Growth across borders: Expansion into NSW

Posted on 05 July 2017 by Louise Carson

Geographic coverage of MacKillop's programs in NSW at 1 July 2017

Geographic coverage of MacKillop's programs in NSW at 1 July 2017.* 

While MacKillop Family Services is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, this month our NSW services clock up 8 years of providing therapeutic out of home care, youth homelessness, and family support services to communities in Western Sydney, Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the Far South Coast of NSW.

MacKillop formally commenced operations in NSW on 1 July 2009 when the Christian Brothers transferred their services in Wollongong (Eddy’s Place – out of home care) and Mt Druitt (Eddy’s Out West – youth homelessness and early intervention) to MacKillop. Three years later in 2012, MacKillop was successful in winning a number of foster care tenders as part of the NSW Government’s out of home care transition. There are now over 90 MacKillop foster carers providing support to over 150 children and young people in NSW and the team is hoping to grow its residential care services as part of the current Intensive Therapeutic Care commissioning process.

Jude Ekerick, NSW General Manager, was charged with guiding the transition from the Christian Brothers to MacKillop Family Services. Jude has seen a lot of change, growth, and positive outcomes for vulnerable children and families since 2009.

“The growth has been amazing”, said Jude. “We had about 30 employees in 2009, and now have more than 80 staff working from offices in Blacktown, Wollongong, Batemans Bay, Bega and Cooma, who are delivering a growing number of services - foster care, kinship care, residential care, youth and family support services, specialist youth homelessness services and a homeless youth assistance program in partnership with Marist180, and a Family Referral Service in partnership with Marymead.

“We are also just about to start providing Family Preservation and Restoration Services using the evidence-based model Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare.  We are establishing teams in Blacktown, Nowra and Shellharbour and are currently recruiting 35 therapists and therapeutic caseworkers with our partner, Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation.  We start delivering services in August.  Two Sisters of St Joseph ministries have also just joined MacKillop – Good Grief and MacKillop Rural Community Services – further extending our reach across NSW.

Brittni Davies, Team Leader for the Specialist Homelessness Service in Blacktown, joined MacKillop in 2011 as a residential worker. One of the biggest game-changers for her was the introduction of the Sanctuary Model across MacKillop.

“When Sanctuary was first introduced in 2013, it really started to influence the MacKillop culture, with a focus on providing therapeutic and trauma-informed services”, said Brittni, who is now the NSW Core Team representative for Sanctuary and an Australian Institute of Sanctuary faculty member.

“Sanctuary really came to life in NSW. Management and staff became committed to working therapeutically, allowing staff to work creatively with clients, to find solutions to challenges and to never give up on the kids. Social justice and transforming lives is a strong focus of our work. We are advocating for these children and young people who may never have been heard before – nothing’s wrong with them, it’s what’s happened to them. MacKillop supports us to give them all a chance.”

Looking ahead, MacKillop will continue to respond to new opportunities and expand services in communities where there is an identified need and we can contribute something of value.

“It’s not about growth for growth’s sake, but ensuring we are responding positively and creatively to the needs of vulnerable children, young people and families, while continuing to deliver high quality therapeutic, trauma-informed services.  We need to be innovative and solution-focused”, said Jude.

“The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is committed to an ambitious reform agenda which will impact nearly all of our NSW services over the coming months.  We are ready for this and are looking forward to working collaboratively with FACS on the implementation of the various reforms”, said Jude. “

“Our work is about achieving better outcomes for children, young people and their families and transforming lives in a spirit of justice and hope. That’s what’s it all about and it’s the work our staff and carers do every single day.”

*Map is not to scale.