Make a difference stories

Creating a safer world for children

Creating a safer world for children

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, whose purpose is to create a safer world for children, has seen continued demand for its services working with educators to help them recognise and respond to traumatised children. 

The Foundation launched its Trauma Consultancy Service (TraCS) in 2019. Primarily funded through the Victorian Department of Education School Readiness Funding, this trauma-informed, relationship-based program sees the Foundation’s specialist family practitioners and trauma consultants work directly with educators in their kindergartens, childcare centres and classrooms.

They also provide opportunities for reflection to help educators continue to plan and support children who need it.

‘Working within an organisation that accepts, supports, understands and celebrates neurodiversity is wonderful.’

'Working within an organisation that accepts, supports, understands and celebrates neurodiversity is wonderful.'

When Corrina first started working at Life Without Barriers in 2012, she never expected to have so many opportunities.

Born with autism, Corrina knows how important it is to have a supportive employer who understands the many daily challenges she faces.

She says that she struggles with anxiety, being misinterpreted and compared to ‘neurotypicals’.

Starting out as a disability worker, Corrina has worked across multiple functions and different roles and is currently working as a Community Engagement Planning Officer.

She says that working within an organisation that accepts, supports, understands and celebrates neurodiversity is wonderful.

Eight is Sasha’s lucky number

Eight is Sasha's lucky number

Life Without Barriers, foster mum Sasha says that the decision to foster all came down to one child: *Aaron.

Prior to becoming foster parents, *Sasha and her partner *Aiden worked in a disability care in a group home; first as shift workers and later as house parents.

A Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) representative approached them about fostering one of the children in the home. That was in 2013.

Nine years later, the couple fosters eight children, including Aaron. Sacha’s in-laws live with them so there are twelve people living in their home. Her father-in-law helps run the kids around which is a big help.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people we help.

Photo by Matt Silveira on Unsplash.

Care and community rev up to re-ignite a love for life

Care and community rev up to re-ignite a love for life

Terry’s eyes glisten when he thinks about his motorbike adventures over the years but sadly, his riding days came to a sudden halt when Terry was diagnosed with advanced multiple sclerosis. 

Caring for Terry required Lyn’s full-time attention. When she connected with Bronwyn and Jane from Mission Australia, she was relieved and grateful for the extra support. Bronwyn and Jane, part of our Local Area Coordination teams, help people living with a disability find relevant services.

As a motorcycle enthusiast herself, Bronwyn understood Terry’s love for riding. Noticing Terry’s declining mental health, Bronwyn and Jane set out to help Terry regain his confidence and spark his love for life again using his Harley Davidson bike.

With help from the Fleurieu Peninsula Riding Group, the pair began crafting a surprise ride for Terry in the side caddy of a Harley Davidson.

The opportunity to feel the wind on his face again was like a breath of fresh air.

 ‘I think it’s blown away five years of cobwebs out of his brain and settled him back down.’

‘Terry looks so much better,” says Lyn. ‘He was actually sitting up really straight in his wheelchair, which is very rare, and he just has a constant smile on his face.’

Lyn said the adventure was the breath of fresh air they both needed.

‘When you have someone in your corner who believes in you, it makes a big difference.’

'When you have someone in your corner who believes in you, it makes a big difference.'

‘I grew up in a massive household, I have 10 siblings.  I am the middle child and mum did a great job bringing us up as a single parent,’ says Tareeque.

‘I wanted to study medicine because growing up no one asked me what I really wanted. I think a lot of people just assume children don’t know what they want and that is a false notion. I want to be the guy that listens to children and asks them ‘what do you want?’ and helps to give them a voice. I want to let children and young people know that if you work hard, with a bit of hard work and perseverance, you can escape the mold society wants to put you in.’

Tareeque was matched with his sponsors at The Smith Family when he was in primary school and they supported him up right up until he finished his undergraduate course. 

‘The Smith Family didn’t only give me the motivation to pursue my goals, it was also the fact someone looked past my background and believed in me enough to help me out. When you have someone in your corner who believes in you, it makes a big difference and not just in your academic life. For me, knowing someone believed in me, made me realise that it can actually happen.’

Bringing the joy back into Jack’s education

Bringing the joy back into Jack’s education

Music had been a big part of 10 year old Jack’s life since his childhood. But after his dad died tragically in a cabin fire, the melody went silent. 

‘Mum had the monumental task of raising four kids on a single income, while grieving the loss of her lifelong partner.’

Jack already had a Smith Family sponsor. But as he grew older and watched his mum battle, he could now see just how critical that support truly was. It was the only way she could afford his school lunches, uniforms, supplies and music textbooks.

At school, Jack was struggling to find his rhythm. There were many times he wished to leave. He felt different to the others; like an “outcast”. What helped him was his sponsor, who supported his music passion. They sent encouraging letters and their financial support helped pay for music lessons.

‘I remember writing to my sponsor. It felt surreal that someone wanted to help me,’ says Jack.

‘Their support reminded me no matter what my classmates said, I did belong there and had a right to learn. It brought colour back into my learning. It gave me the space to follow my dream of music.

Jack’s mum also loved her regular check-ins with his Learning for Life Coordinator, Judy, which were made possible through sponsorship support. Judy linked Jack and his family with learning and mentoring programs. 

Hard work, determination – and support from his sponsor – meant Jack finished Year 12. Jack’s sponsor continues to be there for him at university, where he is studying for a Bachelor of Music.

‘My kids have so many more opportunities thanks to being sponsored through The Smith Family.’

‘My kids have so many more opportunities thanks to being sponsored through The Smith Family.’

‘When we first started on the Learning for Life program, I was a full-time single mum and we’d just returned to Sydney to live with my dad. It was hard times, and the support was a life saver.

My son Jason, who has behavioural issues, started Learning for Life in kindy, and my daughter Imogen started in Year 1. They’re 10 and 11 now, and The Smith Family has supported them that whole time. My youngest daughter Cassidy is only three and will start the program when she starts school. But she never gets left out. She still gets books at Christmas from The Smith Family and all that, just like the other kids.

That’s the great thing about the Smith Family. They don’t forget anyone in the family. 

Learning for Life has saved me so much stress. It’s such a relief to know my kids needs can be met. I can now afford textbooks and uniforms for them. My kids can get involved in sports and have more opportunities at school. And I’d never have been able to afford to send my kids on excursions without that extra support.

Learning for Life has given my kids courage and confidence, and it’s helped me fund them to go further with their education. To the wonderful people who make this program possible, I’d like to say thank you for the opportunities you’ve given my children.’

Courtney, Learning for Life mother

Mentors making all the difference

Mentors making all the difference

Like many children of immigrants, Ahmad has straddled two worlds. His parents settled here from Iraq. They struggled with a new language and culture. When Ahmad was seven, his father died from lung cancer. His mother had to raise five children with little money and few skills to help with his schooling.

‘My family wasn’t the well-off type,‘ Ahmad says. ‘Looking back, I’m quite shocked at how my mother managed. It must have been very hard when she didn’t understand the language.’

‘I remember The Smith Family always being by my side when I was a little kid in primary school. It helped Mum a lot.’ 

In high school, Ahmad needed help with career planning and higher education. He wanted to be a lawyer but his network was small and no one he knew could give careers guidance.

That’s why iTrack made such a difference. Over 18 weeks, Ahmad got study and career advice from his mentor, Steven, a lawyer. Through our secure online chat program, Steven gave Ahmad input on his post-school plans. He helped Ahmad work towards his goal of university. 

Ahmad loved that he could ask Steven any questions about the corporate world. His mentor was so friendly and approachable.

iTrack was fun, it was a great experience,”

Ahmad is now 20 and in the last year of a Bachelor of Business degree. He didn’t get the HSC marks for law, but Ahmad isn’t letting that stop him from continuing to pursue his dream.

Ahmad recently finished a business development and marketing internship at King & Wood Mallesons law firm. This was through its School of Opportunity partnership with The Smith Family. It gave him real world experience in both business and law – and a valuable chance to see which he wants to pursue as a career. And it helped that his iTrack mentor has shared what to expect in a big firm.

Rhondie returns to camp on Olkola Country with his Mob.

Rhondie returns to camp on Olkola Country with his Mob.

Rhondie Koolatah was tragically removed from his family to be placed in an institution in South East Qld when he was a young child.

When Life Without Barriers found out Rhondie had not been home for 20 years, our team worked to reconnect him with his Kin and Country.

After a very long journey, Rhondie was welcomed home with a special fire, a water blessing and Ochre ceremony by Michael Yam, the Mayor of Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council.

Watch as Rhondie returns to camp on Olkola Country with his Mob.  

A champion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interns

A champion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interns

For the past four years, Life Without Barriers has partnered with CareerTrackers to provide paid internships for a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

At the CareerTrackers’ gala awards, Leoni Lippitt, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lead for Queensland was named Intern Manager of the Year.

Leoni was nominated by intern, Daniel Chilly, who spoke eloquently about the inspirational leadership provided during his journey.

‘Aunty Leoni is a strong, proud Torres Strait Islander woman who strives to find safe, inclusive spaces for employees and people supported within Life Without Barriers and the broader community,’ said Daniel.