School Attendance Support Project is a real class act

The School Attendance Support Project is another Connections' program which supports children in their education.

Connections’ Family Services Worker, Sarah works in the School Attendance Support Project (SASP). Mid last year, Sarah received a complex referral to support Michael*, a child in Grade 6 with severe anxiety issues. Michael had only attended school for 1.5 days at the time of referral.

Sarah developed strategies to manage Michael’s anxiety particularly around him leaving his mother. Sarah reinforced a team approach in his return to school with him included in discussions.

Sarah started with driving Michael from home to the school and parking outside the school gates. As his trust grew, Michael progressed by exiting the car and walking around the school oval and eventually meeting with the principal and his class teacher.  

Within a month, Michael started attending school for a one hour block with Sarah providing support the entire time in the classroom.
Together, Sarah and Michael discussed and monitored his anxiety levels and provided ongoing positive encouragement when small goals were achieved. Michael talked through and challenged his negative thoughts enabling him to participate in a return to school plan.

Open communication continues with the school to ensure all parties are aware of the return to school plan. The school principal and reception staff continue to provide positive affirmations when Michael attends school.

Since becoming involved with SASP:

  • Michael initiated social catch ups with friends for the first time in two years.
  • Michael participated in a sleep over at a friend’s home and continues to develop positive peer friendships.  
  • Michael is wearing his school uniform.
  • Michael attended his Grade 6 graduation and transitioned to secondary school.
  • He attended Year 7 camp – his first camp ever.

Michael recently advised Sarah, “My long-term goal is to finish school and go to university and do [sic] social work like you because I would also like to help kids like myself when I grow up. Because I know how awful anxiety can feel. I would be good at helping kids like you do.”

The School Attendance Support Project aims to increase school attendance, facilitate school connectedness, and support community integration. Service delivery is aimed at supporting vulnerable families through intensive outreach family support and addressing blockages to education.

If you would like more information about this program, please contact the Pakenham office on 03 5945 3900.

*Names have been changed

Call for abtracts extended

The closing date for the submission of abstracts has been extended to Friday 12 February.

The Connections UnitingCare Conference: Making Lives Better - Improving Life Outcomes for Vulnerable Children and Families, will explore how we build services around clients in a changing, complex world.

conference, making lives better, community, organisation, sector, nfp

We are keen to receive papers which explore and address innovative ideas which respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families in the community.

We encourage submissions from a range of organisations and individuals who can contribute to our knowledge of current practices and interventions which are making the lives of vulnerable children and families better.

The conference will focus on four key sub themes:

1. Cultural responsiveness and awareness
> How agencies manage client’s needs in a culturally sensitive way.
> How agencies manage with less specialist services being available.

2. Early intervention
> How the development of practical skills and tools can help with early intervention.
> Programs that demonstrate vision and innovation which make a real difference and give hope to vulnerable families.

3. Measuring change in the context of challenge
> Dealing with complex families and demonstration of positive outcomes.
> Trauma informed practice in the context of working with clients.
> Innovation in practice and managing demand.
> Examples of latest research and theoretical framework with positive outcomes for clients.

4. Workforce development
> How multidisciplinary teams function effectively to improve outcomes.
> Examples of how working collaboratively has improved outcomes for clients.
> Programs with frameworks that are transferable to different contexts.

This two-day conference will offer a broad range of presentation styles, including:

> Oral presentations
> Interactive workshops
> Poster presentations

When: 25 – 26 May 2016.
Where: Rydges Melbourne, 186 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.
Registration: Save $100 off the standard price with our early bird rate of $595 (early bird offer closes 1 May 2016).

I am more than a volunteer, I am a friend

We are currently seeking volunteers for our Home-Start program to assist socially isolated families in the local community.

Home-Start is a community-based support program available to parents with children under the age of eight who live in the Yarra Ranges.

The program aims to connect families to support networks and help parents build stronger relationships with their children.

Home-Start Coordinator, Freya Dugan believes a service such as this provides great support to families who might be facing issues at home or may just need a helping hand. Support is tailored to the family’s needs.

“All parents need support at some time with the challenging job of caring for their children”, said Ms Dugan.

"With more families requiring assistance, we need more volunteers in the program. Volunteers can help with attending appointments, shopping, reading to children and helping connect families to local support networks such as playgroups and kindergartens,” said Ms Dugan.

Volunteer Judy joined the program nearly a year ago. Recently retired from fulltime work, Judy wanted to meet new people in the area and get involved with her community.

Judy heard about Home-Start through a friend and wanted to learn more. After attending an information session, she joined the eight week training program and has since been placed with a local family.

“I have really enjoyed the training and getting to know the other volunteers. I have made new friends and learned about the struggles some families can face,” said Judy.

“I understand from having my own children and grandchildren, lack of support, sleep deprivation and isolation can make parenting very difficult and I just wanted to be there as a support unit for other mums.

“I like to bring joy to the household and remind the family, it doesn’t need to all be troubles. I am someone to talk to and a listening ear. I believe I am more than a volunteer, I am a friend,” said Judy.

Home-Start volunteers are linked to families on a one-to-one basis and are required to spend two hours a week with the families for a 12 month period.

To find out more, attend a free information session:
Wednesday 10 February, 10:00am-11:00am,
Upper Yarra Family Centre,
2444 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction

Contact Freya at Call 03 9724 2222 or click here for further information.


home-start, volunteers, community,

The gift that keeps on giving

Connections UnitingCare is calling on the community to help ensure everyone in the community has a reason to smile this Christmas by supporting their annual food and gift appeal.

Now in its 15th year, our Christmas Food & Gift Appeal relies on the generosity of the community to donate non-perishable food and gifts which are then provided to families facing an uncertain Christmas.

“For many of us, Christmas is a time of happiness where we create precious memories with our family and friends and share in the joy of giving,” said Angela Forbes, Connections’ Chief Executive Officer.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. we support over 2000 people every week and we know that for many of our clients, Christmas is an extremely difficult time of year.

“Our Appeal is the most effective way the community can help disadvantaged families, individuals and young people. Donations are provided directly to those most in need and ensure everyone, particularly children, have a smile on their face on Christmas morning,” said Ms Forbes.

In 2014, the Appeal provided more than 4,500 gifts and 500 food hampers to families doing it tough.

Our Christmas Food & Gift Appeal works in conjunction with the UnitingCare and Target Christmas Appeal, which has now launched in all Target stores across Australia and runs until Christmas Eve.

Shoppers are encouraged to drop off unwrapped gifts at the layby counter in any Target store or purchase a $1 bauble gift tag at the checkout.

“We are proud to continue our long tradition of partnering with UnitingCare who provide vital services assisting Australians in need,” said Stuart Machin, Target Managing Director.

“We encourage everyone to help brighten someone’s Christmas this year by donating generously at your local Target store.”

The UnitingCare and Target Christmas Appeal and Connections’ Christmas Food & Gift Appeal ensure all donations are distributed directly to those most in need this Christmas.

“Connections’ case workers, sometimes hand-in-hand with their clients, select items which have been generously donated by members of the community to give to their family members on Christmas day,” said Ms Forbes.

Donations of non-perishable food and gifts can be dropped at various Connections’ offices, select Target stores and a number of local government offices across Melbourne’s south-east.

For more information on how you can support Connections’ Christmas Food and Gift Appeal, click here or call 1800 137 036.

See below a list of drop off location points:


community, Christmas, Appeal, donations, giving


The Hon Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria
517A Princes Highway
Noble Park 3174

Clare O'Neil MP
Federal Member for Hotham     
401 Clayton Road
Clayton VIC 3168    

Heidi Victoria MP
Member for Bayswater     
2/40 Station Street
Bayswater VIC 3153

Neil Angus MP
Member for Forest Hill

4 Lawrence Street
Blackburn South VIC 3130     
9877 5628

Nina Springle MP
South Eastern Metropolitan
1/1174 Nepean Hwy
Cheltenham VIC 3192

Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran   
94 Chapel Street
Windsor VIC 3181

Samantha Dunn MLC
Member for Eastern Metropolitan

128 Ayr Street
Doncaster VIC 3108   

Shaun Leane MP
Member for Eastern Metropolitan

Suite 3, Level 2
420 Burwood Highway
Wantirna South VIC 3152       


Cranbourne Shopping Centre
125 High St, Cranbourne VIC 3977

Camberwell Shopping Precinct
Station Street, Camberwell VIC 3124

Dandenong Plaza Shopping Centre
Clow Street, Dandenong VIC 3175

Fountain Gate Shopping Centre
Princes Highway, Fountain Dr,
Fountain Gate VIC 3805

Waverly Gardens Shopping Centre
Cnr. Police & Jacksons Roads,
Waverley Park Dr, Mulgrave VIC 3170

Supporting Syrians Seeking Refuge

UnitingCare Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s decision to accept an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees and to provide humanitarian support to the estimated 240,000 Syrians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

Speaking in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement, National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds said “Thank you for listening to the voice of the Australian people, and for acting to offer welcome and a refuge to those fleeing the crisis in Syria.”

“The UnitingCare network is ready to provide frontline care and community support to Australia’s humanitarian effort to resettle Syrian refugees.”

“We know that many of those arriving in our communities over the coming months will have experienced trauma. All will have experienced loss. UnitingCare agencies are ready to bring their expertise in the provision of compassionate, practical and professional support services to people and families who arrive in our community under the expanded programs.”

“We are committed to building vibrant and inclusive communities through our social services presence, and look forward to providing an introduction to life in Australia for people fleeing persecution.”

“Working together we are confident that Syrian people can rebuild their lives in the safety and freedom of Australia.”

For more information, visit

Volunteers urgently needed for Home-Start program

Connections' Home-Start program reaches out and supports parents who are struggling in their parenting role due to a variety of reasons by matching them with a volunteer who will offer a family friendship and practical help for a period of 12 months.

Home-Start aims to connect families to support networks and help parents build stronger relationships with their children.

Home-Start Volunteers offer their time freely; most are parents or grandparents themselves.

Volunteers are linked to families on a one-to-one basis and receive training, ongoing support and supervision from the Home-Start Coordinator.

Do you have two hours to spare each week?

Do you have parenting experience?

Do you want to give back to your community?

Do you like to learn new things and meet new people?

Find out more at a free information session

When: Wednesday 10 February 2016
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am
Where: Upper Yarra Family Centre, 2444 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction

Contact 03 9724 2222 to register your attendance or for more information click here.

Home-Start Volunteer Information Session

10 Feb 2016
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