Advice & Inspiration

Thank You Thursday: A new education of hope

In My Blood It Runs is a powerful ‘observational feature documentary’ about 10-yr-old Arrernte Aboriginal boy, Dujuan, growing up in Alice Springs in Central Australia. I watched it recently and was moved by its candour and insightful look into the shortfalls of education for Aboriginal children. 

Directed and produced by Maya Newell, In My Blood It Runs highlights the need for a First Nations led education system in Australia, with advisors to the film wanting two key messages to shine through;

  1. Aboriginal people love and care for their children, and;
  2. Aboriginal people have agency to find their own solutions

Interestingly, advisors to the film are the directors, educators and grandmothers who lead Children’s Ground, a non-profit organisation with objective of allowing children to grow into adults, in control of their social, cultural, political and economic life.

Founded by CEO Jane Vadiveloo and Chair William Tilmouth in 2011, Children’s Ground is changing the status quo for the next generation, preventing pathways to welfare and prison by transforming education and creating hope and opportunity. It is a 25-year approach to ensure agency for children and families over their social, cultural, political and economic futures.

Children’s Ground has a unique approach, not just because of their service delivery, but because of how they operate too. They work across five intersecting platforms: learning, health, economic wellbeing, culture and community.

Ending entrenched intergenerational disadvantage requires change in three areas which Children’s Ground are working toward:

  • Community Change: Families members together enjoying opportunity and with the voice of local people controlling their lives.
  • Systems Change: Access to quality services which privilege first culture by meeting the long-term needs of communities.
  • Society Change: Collaboration to celebrate the nation’s identity with inclusion and respect for First Nations history and culture.

The Children’s Ground vision is a world where all children and families live with dignity and are free from economic poverty and inequity.

Next week is Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), and it’s said that Australia’s ability to move forward as a nation relies on individuals, organisations and communities coming together in the spirit of reconciliation. Watching this film and learning more about organisations like Children’s Ground are just some small steps we can all make in building positive relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. .

So, this Thank You Thursday, we’re giving a shout out to Jane Vadiveloo and William Tilmouth for founding such a forward-thinking organisation, to Maya Newell for developing such a thought-provoking film and to Dujuan Hoosan for having the courage to speak so honestly and share your story. 

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

P.S Here is a trailer of In My Blood It Runs and I’d highly recommend it. 


Thank You Thursday: More than just a haircut

When hairdresser Selina Tomasich was holidaying in the Philippines back in 2010, she had a conversation with Sisters working with abandoned children on the streets of Manila whose parents were too poor to feed them.  The Sisters took the children to a secure location to help in their physical, spiritual and medical needs, hoping to return them to their parents who were usually living in slums or on the streets themselves. What the parents really needed, said the Sisters, was a new skill that they could turn into a job.  When Selina asked, what skill they taught the Sisters said, “Oh, we’re no good at that part, but our dream is to start a sewing centre.

Selina, an Academic at the Sunshine Coast University, returned to Australia with inspiration and gathered a few students, two seamstresses and an assortment of machines and returned to Manila. Within two weeks seventeen people had been taught to sew, so the following year Selina returned with more volunteers.  When asked what other skills would be useful, the locals responded, “hair cutting”.

Once again Selina returned home to Australia and assembled a group of volunteer hairdressers to join her next trip.  The hair cutting training really took off and in 2013 Selina formally established Hair Aid as a non-profit in Australia to provide free hair cutting training for people living in critical poverty by recruiting volunteer hairdressers from all around the world.

From humble beginnings, Hair Aid now has seven international projects a year, and 20+ hairdressers at a time come on each project. Twice a year Hair Aid travels to the Philippines and Cambodia and once a year to Indonesia.  At the start of this year Hair Aid began travelling to Thailand and hope to expand to Vietnam for projects also.

Training is often held under a tree, on a basketball court or wherever there is space for people willing to learn.  In five days, the locals can learn five basic cuts and with their newfound skills, and donated hair-cutting kits, soon open their own businesses and happily start to live healthier and happier lives with their families.

More recently, Hair Aid started a new program, operating within Australia, to recruit and co-ordinate volunteer hairdressers in their local communities and support those that need a hand. Through this program, Hair Aid has helped people from all works of life including those experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence and refugees or migrants.

This Thursday, we give a big shout out to Selina and all those giving their time to provide hair cuts and/or training both here in Australia or overseas. As they say, you really are helping the world one hair cut at a time.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Bianca Crocker Not-for-Profit Conference 2020 Collins and Co

Dating Your Donors: Building life-long relationships with those who matter

The Fish Chick presented at the Collins and Co 2020 Not-for-Profit Conference in Melbourne last month about the importance of donor engagement for fundraising success.

The team at Collins and Co have kindly shared the session online. You can watch the whole presentation below.

Thank You Thursday: Connecting through Education

School life is challenging enough for some students, and with today’s changing family circumstances, cultural differences, socio-economic disadvantages and social media, many more students are struggling. Literacy and numeracy are must-have basic skills to help us get through everyday life.

Beginning in Western Australia in 1996, The School Volunteer Program started up and operated for over 20 years. It expanded across the states to Victoria and New South Wales under different names. However, in 2015 it had a rebrand and is now known as EdConnect.

This charity plays a vital role in recruiting and training volunteers with skills needed to mentor, support and help make a difference to at-risk young people. These volunteers (mainly older generations) equip the youngsters with the life skills they will need themselves to reach their full potential.

EdConnect inspires older generations to inspire the next, giving the whole community a sense of worth. With a mission to prepare and connect intergenerational volunteers with disadvantaged or at-risk young people for education success and personal wellbeing, EdConnect was awarded Volunteering WA Organisation of the Year in 2018.

This innovative organisation connects three important groups in the community; schools, students and volunteers, in a model that meets the needs of each group and creates positive impacts on various levels.

The results participating schools are seeing in students involved in the program are remarkable, with reports of 99% reduction in disruptive behaviour and improved social skills, as well as 95% improved literacy and 92% improved numeracy outcomes.

Volunteers are feeling more connected to their community, with reports of 98% improvements in mental health and wellbeing and 85% better physical health.

Today 1,300 EdConnect volunteers are helping 6,400 young people across 230 schools to realise their potential not only in school but in society and their future life.

This Thank You Thursday, we say a big thanks to all the teachers and volunteers working to improve the education and lives of some of our most needy students.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Thank You Thursday: Kind Keeley

About half a million Australians have an intellectual disability and many are children. There are obvious challenges faced by these children and regrettably, not all children with an intellectual disability or Autism are able to obtain Government funding or NDIS assistance.

This month an amazing young woman named Keeley is turning sixteen. Keeley has an intellectual disability and Autism herself and is making an incredible difference in the lives of other children and young people facing similar challenges.

In her early teens, Keeley had depression and anxiety as a result of her Autism and the recent diagnosis of an intellectual disability. She was unable to comprehend information at school using the current teaching models available and struggled to do basic math. Keeley experienced first-hand the isolation this disadvantage caused her.

If I’m given work on paper, I get overwhelmed. Put that same test on an iPad I get them all right. Go figure!

A simple iPad can make a big difference for such kids. An iPad can help to provide an individual learning plan and creates a voice for the non-verbal who cannot communicate. It can lessen the effects of anxiety and depression by allowing them to be educated and interact with technology they truly understand.  An iPad has the power to change the lives of these children by improving their self-esteem and self-worth.

Keeley believed that “despite our disabilities we all have a right to education and dreams”.

In 2017 Keeley created a charity – Keeley’s Cause – to ensure other children like her could get access to the iPads they needed.

If iPads are what we need to help us learn, then iPads are what we are going to get.  No one should have to go through what I am going through, or feel how I am feeling now.

Keeley’s Cause helps low income families and parents on disability/carers payment to obtain an iPad through fundraising, sausage sizzles, merchandise, iPad sponsorships and donations.  They assist as many children as they possibly can and, so far, Keeley has presented more than 76 iPads within Victoria, Sydney and Queensland.  She has also personally raised close to $50,000.

Keeley named her charity herself and even designed the logo.  As a Cub of her local Lions Club she approached them for help and they have taken Keeley’s Cause on as their project.

Keeley is now attending a Specialist School and kicking lots of goals, including some recent achievements. Last year she won the Moorabool Youth Award for contributing to ‘Improving Outcomes for young people with A Disability’. She was also a semi-finalist in two categories for the Victorian Young Achievers for the following both the Community Service and Social Impact Award and the Regional and Rural Health Achievers Award.

Keeley is an exceptional young woman and this Thank You Thursday we not only wish her a wonderful 16th birthday but we say thank you to her for her kindness, generosity and incredible work to support other children and young people.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.