Developmental vulnerability for children comes at a high cost to individuals, families and to society as a whole.
And vulnerable children are at risk of growing up to be vulnerable adults, with poorer educational attainment, higher rates of chronic disease and mental health, and a greater tendency towards unemployment, homelessness and crime.
This is why on Wednesday, February 21, Royal Far West, Fairfax Media, and Charles Sturt University are hosting a community discussion on the subject, and how we can work collaboratively to better support children and their families in the shire.
With 94 years in the business of helping rural kids, Royal Far West is well placed to be in this role, especially as demand for their programs is growing, as is the complexity of the children and families who seek help.
Here in the Nambucca Valley, a group of residents has already put this community onto the RFW map and formed a committee, ValleyCat, that hosted a 2016 trial of RFW’s telecare program in local schools.
The trial started in June 2016 making contact with 122 children, a further 48 were helped last year.
Macksville Rotary’s Rod Edwards is one of those who has climbed on board with the ValleyCat committee.
“I first heard about the trials from Jenny Zirkler, who I know from Rotary and also Nambucca Valley Care,” Rod said.
“I passionately support the need to help our valley kids and in 2016 I joined the Royal Far West Ride for Country Kids from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour.
“They were highlighting the need to help kids on the coast and not only those that live out where the dirt is red. It was the time when we were getting ValleyCat going and all the money I raised was used to help fund the trial.
“Last year three others joined me (Jane Wood, Harry Andrews and Linda Piccin) and we peddled from Wagga to Orange with RFW. Together with a garage sale plus donations from local Rotary and Lions Clubs we raised about $15,000.
“All that money was quarantined by RFW and came back to the valley to support those 48 kids.”
The group is now looking at how to keep the momentum going and planning the next phase of ValleyCat.
ValleyCat founding member Jenny Zirkler said the community meeting on February 21 was an opportunity for people to hear about this and for the group to showcase their successes.
“For those who have already donated, they need to know it’s making a difference, and for those who are not involved, well, maybe it will inspire them to join us in some capacity,” Jenny said.
The meeting will be in the style of Q& A with seven panel members:
· MC Brad Cooper - Fairfax
· Lindsay Cane – CEO Royal Far West
· Cr Rhonda Hoban – Mayor of Nambucca Shire Council
· Janine Reed – Governing Board, Local Health District
· Rod Edwards – Rotary
· Tanya Bajda – Principal (Relieving); Macksville Public School
· Cr Martin Ballangarry OAM - Deputy Mayor
Everyone is invited to join RFW on Wednesday, February 21 at the Macksville Ex-Services Club to hear an update on the progress of the Valley Cat project and have your say on next steps to keep this project moving forward in the community.
Registration and afternoon tea kicks off at 5pm and the meeting will run from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. .
To register, visit www.royalfarwest.org.au/town-hall