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Down on the ranch in South-West Victoria - Mackillop's Equine-Assisted Social and Emotional Learning Centre

Working with horses is a recognised therapy to help reduce stress and lower blood pressure and recent evidence also shows that horse therapy can help treat conditions such as addiction, problems with mental health, PTSD and autism.

In a first for south-west Victoria, Mackillop Family Services will use the therapeutic benefits of working with horses to help young people at its new Equine-Assisted Social and Emotional Learning Centre, south of Warrnambool.

The centre will allow children and young people to benefit from the healing process of safe and creative relational experiences with horses. In the first year, two staff members, trained at the Equine Psychotherapy Institute in Daylesford, will work with young people to care for and respect horses, and develop a sense of ownership and achievement in this care.

Warrnambool Area Manager, Cameron Burgess, believes that working with the horses, “will assist in the healing process for young people who have experienced trauma. The kids will learn how to earn a horse's trust and co-operation which is a valuable lesson in how to keep your own emotions in check!"

One of the main aims of our program is to teach young people social and life skills and our equine therapy centre will bring a new dimension to equipping young people with the skills they need to live independently and to be more connected to their communities.

– Warrnambool Area Manager, Cameron Burgess

The first year of the project will involve children living in both Mackillop’s residential care houses and foster care in the Warrnambool area. In the second year, the program will be expanded to cater for children with other service providers in the region. Mackillop also intends to establish a peer-to-peer program, where young people are trained to provide support for each other.

The centre forms an important part of Mackillop’s program provision which aims to reduce young people’s dependence on long-term welfare and teach them social and life skills. An additional benefit is that skills developed through the equine-assisted social and emotional learning program may also assist young people in finding employment in the farming, agriculture or horse-related industries.

Mackillop’s Equine-Assisted Social and Emotional Learning Centre is starting with three horses and has been generously supported by philanthropic trusts and foundations in the Warrnambool area with $31,000 raised to support the establishment of the new facility.