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Seasons For Growth showcase at NSW Parliament

A ground-breaking program, run by MacKillop Family Services’ Good Grief, will feature in a Southern Cross University breakfast showcase at NSW Parliament House on 19 September 2019, hosted by Sarah Mitchell, the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning.

Seasons for Growth is an evidence-based change and loss education program that uses imagery of the seasons to illustrate the experience of grief. It works to strengthen the emotional wellbeing of children, young people, adults and parents who have experienced major loss and life changes.

The program features in the NSW Parliament showcase because it was awarded a “high impact” following a submission from Southern Cross University for the 2018-19 Engagement and Impact Report for the Australian Research Council (ARC). The ARC requires universities to submit case studies from their research that show practical implications following the funding grants received.

Good Grief worked with Prof Anne Graham from the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University to develop the Seasons for Growth program to support children and young people following death, separation, divorce and other loss experiences. It has since been adapted to support refugee children, young people following suicide events and children involved in natural disasters. The program has also been adapted for adults experiencing loss, Indigenous people, prisoners, and parents of children in the program.

Brothers Zac, aged 10 and nine-year-old Nick, started the Seasons for Growth program 4 years ago following their parents’ separation. Confused and torn between both parents, the boys found it difficult to articulate their emotions to either parent.

Finding the Seasons for Growth group a safe space to talk about their feelings, Zac and Nick felt supported and it was a great comfort to them to realise that they were not alone in experiencing their parents’ marriage breakdown. The fact that other children in the group could share stories about their family’s troubles helped the boys open up about their own feelings.

Brenda, Zac and Nick’s Mum, believes that taking part in Seasons for Growth was a turning point for the boys.

“My family lives overseas, so the boys don’t have extended family that they can turn to. The Seasons for Growth group is a place for the boys to talk about this huge event which has impacted on our lives. I am so grateful the kids had this space to express their feelings as parenting on your own can be so difficult.

“My youngest son, Nick, lives with Albinism, which brings its own challenges and impacts all of the family. Taking part in the program has also allowed his big brother Zac to talk about his concerns for his brother and helps us take time out to consider the needs of everyone in the family. Seasons for Growth emphasises that we are who we are and in our life package we have the good and the bad and we just have to work through it,” added Brenda.

In the 20 years to 1996, 260,000 children, young people and adults in five countries have taken part in Seasons for Growth. The program has given participants a new start, a chance to transform their experiences of change and loss and to move forward with confidence and hope. Participation in the program is now estimated to be 300,000 children, young people and adults.

General Manager of Good Grief, Fiona McCallum, has witnessed how the program has positively impacted on the lives of those who have taken part.

Seasons for Growth provides a safe learning environment where children, young people and adults are able to give a voice to their experience, understand their feelings and to learn new ways to adapt and live with the significant changes and losses they have experienced.

“Loss and grief come in many shapes and forms. Nearly a quarter of young people in Australia aged 12-25 have some mental health difficulty. This is not only a huge personal cost, but the direct financial cost of this mental illness is estimated at $10.6 billion.[1] Proven intervention programs such as Seasons for Growth, which raises self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem, and improves mental health, provide economic benefit to Australia by lowering health costs,” added Fiona.

The NSW Universities’ Research Impact Showcase will be held in the Strangers’ Function Room at Parliament House of New South Wales, Sydney on Thursday 19 September from 7:30 am – 9:00 am AEST

[1] The economic impact of youth mental illness and the cost effectiveness of early intervention

Report by Access Economics Pty Limited 2009