MacKillop heroes recognised

Mary MacKillop Family Services excellence award recipient Maureen Visser has cared for Nathan since he was one. Nathan has CHARGE Syndrome, which presents with severe heart and eye issues as well as cleft lip and palate and many other health issues such as autism. Source: MacKillop Family Services

The outstanding achievements of carers, young people, families and staff have been recognised by MacKillop Family Services in their annual Excellence Awards, presented at MacKillop’s Annual Public Meeting.

The Awards recognise excellence in practice and an outstanding commitment to MacKillop’s values and are named in recognition of Edmund Rice, Catherine McAuley and Mary MacKillop – the founders of the three congregations that amalgamated their child and family services ministries 20 years ago to form MacKillop.

Robyn Miller, CEO of MacKillop Family Services, said she was inspired by the achievements of all the nominees,

“Presenting the Excellence Awards is one of the best parts of my job! The children and families we work with show incredible strength and resilience to achieve life-changing outcomes with the support and commitment of our dedicated staff and carers. It is only fitting that we take the opportunity to pay tribute to their support and achievements.”

“Our core value of social justice is evident every day in the work of the foster carers and staff who look after children and young people who are unable to live with their own families. I’d love to see every carer get a special award and it is a huge challenge to select the award recipients, as we have so many staff and carers who consistently go the extra mile for the children in their care.

Excellence awards recipients gathered in Geelong, Victoria. Source: MacKillop Family Services

“I’m also incredibly proud of the achievements of the children, families and young people we work with, especially those who have overcome difficult circumstances to positively turn their lives around. Their stories are evidence that in a safe and healthy environment, young people can thrive.”

The Award recipients were as follows:

The Catherine McAuley Award for excellence by a carer: Lynn and Mark Brierty, Foster Carers

Lynn and Mark understood the importance for the two young children in their care and their birth parents to stay emotionally connected, and went out of their way to maintain a relationship between them.  Lynn wrote letters to the parents, telling them about how the children were progressing and invited them to come to the children’s health appointments. This has ultimately resulted in the mother engaging with services and managing her own mental health. The children now live with their birth parents, and Lynn and Mark continue to provide practical support and respite to the family.

The Edmund Rice Award for excellence in practice by any permanent member of staff: Deirdre Farrar, Disability Services Barwon
Deirdre is responsible for supporting care givers, clients and their families. Her experience and disability knowledge are central to the sustainability of many long-term and secure placements. Deirdre ensures that care givers are supported and get the respite that often allows young people to continue to live in their family home environment. She understands that emotional support is vital to those managing the complexities of caring for a young person with a disability.

The Edmund Rice Award for excellence in practice by a team: MacKillop School Geelong
In just four years, the dedication of the teachers and support staff at MacKillop School, Geelong has built a school framework which runs on a trauma-informed approach. The staff have created a safe learning environment where kids can build positive relationships and grow in self-esteem. Positive outcomes include a decrease in incident reports and student exclusion, an increase in academic achievement, growth in attendance and improved wellbeing in the areas of safety, social wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and learner confidence.

The Mary MacKillop Award for ‘Courage in Life’, acknowledging the great endeavour exercised by a family: Maureen Visser
Maureen has single-handedly cared for Nathan since he was one. Nathan has significant health issues because of CHARGE Syndrome, which presents with severe heart and eye issues as well as cleft lip and palate and many other health issues such as autism. Thanks to the support and dedication he receives from Maureen, Nathan has defied all the odds and has progressed to the age of 15. A shining example of resilience and inner strength, Maureen has continued to care for Nathan after her husband’s sudden death last year. Maureen has been the epitome of a caring parent, realistic in her goals for her son, generous in her love and advocating for his care. Always looking for ways to increase Nathan’s quality of life, Maureen is proactive in trying new activities and finding ways to better communicate with Nathan.

The Mary MacKillop Award for ‘Courage in Life’, acknowledging the great endeavour exercised by a child or young person: Stephen*, NSW
Stephen* came into the care of MacKillop five years ago, at just 12 years of age. Living in residential care, Stephen* has always been a thoughtful house member, befriending and showing kindness to each young person who comes into the house. He has always actively participated in all activities and programs available to him. Over the past year, Stephen* has focused on his goal of becoming a mechanic. Despite facing many challenges, including health concerns, hardship at home and school, and coping with his trauma history, he has remained committed to his goal. As soon as he was able, Stephen* enrolled in a VET mechanics course and attended every day. His enthusiasm and work ethic was so strong, he was invited to continue his work experience beyond the course requirements. Stephen* has shown courage and resilience and is well on the way to realising his dream.

(*name changed)