How a Community Grant can help caregivers in your community to connect and support each other

Caregivers so often put others’ needs ahead of their own. That’s why there are community groups dedicated to helping carers to look after their own mental wellbeing. Read more about how a Community Grant can support this goal.

Caregivers are known for putting others first, often at a high cost to their own wellbeing, and without proper support networks.

When Special Needs Fraser Coast surveyed local caregivers about their experiences of parenting a young person with a disability, they discovered feelings of social isolation and anxiety. The parents described these challenges as major barriers to accessing community events and support groups.

Karen Baker, founder and director of Special Needs Fraser Coast, has long felt that this is a problem that needs to be addressed within communities, which is why she created a way to do just that.

“The challenges are endless when you’re caring for a child with a disability. It’s very isolating, very lonely, and you’re so busy empowering and advocating for your child that you forget about yourself,” says Karen.

The initiative inspired by personal experience

Special Needs Fraser Coast is operated by volunteers, with goals to provide informal and free peer support for young people with a disability, their families and carers.

Karen was inspired to help others through her own parenting experiences. “My daughter was diagnosed with a disability and there was no support around,” she says, “and so it's always been a dream of mine to help the carers and start an opportunity for carers to put ourselves first for a change.”

In the early days, Special Needs Fraser Coast existed only as a Facebook page for the parents of children with a disability, with the aim of being a safe place to learn, grow and support each other. In recent years the association has grown but remains a place for caregivers to learn and support themselves and others.

Part of that growth has been in creating events and activities that connect people. Special Needs Fraser Coast now facilitates a successful inclusive singing choir, and a Sunday soccer and barbecue afternoon, where families can meet to feel safe and supported, make new friends and catch up with long-held connections.

“I've made some very deep, lifelong friends with other carers because we understand one another, we understand the hardships,” Karen says, adding that these relationships help to ease the challenges. “I think if we can make somebody else’s journey a little bit easier, then we’re doing a good thing.”

Get Your Happy On: a new initiative that puts parents and carers first

It was this desire to reach out, and to help parents and carers, that inspired Get Your Happy On, the new initiative from Special Needs Fraser Coast.

Funded by an Australia Post Community Grant, Get Your Happy On is a series of evidence-based workshops for caregivers of children with a disability. The workshops teach self-care tools, resilience strategies, and coping techniques such as breathing and meditation. This results in the caregivers being able to better manage their mental and emotional health and gives them the confidence to participate in the community.

“It normalises mental health strategies,” explains Kimberley Robyn, a wellness coach and creator of Get Your Happy On. “And it has a ripple effect. The mums take it home to the families and the kids, and then it’s getting out to the wider community.”

The workshops are also a time for parents and carers to socialise with others who understand what they’re going through, as well as having some time out. Giving caregivers the opportunity to put themselves first, which is so often a rarity for parents and carers of children with a disability, is a welcome relief to participants.

Kimberley believes that events like this create an important connection between people who need to gather support from others. “Connection is so important in mental health. The really strong bonds, the friendship and the support that they have within the group is so rewarding, and it’s something that I think will continue long into the future.”

Connecting local communities

Australia Post is delivering the goods for local communities with grants to support mental wellbeing. Because when we connect, we feel better.