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MacKillop Family Services celebrates Victorian Protecting Children Award winners

Staff at MacKillop Family Services (MacKillop) were honoured to receive Victorian Protecting Children Awards (VPCA) at an event held on Wednesday 7 September during Child Protection Week.

MacKillop staff and programs won four of the 11 categories in this annual event which recognises dedicated teams, groups and individuals who demonstrate excellence in protecting children, young people and families. Another five MacKillop staff and carers were finalists, and four other staff and teams were recognised as nominees in the Awards.

The Awards were introduced by the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, the Honourable Colin Brooks MP at an online event to mark the nineteenth year of the awards which saw a record number of nominations this year.

MacKillop’s COVID-19 Emergency Response for Child and Young People (CERCY), was awarded the Robin Clark Making a Difference Award, which recognises the exceptional contribution of a team or group of people who have worked to directly improve the lives of children, young people and families in Victoria. CERCY is an emergency residential care response model providing safe accommodation to children and young people involved with child protection who need alternate care to safely isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. The model started with one house in September 2020 and grew to six CERCY homes. To date, almost 150 children, young people and families have been placed within the CERCY model.

Our Foster carers, Toni and Paul Gauntlet from Barwon received the Carer Award. Toni and Paul are foster carers of two teenagers who presented with very significant mental health concerns. Thanks to Toni and Paul’s consistent care and encouragement, the teenagers now attend school full time and have stable and manageable mental health.

Another MacKillop foster carer, Kellie Addicoat, won the Positive Impacts Award, which is awarded by the Create Foundation as part of the VPCA. Kellie was recognised by a young person in her care as one of the most amazing people and advocates they have ever met – a friend, carer, motivator and maternal figure. Kellie guided the young person through their schooling, played a vital role keeping them on track with year 12 during lockdown, and supported them to settle in their first apartment.

Lastly, in a poignant and moving tribute, The Centre for Excellence’s Leaving a Legacy Award was awarded to the late Gerard Jones, former Deputy CEO of MacKillop. Gerard was honoured for a lifetime’s work in advocating to improve the lives of at risk children and young people. Gerard passed away earlier this year and is greatly missed by all his colleagues at MacKillop. He will always be remembered for caring deeply and being a true pioneer in child and family services.

MacKillop’s CEO, Dr Robyn Miller, paid tribute to all staff involved in protecting children, young people, and families.

“Seeing the work that goes on every single day and night, and the compassion that people display for the children in their care is deeply humbling for me.

“Caring for children who are at risk is always difficult, but there is no doubt it has been even more challenging over the last few years. I am delighted for our carers and staff who have received the awards. There were a record number of entries this year and we at MacKillop are thrilled that so many staff and carers were selected as finalists, were highly commended or received awards.

“To me, every foster carer and everyone working in protecting children deserves the utmost respect and recognition for the work that they do; it makes an incredible difference to the lives of children, young people and families. They are the unsung heroes! Without the dedication and compassion of all our staff and carers, we would not be able to support children in care to achieve the great outcomes that so many of them accomplish,” Dr Miller added.