MacKillop Family Services recognised for Excellence

Posted on 6 Sep 2017

A MacKillop Family Services education worker and two of the organisation’s foster carers have been named as finalists in the 2017 Victorian Protecting Children Awards.

The awards recognise those working within government and community services who are dedicated to protecting children and families. Winners will be announced at a special ceremony on Tuesday 12 September.

Brona Walshe, team leader for MacKillop’s metropolitan education outreach services, is a finalist in the Education Initiative Award, while foster carers, Graham and Rebecca Matthews are finalists in the Carers Award.

Brona has been recognised for her outstanding work in leading MacKillop’s Children in Residential Care Program (CIRC), Western Education Support and School-Focussed Youth Services teams across Melbourne’s west.

Working with students at risk of disengaging, or who have disengaged from school, in the past year Brona’s team supported 64 students across 16 residential units and two lead tenant houses. Thanks to the team’s dedication, 66 per cent of students not engaged in education are now back learning.

Brona’s work is underpinned by MacKillop’s Sanctuary model that supports young people affected by childhood trauma to learn resilience and build positive relationships based on safety and trust. Using a strengths-based approach, Brona takes students with a low sense of self, and negative school experiences, and provides opportunities to experience learning success.

Graham and Rebecca Matthews’ fostering journey with MacKillop began in 2014. The couple has been acknowledged for understanding how important the relationship is between foster child and birth mother and the work they do in honoring and respecting that.

Recognising how quickly children grow and knowing how exciting each developmental milestone is in a child’s life, the couple created a practice of sending a weekly letter to their foster child’s birth mother, highlighting special moments and photos. One copy of the letter was passed on to the mother at contact, while a second was attached to the child’s communication book.  Each letter created an historical picture of the child’s life story and became essential reading for the birth mother, making her feel involved and a part of their child’s life.

Today known as the ‘Shared Stories Shared Lives’ initiative, the program uses the Matthews example to highlight how important the child/birth family relationship is and guides the way in which MacKillop trains its potential foster carers.

About MacKillop Family Services

MacKillop supports children and young people in care through foster care and youth residential homes. MacKillop also provides parenting and family support, programs for people with a disability to support them to connect to their community, youth homelessness support, and education programs for young people unable to learn under mainstream education models. 

For further information contact:

Jan Phyland
Communications Consultant
T: 03 8687 7440