property has been transformed over the past 20 years is extraordinary and this playground is really the last piece of that puzzle, and arguably the most important,’’ Dale said.

The playground was made possible by benefactor Anna Hompoth – who gave her life earnings to children’s services – and the support of the Freemasons, the Lions Club of Edwardstown, the White Ribbon Breakfast Committee and other community groups.

“With lots of stepping out, scratching our heads, talking about our hopes and dreams for the clients and their children, developing a risk assessment and procedure for our chickens, and then working with a range of experts, we are now launching today a new, happy place,’’ said Vicki Lachlan, Manager of Louise Place, at the opening.

“Designed for both young women and their children to connect with each other and allow them healing, happy times is our aim and I think we have achieved that with this area.’’

Louise Place provides support and accommodation for young pregnant or parenting women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, often against a backdrop of domestic violence, childhood trauma and other complex challenges.

In 2017/18, the service supported 126 clients, including 65 women and 40 children.

“Jobs like this one are a little bit more heartfelt and that’s why we enjoy being able to do them, knowing there will be enjoyment at the end of it,’’ said landscaper Matt Williams, of Escape Creations, which developed the space.

“Usually we rope off our projects and leave before they’re opened and don’t get to see them being used, so it’s great to be part of this today.’’

Executive Manager of Centacare’s Domestic Violence & Homelessness Services, Kara Piltz: “Our clients have don’t have a lot of peace in their life, so this is a place they can come to just be with their children and play, and share that time together.’’

Never forget that many of the most accomplished people got to the top by taking a detour first, writes Tom Stewart. The ASCEND trainer and consultant has these words of wisdom ahead of the start of final-year exams across South Australia next week.


Exam time is a source of stress for many people, but keep in mind there are steps that you can take to reduce your stress to a manageable level and get on top of your revision. Also remember that some anxiety is normal and may actually help you to perform more effectively if channelled in the right direction.

Here’s some tips to get you started:

  • Eat well, drink water

Seems kind of obvious, I know, but what you put in your body has a big impact on how well you feel and perform. You may be tempted to binge on fast food and stay up all night revising before that big maths exam, but you’re much better off having a light meal and going to bed early. Make sure you are drinking at least two litres of water every day (more if you’re exercising regularly) and snack on brain-boosting foods, such as blueberries and unsalted nuts instead of chocolate biscuits.

  • Sleep

Aim for at least 8 hours every night during the exam period, more if you can get it. Make sure you set an alarm and get up with enough time to prepare yourself mentally, and eat a healthy breakfast before you leave for that next test.

  • Move

Use your down time during revision to get away from your desk and move around. A few laps of the oval or a quick trip to the gym should be fine but even just taking the dog for a walk or having a good stretch will make a big difference.

  • Pace Yourself

Research demonstrates that all-night revision sessions just don’t work, and may actually harm your performance on the big day. Try breaking your revision down into bite-sized chunks. Do 20-40 minutes of reading at a time and then take a short break. Use your break time to move away from your desk and do some deep breathing.

  • Deep Breathing

If you’re feeling panicked or overwhelmed you might be hyperventilating without realising it. Try taking slow deep even breaths where you draw in air through your nose and hold it in your lungs for a few seconds before breathing it out again. Taking five minutes to do this, even at the start of an exam, is a more effective use of your time than 15 minutes spent overwhelmed by panicky thoughts.

  • Avoid the Debrief

Once your exam is done, give your classmates a high five and get the heck out of there! Don’t stick around to compare answers, this has never helped anyone reduce their stress levels and will be particularly harmful to your self-esteem if you happen to have another exam on the same day. Go for a walk instead and clear your head.

  • Talk it Out

Whilst it may not be a good idea to conduct an exam postmortem with your fellow students, it can be good to talk about your experiences with a loved one or a neutral third party. Reach out for advice and support if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your studies and keep in mind that exams don’t last forever.

  • Options

Keep in mind that there are so many pathways through life and into the next stage of study. If you’re working towards your SACE and unsure what next year holds, you have options. If you’re working towards that undergraduate degree and unsure if you’ll have a high enough GPA to go for that Masters, you have options. There is life after exams, and never forget that many of the most accomplished people got to the top by taking a detour first. If you don’t quite get the ATAR you wanted, take a deep breath and start figuring out what other pathways are available to you – you have options!

  • Avoid Judgement

Easier said than done, of course, but whilst we’re on the subject of ATARs and GPAs, always remember that the best way to judge your exam success is by looking at how far you’ve come rather than comparing yourself with others. If you’ve been struggling in a certain subject all year and have clawed your way up to the middle of the class, that’s an amazing achievement. Judge progress by what you’ve achieved compared to yesterday, not what others are doing.

  • Steer Clear of Distractions

Yes, it’s tempting to spend an hour scrolling instead of knuckling down and working through that last bit of revision, but try to avoid doing this. Hand your phone to someone else for safe keeping if you need to take that distraction out of the picture for a few days. Keep in mind that you’ve spent 12+ years of time studying for this moment and a few days off of your phone is not the end of the world.

Debbie Meich volunteers her time at Centacare as a member of our Mental Health Consumer, Carer & Community Advisory Group. The group acts as a bridge between services and people with lived experience of mental health, to ensure clients receive the most effective support, targeted to their needs.


For six excruciating years, Debbie Meich watched her daughter Jess battle an eating disorder that almost claimed her life.

“I got the phone call to come to the hospital to say goodbye,’’ Debbie (pictured) says.

“It was the most horrific time in our lives.’’

Over a three-year period, Jess spent more time in hospital than she did at home but Debbie never lost hope she would recover.

“Once I understood that eating disorders are caused by anxiety, and that they are a coping mechanism, I was able to help her so much more.

“We were extremely lucky because Jess got through it, and I’m so proud of her and how she managed to use the supports she had to get better.

“The one thing I always tell other parents and carers is that I can absolutely guarantee there is not a magic wand to fix the problem, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel – and it comes with perseverance.’’

Today Debbie shares her experience and learnings on Centacare’s Mental Health Consumer, Carer & Community Advisory Group (MHC3AG).

The group of volunteers acts as a bridge between services and people with lived experience of mental health, to ensure clients receive the most effective support, targeted to their needs.

In addition, Debbie gives her time to Elephant in the Room, a free program run by headspace Port Adelaide for families and friends of young people aged 12 to 25 years with a mental health concern.

“What I’ve learnt is that there are a million ways to solve a problem; you just have to work out which way suits you best,’’ she says.

“As soon as I say there isn’t a magic wand, that’s when the tears usually start for parents because they have spent all their time looking for it to try and get their son or daughter better.’’

For Debbie, remaining strong as a family played a pivotal role in Jess’ recovery.

“She had a psychologist for many years but as a parent, you are the person that’s there with them 24/7 helping them through.

“You start to learn what works, ways for them to control the anxiety, and it’s then you can start to put together a little tool kit to help them on days when they are feeling really bad.

“Jess still experiences anxiety but she knows not to use the coping mechanisms she did before.’’

Currently, Centacare delivers 68 community services across 35 sites in the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, and responds to the needs of about 30,000 people each year. The MHC3AG canvases new ideas for the future and has input into programs and policies.

“The feedback we’ve been getting is just fantastic and that gives hope to the people who are using the facilities that they will actually get better,’’ Debbie says.

Chris Chalubek was sitting in a GP clinic waiting room when he felt the cold glare of stigma that persists around mental illness.

A picture of calm, he didn’t appear to be in crisis but on the inside he was capitulating.

“I was in the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had; my current treatments weren’t working and I’d gone to see a GP,” says Chris who has bipolar disorder.

“He looked at me and his first response was, `Oh, you don’t look depressed’.

“There I was sitting in complete crisis internally and I have a health professional responding like that. What did he expect to see?

“It was in that moment that I realised how difficult it can be – and how much strength it does take –  to reach out and seek help when there’s still so much misunderstanding and stigma around mental health.”

It was a defining moment for Chris, Assistant Executive Manager of Health, Wellbeing & Education services at Centacare.

“I could have just left then and there because, when you’re in crisis, a response like that can make you withdraw even further.

“I might not have been visibly in despair, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t need help.’’

Stigma around mental illness due to misunderstanding or prejuidice remains the number one barrier to people seeking support.

This week, Mental Health Australia is calling on the nation to challenge perceptions about mental illness and look at it in a more positive light with the theme, `Do you see what I see?’

“Early on I was worried about what people might think so I didn’t reach out and didn’t hear what people had to say,’’ Chris says.

“But now asking for help or hearing that I need help isn’t a big deal. I actually feel stronger for it. I feel in control.’’

Chris is sharing his lived experience in the hope of helping others to reach out for support instead of denying how they feel through fear of being judged.

“If we all responded with compassion, that wouldn’t be an issue.

“If you have a broken arm or another serious illness, you don’t think twice about going to get help. Mental health should be no different.’’

For more information about Mental Health Week, visit


When Chris Chalubek was diagnosed with bipolar, he googled famous faces living with the disorder to find his `people’. The Assistant Executive Manager of Health, Wellbeing & Education services at Centacare is now sharing his own lived experience in the hope of helping others.


Chris Chalubek was in his late teens when he first experienced anxiety.

By his twenties, he was enduring regular bouts of depression.

The dark pressure Chris felt enveloping his mind was offset by a bright, euphoric `light’ that sent his thoughts racing and caused his muscles to twitch.

For 20 years, he managed the highs and lows: manic flashes of energy and grandiose ideals preluding extreme mood slumps and low self-esteem.

“I was either flicking through a rolodex of ideas thinking I could take on the world at a hundred miles an hour, or working against the dark component,’’ Chris says.

“It was exhausting. In my toughest moments, it felt like I was pushing against water; I just had no traction and it was really hard to be hopeful.’’

 Twelve months ago amid his worst depressive episode yet came a breakthrough when Chris was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which one in 50 adult Australians experience each year.

For the first time, he was able to properly make sense of his symptoms and the challenges they pose each day.

Up until then, Chris had managed as best he could, doing whatever it took to “keep it all under wraps’’ always with the constant support of his family.

Characterised by strong changes in mood and energy which can last a week or more, bipolar affects our thoughts and behaviour.

Untreated, it can make it hard to cope at work, home, school and in social settings.

“The diagnosis gave me a foothold; it was a huge relief,” Chris says.

“With that has come insight and understanding around how I can be well and start my journey of recovery.”

A large part of that has been shaking off the fear to reach out for help.

“It takes a lot of strength to ask for help when there is still so much stigma around mental illness,’’ Chris says.

“Part of moving forward is realizing there is more to me than bipolar, but if the perceived messages around that are negative, then it’s hard not to withdraw and be scared.

“I have always been open about it with my wife and family but I didn’t feel like I could come out and speak about it to my broader community and social circle because I thought they wouldn’t understand.

“Now asking for help isn’t a big deal. I actually feel stronger for it. I realise the importance of being open to and accepting help, whether that’s from general practice, psychology or a psychiatrist.

“I’ve found there are so many ways to get well, so many things you can do, whether that’s mindfulness, exercising, reading up on what’s happening to you or medication.’’

Chris is sharing his lived experience in the hope he can help others answer the question `what next?’ instead of `why me?’

Having supported the lived experience workforce in his role at Centacare, he has seen the opportunity and hope that honesty can bring.

“When you are in the midst of being unwell, you can lose your old self.

“Positive role models and people with lived experience can become really important factors in helping you to work through that identity crisis.

“I want to re-frame my lived experience and use it as a positive to help others live their life forward.

“It’s not about asking `why me’, it’s about answering `what’s next?’’’



How do we feed our mind as well as our appetite at work? Through ACCESS Programs, employees can now learn how to supercharge their day with the help of Jan Macfarlane, a Clinical Nutritionist.


Clinical nutritionist Jan Macfarlane is giving employees food for thought to boost their mood and productivity at work.

Through ACCESS Programs, workers can now tap into Jan’s expertise and learn how to supercharge their day through diet and other healthy lifestyle choices.

“Employees spend a large chunk of their days working, but if their mental and physical health are suffering, so will their productivity,” says Jan (pictured).

“A happy gut leads to a happy mind.”

With research establishing a clear connection between mental and physical health, Jan says it’s time for businesses to take a more holistic approach towards their staff.

“Offering nutritional consultations is a perfect way to get your employees on the right track to better health.

“In addition, provide educational nutritional resources, and inspiration to keep staff motivated.”

The inclusion of a nutritionist builds on traditional employee assistance offered by ACCESS Programs, such as counselling, mediation, trauma response and crisis management.

Manager Ben Wells: “While it’s most important for an employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace, it’s also important to encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees and their families.

“At ACCESS Programs, we have identified that the opportunity to get good and professional advice about our diet is difficult.

“We know that diet significantly impacts our mental health and our ability to work and that workplaces need support in addressing this because it needs to be more than a bowl of fruit in the lunch room.

“Through ACCESS, organisations can offer their employees the opportunity to work with a qualified clinical nutritionist to start the journey of wellbeing.”

Five foods to supercharge your day! 

For a healthy gut, it’s essential to keep our good bacteria happy. These good little bacteria thrive on many of the foods that are great for us too!  Essential fatty acids, polyphenols and fibre found in fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, are all known to assist in a healthy tummy. Jan recommends eating:

Raw Nuts

Nuts contain serotonin, which runs low when you’re feeling down. They’re also full of antioxidants and essential healthy fats too – great for overall brain health!

Snack tip: Try a nut butter spread on top of berries or other fruits and veg. Adding some cacao makes a delicious choc nut butter spread.


Berries are very rich in antioxidants. They therefore serve as a strong defense against brain degeneration while also boosting happy chemicals in your brain. Oh, and they’re berry yummy, too!

Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are powerful little mood boosters whose benefits stem from Tyrosine. This amino acid boosts the brain’s dopamine levels (another feel-good hormone essential for good moods).

Snack Tip: Try tahini – it’s sesame seed paste. It’s great to use in various home-made dips, smoothies or protein balls.

Raw Cacao

Raw cacao is super high in antioxidants that acts as a fantastic brain protective. In addition, cacao naturally contains serotonin and helps boost it. Cacao can also stimulate the release of a compound called anandamide, which causes a slight euphoric, blissful feeling. No wonder we often crave chocolate when we’re feeling down!

Snack Tip: Add to a smoothie or blend it with an avocado for a healthy choc mousse! For a healthy hot chocolate mix cacao with a milk alternative such as almond or coconut milk and sweeten to taste.


Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins and vitamin D. These all help to keep the brain and nervous system healthy and contribute to a positive mood.



It’s 1987 and the Grim Reaper looms menacingly through grey mist on our television screens to warn Australians about the threat of AIDS.

In scenes akin to a horror movie, the commercial depicts a group of men, women and children diagnosed with the disease lined up as bowling pins.

A cloaked skull with scythe in hand appears and bowls over the group, their bodies pushed aside to make way for more dead.

Thirty-one years later, people with the blood borne virus are still being knocked down, this time by a State Government which has unceremoniously dumped some of our most marginalised people off its specialist services radar.

As part of $2.5 million in funding cuts from a budget of $130 million, the Government will axe Centacare’s Cheltenham Place support service by the end of the year – without any consultation or, seemingly, due consideration of the facts.

The Government characterises Cheltenham as essentially a homelessness service supporting individuals whose conditions can be well controlled. Wrong!

Among other things, Cheltenham is demonstrably a hospital avoidance service which is saving the Government purse far more than its modest $411,000 operational sting each year.

Cheltenham provides many specialist supports and respite accommodation to people living with HIV and their carers. It is a safe place for them, away from stigma and discrimination; set up to meet –psychosocial and medical needs.

In 17/18, the service worked with nearly 100 people, including those recently diagnosed with HIV, and facilitated 10 early hospital discharges and 37 hospital avoidances.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research shows that conservatively calculated, that has saved the health budget more than $800,000.

As Minister Wade seems to only have considered the dollars, he will find that this service has saved a minimum $400,000 overall.

Of course there are many other people we support to maintain their physical and mental health but who are not seen as imminently at risk but would be without Cheltenham.

The clients we work with have high and complex needs. Most have diagnosed mental health issues. Some have drug and alcohol challenges, physical disabilities and, yes, others have experienced homelessness.

However despite the Government’s assertions, Centacare is experienced in addressing homelessness and is able to professionally meet that need.

Whilst today’s medications for HIV are always improving, they need to be taken routinely every day, over time, to take effect.

When people experience crisis or are living in unsafe or chaotic situations, often the first thing to go is self-care and, with it, the specialist and general medications that control symptoms and severity of illness.

That’s right, the same medications that are so effective they warrant the Government skittling $1.3 million funding for sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses.

So, now, not only are those living with HIV at risk, but there is an increase risk to the wider community as the virus becomes transmittable if medications are not adhered to. This all puts more pressure on an already struggling health system.

It is offensive to suggest there are more appropriate agencies better placed than Centacare (with its 20-year track record in the sector) to provide specialist support to people living with HIV and their carers.

The stigma and discrimination they feel, and the grief, trauma and social isolation this manifests, stymies both their capacity and motivation to engage with mainstream services.

In this context, Cheltenham’s role as a conduit between the client and non-specialist services to not only link people to mainstream supports but ensure that they stay engaged with them has never been so important. Oh, the irony!

HIV did not go away with the Grim Reaper when the commercial was taken off air due to mounting public hysteria over an illness about which Australians were then uninformed.

Our State Government has now removed the only specialist HIV respite and outreach support service in South Australia. So what has really changed in thirty one years?

We still suffer uninformed outcomes.

Dale West is Director of Centacare Catholic Family Services

Centacare is running a six-week Road to Wellbeing support group for women who have experienced domestic violence.

Make new connections and explore common experiences, including:

  • Tactics used by perpetrators to exercise power, coercion and control
  • Common myths about domestic violence
  • Its impact on children
  • Ways to heal in order to live a life free of fear

Hosted  by the Murray Mallee & Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service, the free group will run every Friday, from October 19 to November 23, 10am-12.30pm, at Centacare’s Murray Bridge office, 6/2 Sturt Reserve Rd.

Research shows women living in isolated locations experience high rates of domestic and family violence, and sexual assault, yet they live further away from specialist resources and services. This can effect their help-seeking decisions, coping mechanisms and their ability to identify as experiencing domestic violence, even if they are at imminent risk.

Connected, well-informed regional communities can create vital safety pathways for vulnerable families.

Centacare is the state’s largest provider of best-practice support for at-risk women and children outside metropolitan Adelaide.

For more information or to book a place in the group, please phone case managers Pam and Anne on (08) 8215 6320.

Participating in the NDIS begins with a plan to map your dreams but bringing it to life can be daunting, time consuming and stressful.

How will you manage your budget and pay for the supports you choose?

Centacare can do this for you!

Plan Management

As part of your plan, you will need to choose your preferred way to manage your budget and all of the financial transactions involved with accessing your supports.

There are different ways of doing this, including Plan Management.

If this is the best option for you, you may have funding for a Plan Management service provider included in your plan.

By seeking Plan Management support, your other support funds are not reduced – it is provided on top of your other funding requirements and will fall under Improved Life Choices in your plan.

The service providers will send the invoices for your supports to the Centacare Plan Manager who will check the invoice, troubleshoot with the provider if there are any issues and then pay it on your behalf.

The Centacare Plan Manager will also track your budgets and provide you with statements of expenditure each month.

They will assist in maximising the potential benefits of your NDIS plan by ensuring you don’t leave support funding unspent.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Centacare Financial Services with any queries regarding our Plan Management services on (08) 8215 6780 or


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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