Ra Stewart is the Executive Manager Strategy and Business Development for Parkerville Children And Youth Care Inc. In this interview, Ra talks about the programmes run by Parkerville to assist children and families as well as the fund raising that supports that work.
How was Parkerville formed?
Parkerville Children's Home was established in 1903 by two Anglican nuns who came out from England with 6 orphans. They arrived in Western Australia and purchased 19 acres of land up in the Parkerville Hills. They felt that kids needed some space and open fresh air so that they grow and run and thrive. They continued as a home for abandoned and neglected children for quite some years. For the last 120 years, the organisation has evolved to support those children, young people and their families who've experienced trauma from abuse, neglect or sexual assault.
How has the organisation evolved?
We have evolved now to be an holistic organisation providing counselling and therapeutic services, parenting services and crisis accommodation. We work very closely with the Department of Communities and the West Australian Police in regards to our Child Advocacy Centres to support those kids and families who have experienced sexual assault, and that was the project which Great Escape helped to fund raise for.
Are there any particular achievements that you're very proud of?
I think the whole thing has been fairly extraordinary. It was a great foresight by the nuns when they first came out. The organization has grown and evolved to address a set of issues, which nobody else seems to address.
What does it mean for the families that you're supporting?
Many of these kids have experienced sexual abuse. In many cases, our work is around redefining and reshaping their lives so that they're not defined by the experience of sexual abuse. We work to help build the resilience and tools they need to thrive and reach their fullest potential.
How is Parkerville funded?
In terms of our foster care and out-of-home care, we receive some government funding. All of our other programmes are self-funded.
How did Great Escape get involved in helping with fundraising?
There are a number of different programmes. One of our programmes is the Child Advocacy Centres. We have a centre in Armadale and a centre in Midland. It is that programme, for which we receive no government funding and no recurrent funding, that the Great Escape supported by offering a cruise as a live auction item at our charity lunch. That cruise raised $17,500. Our Child Advocacy Centres include a Multi-Agency Investigation & Support Team, which sees Parkerville Children and Youth Care working closely with the WA Police. This programme advocates for a child from disclosure through the process of securing evidence and then going to court sometimes after. We provide holistic services to that child and their family in a very complex situation.
West Australian police get significantly better outcomes when they work with us, as opposed to when they work on their own in these situations. They're very supportive of the programme. There is a case at present where the police have requested our involvement because it's a fairly significant one. Something like 80% of child sexual abuse cases don't involve the Department of Communities. They're people like you and I with kids, and somebody knocks on the door one day and says, "We need to have a conversation with you about your child." For families it is very confronting. You can imagine what that happens to families. So we're not only supporting the child but also the parents and the siblings because the ramifications of a situation like that on the family, the broader family and the community, particularly over the longer term with regards to mental health, drug and alcohol addiction and family domestic violence are fairly significant.
How do you think the programme benefits the children?
If a person is sexually abused and they don't receive the appropriate trauma counselling, then their perception and understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour is altered. They're not necessarily in the best position to be able to support their children because they can sometimes have a different understanding of relationships.
How can individuals and businesses support the work of Parkerville?
We have ongoing fundraising and development activities. In terms of this particular programme, it's really about securing the funds so that we can pay our team of psychologists and child advocates to support those families. There are a whole range of programmes that Parkerville Children And Youth Care deliver. If people have an interest in different things, we can possibly assist them to align their emotional connection with the cause.
"we receive no government funding and no recurrent funding, that the Great Escape supported by offering a cruise as a live auction item at our charity lunch. That cruise raised $17,500"
"We've seen extraordinary changes in these kids, with many going on to apprenticeships and employment and, down the track, even starting their own businesses."
Employment & Training
One of our programmes is our Education, Employment and Training (EET) programme, which is held on campus in Parkerville. We have between 12 and 15 students each semester who've become disengaged with school. They might be because they're experiencing significant family and domestic violence issues at home, or they could have parents who have drug and alcohol addiction issues. It's difficult for them to even get to school with everything that's going on at home.
As part of the programme, they study to receive a Cert II, so they qualify for Year 10 over one semester up on campus. It's a combination of study and working because a lot of these young people find it very difficult to sit at a desk for five and a half or six hours a day. We've seen extraordinary changes in these kids, with many going on to apprenticeships and employment and, down the track, even starting their own businesses. It costs Parkerville approximately $25,000 per student per semester. The result is these kids actually qualify from Year 10, oftentimes go into some form of employment or apprenticeship, break that cycle, and go on to make really fabulous contributions and live fulfilling lives.
Moving On Moving Out
We have what we call a MoMo, a Moving On, Moving Out programme where kids who have been in foster care for most of their lives and who can't go home, we then support them to actually secure their own home, whether it's shared accommodation or something else, so that they can actually be independent and avoid youth homelessness.
We do support those experiencing youth homelessness to a certain extent. We've got a young mother's programme where we support young Mums who've got children and who are at risk of being homeless. They might be victims of family domestic violence, and we support them to find accommodation until they're able to support themselves.
One of our signature programmes, obviously, is our foster and out-of-home care. We've got a really interesting pilot happening at present, which has been co-designed with members of our Aboriginal community. At the end of the day, our primary goal is to reunify our kids with their families because that's where they're happiest, and that's where they thrive best if it's a secure and safe environment.
The Healing Journey
Parkerville is about these beautiful, amazing children who, through birth or circumstance, have experienced terrible, excruciating trauma, and our role is to support and guide them through their healing journey so that they live a content, fulfilled, happy life and are not defined by their experience.