Veteran Sport Australia supports Kookaburra Kids on their mission to empower young people to thrive beyond the impacts of family mental illness
“When my Dad came home from an operation, he acted very different. Kookaburra Kids
helped me understand why and that he still loves me.” – Kookaburra Kid.
Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) proudly partners with, advocates for and supports organisations across Australia who share our values and mission – harnessing the power of sport to aid the physical and mental health and wellbeing of veterans and their families. VSA does this by connecting veteran communities with activities, sporting and recreational opportunities in their area.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has recently announced new funding for the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation’s Defence Kids Program. The program is designed for defence children aged 8 – 18 who are impacted by family mental illness as a result of their service. VSA is proud to support this program which acknowledges a veteran’s rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration into the community is a journey that involves the entire family unit.
What is the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation?
The Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation delivers services for young people impacted by family mental illness with an aim to empower them to build resilience, understanding and develop the tools they need to reach their full potential.
The Foundation operates the Defence Kids Program which is dedicated to supporting the unique needs of children from serving and ex-serving ADF families. The program’s ‘Kookaburra Camps’ are specifically designed for defence children to be able to talk and enhance their understanding about mental health and promote connections with young people in similar situations.
The program’s activities and services promote mental health literacy and positive help-seeking behaviours, all in a safe and fun environment. These skills are built and developed together to help a young person work through and manage their home life experiences.
“Kookaburra Kids has given me a better understanding of mental illness. A group of
friends who are always there to talk to and will understand.” – Kookaburra Kid.
Kookaburra Kids goes virtual
Like many organisations, Kookaburra Kids switched to virtual on-line services during lockdown. The on-line Connect Program has allowed the Foundation to reach an even wider number of young people and remain connected to those they cannot see face-to-face.
It has delivered an interactive online program where young people, both new and existing, engage with each other in safe, strengths-based resilience discussions. These chat sessions are run by youth for youth, hosted by Kookaburra Kids’ staff and volunteers.
Supporting the entire family
Fortunately, in Australia there is a wide range of incredible organisations that provide support to veterans and their families. Distinctively, Kookaburra Kids’ Defence Kids Program is the only initiative designed specifically for young people within the community.
The Defence Kids Program allows kids to be kids – something that is sometimes hard to do when there is mental illness being experienced in the home. The program can provide a young person with a much-needed break, giving them space and support tailored to their unique situation. It also complements any medical and mental health services already provided to individuals and families.
“Despite evidence that trauma such as PTSD and other mental health concerns impacts the family unit, most treatment approaches continue to focus only on the individual and not their families. Our Defence Kids Program offers a unique approach in holistic care for our wider Defence community,” said Colin Pickstone, National Community Engagement Coordinator (Defence) at The Kookaburra Kids Foundation.
“It is essential that mental health illnesses are discussed with young people to reduce confusion and worry, enhance understanding and communication within the family to improve mental health outcomes. Education, support and being open and informed about complex mental trauma, that are known to impact current and former Defence members, is essential to ensure the young people in Defence families can grow and thrive in a healthy home environment,” he said.
Working together to connect communities
VSA’s Veteran Engagement Specialist, Rachel Kerrigan, has been working with the defence community in the Northern NSW region to connect families and young people with the Defence Kids Program.
“When a parent or caregiver is struggling with mental health, the whole family is on that journey with them. Having a space where kids can build resilience, gain an understanding of the changes occurring in their family and having it normalised with other’s they can share these experiences with is so very important, which is why I work so closely with Kookaburra Kids and believe in the work they do,” Rachel said.
Anyone can refer a child to the Kookaburra Kids’ Defence Kids Program, if they are from a veteran family whose parent or carer is living with a mental illness relative to military service. The program accepts young people between the ages of 8 – 18.
If you know a young person who may benefit from the Defence Kids Program, you can refer them directly via the Kookaburra Kids website www.kookaburrakids.org.au, calling 1300 566 525 or getting in touch with VSA.