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Paw Pals emBARKs on mission to support Ballarat kids back to education

An innovative education support program, where therapy dogs work with children who are disengaged from education, has launched in Ballarat.

MacKillop Family Services’ Paw Pals therapy dogs and facilitators focus on creating a positive learning environment where children who struggle with education can develop trust and increase self-esteem. Paw Pals has been supporting students across Melbourne and Geelong since 2019 and has changed the lives of hundreds of children.

The Ballarat program is 100 per cent community funded through the Paws4Kids matched giving day, and thanks to support from Petspiration Foundation (formally known as PETstock Assist), the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat, and the Ballarat community, the 2022 campaign raised enough money to bring the program to the region.

Kath Anderson is one of the Paw Pals facilitators in Ballarat and knows how the program has positively impacted children who are anxious about going into school or who struggle to focus on learning.

“I wish people could see the difference Paw Pals can make to children who have difficulty with education. My gorgeous pooch Millie can make a connection where other strategies have failed. We’ve worked with kids who had previously refused to go inside the school building, but after taking part in the program, they will happily take Millie into class with them to show their classmates the commands they have taught her.

“Seeing a child’s confidence grow while they are supported by the Paw Pals facilitators and therapy dogs is inspirational. We know there are lots of children in the community who could benefit from Paw Pal’s support, which is why we are excited to be here, and we look forward to working with many more schools and families,” Kath said.

The foundation of PetStock, Petspiration Foundation, is a significant community supporter of the program, having matched donations for Paws4Kids, our annual fundraising campaign that ensures the sustainability of the program.

Matilda Coutts, Marketing & Social Media Coordinator for the Petspiration Foundation noted the foundation is thrilled to support the Paw Pals program.

“We know pets can improve people’s lives in so many ways. The Petspiration Foundation exists to strengthen this rewarding bond and we are so pleased we can support organisations across Australia, including in the Ballarat community, where the Petspiration Foundation originated from”, said Tilly.

The Paw Pals program is run out of St James Parish School, 260 Albert Street, Sebastopol in Ballarat and currently has two facilitators who work with their furry friends, Millie and Yarny.

To access Paw Pals, contact Kath Anderson: 0417 461 161, email or you can find further information at