Cire partners with Big W Lilydale to share gift of giving

Cire has welcomed a partnership with Big W Lilydale Services which has brought much cheer to people across the region and well beyond, in the lead up to Christmas.

Through a huge distribution of surplus new goods, Cire and Big W have touched the lives and hearts of people of all ages and challenging circumstances including families doing it tougher than ever due to the impact of COVID, young children and at-risk youth, the homeless, as well as asylum seekers and refugees, and people in crises presenting at hospital emergency departments.

Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis said the distribution was incredibly timely given the far-reaching impact of COVID and the fact an increasing number of people are facing levels of vulnerability they have not experienced previously.

She said it was extremely rewarding to work with Big W Lilydale to assist people in need within the Yarra Ranges and beyond.

Due to COVID, Big W Lilydale had a large surplus of stock that needed to be moved to allow for pre-ordered consignments, particularly in the run-up to Christmas and the re-opening of retail with the easing of restrictions in metro Melbourne. The store contacted Cire to assist with distribution to people most in need, rather than send the valuable consignment to landfill.

Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis said the distribution was incredibly timely given the far-reaching impact of COVID and the fact an increasing number of people are facing levels of vulnerability they have not experienced previously.

She said it was extremely rewarding to work with Big W Lilydale to support people within the Yarra Ranges and beyond.

Rebecca Moyle, Manager of Soft Goods at Big W Lilydale, commended Cire on the way it sorted the enormous consignment of clothing, shoes, toys and other goods and ensured they reached those in need.

Cire was able to distribute most of the consignment through its core business units of Cire Children’s Services, Cire Community School for at-risk youth, Cire Community Hubs and First Impression Clothing Exchange for vulnerable women.

Cire was also able to facilitate access for other local organisations such as Nourish Network, Redwood Centre at Warburton, LinC Yarra Valley and Discovery Community Care based at Lilydale. Other beneficiaries were the Maroondah Hospital Emergency Department and a community outreach program looking after up to 2000 people a week including asylum seekers and refugees thanks to the joint efforts of Servants of the Two Hearts and Reaching Out Because We Can.

Overawed, a Cire Children’s Services mum exclaimed:

“Oh my god, this is a life saver I’m putting some of it away for Christmas for my five children. This is so awesome, thank you so much!”

At Maroondah Hospital, staff were equally amazed by the generosity. Many homeless people present to the Emergency Department without shoes and only the clothes they are wearing which sometimes needs to be cut off. It is so nice to be able to send them home in new clothes.

Also, the Christmas period is a time when the hospital sees more mums in crises presenting with young families.  New clothing for their babies and young children provides real relief.

Images – main image Cire staff sorting through the Big W Lilydale consignment in the underground car park of Cire’s Lilydale head office.

Donations by the patient trolley load for Maroondah Hospital Emergency Department

Goods on display for families at Cire Children’s Services at Yarra Junction

Elisa Mineo_Reaching Out Because We Çan (left) and Sr Margaret_ Servants of the Two Hearts

For further information please contact Sandra Bucovaz, Manager Partnerships and Funding, Cire Services Inc. Tel. 0401 617 122

COVID Reflections by Megan Small

In the following presentation to Cire’s all-staff forum on 9 November, Megan Small from Cire Community School shared her experiences as Lead Teaching and Learning VCAL during COVID lockdowns and how she overcame her own challenges to support and keep students connected, engaged and supported, as well as colleagues 


One week to go in Term 1 and COVID numbers were starting to creep higher.

Schools were given two days to prepare to go online… Apparently, that’s all it would take. Teachers scrambled to learn new tasks on top of rewriting the entire curriculum to go online.

There was much research, sharing of ideas, folders set up for easy access, phone calls, emails, excitement, teamwork, frustration and tears.

I had been in a new role, for what seemed like five minutes, as Lead Teaching and Learning VCAL. My Achilles heel is technology, now I was to lead teaching and learning online.

I studied my degree online, so had some understanding and some resources that I could use to help me get through. Many teachers were less experienced and were terrified to go online with their classes.

School holidays were non-existent in semester one. Other than a few hours here and there, we were all working, all learning to go online.

I ran online classes in the holidays to pass on what I could. Sometimes it is easier to learn from someone that is not an expert, but the problem was I was in a lead role and the others were relying on me, so I had to learn before I taught my colleagues.

Term 2 started and we simply ‘went for it’. We had prepared as much as we could, supported each other and worked hard. We were exhausted before we even began… teachers terrified, students ranging from distraught to excited, internet failing, cameras not working, me forgetting to unmute when I was talking…

With every success, there was a problem to balance the scales.

On my planning day, I would visit the classrooms via google meets and often found teachers in a world of pain, asking for my help. Many times I would say “give me five minutes” and I would google my life away to come up with an answer for the team.

On Wednesdays the team would catch up, report on what was working and what they wouldn’t do again. Mark Hunt, my equivalent at the Mount Evelyn campus, and I made a huge effort to stay in touch with each other so we were prepared for our colleagues. We had meetings and communicated regularly with the school leadership team so they weren’t being inundated with emails from individual staff.

Executive Principal Paul van Breugel kept us as updated as he could but eventually we realised that some questions just could not be answered. This was and still is the nature of COVID.


We hit a groove with some students..they were turning up and completing work. I had one student attend online classes more than he had attended in the past two years. The quiet students were speaking up, making oral presentations and engaging in discussion. They were showing leadership and coming out of their shells.

However, not everything was fantastic. The outgoing students weren’t turning up. They could not relate to a classroom online. They were not receiving their much needed energy from each other, the banter, the rough and tumble, the very things that make them feel alive – human contact.

Teachers could see it happening, we called them, we begged them, we called parents, heard them cry, consoled them and soldiered on.

The wellbeing team set up a session for parents to talk about the craziness that was going on inside their families.

When COVID  numbers started to drop, we had the chance to return to campus. The numbers of vulnerable students attending Mount Evelyn campus were slowly growing and teachers on the ground were run off their feet. However, many students just gave up and waited for third term before returning to the classroom


We had some time off during the holidays but I was preparing for placement, which was starting day one of third term. I was to spend a month recording the most incredible and difficult experience a teacher could endure. My uni is in Hobart, they had no idea. 

Engagement interviews that were scheduled for the end of first term were happening at the beginning of term three. They focus was on setting goals, explaining the new COVID classrooms, preparing our students and their parents for the new normal. Then there were temperature checks, sanitiser, one (student) per desk, no food prep, no cuppas, no sharing.

We didn’t care, we were all so happy to be back in the classroom, the mood was jubilant, the chatter was infectious. It was hard not to hug them (students), it was all I wanted to do.

Try coming up with creative tasks again without touching, try teaching manicures or hairstyles without touch, sport without sharing a ball, cooking without sharing tools.

But we did it and were happy to do it, the amazing staff at Cire coming together once again to support our precious youth.

Three weeks in, COVID numbers were soaring and we were home again, for the rest of the term. Leadership opened both campuses so if one fell, we would not lose all students and staff to infection. There was no novelty with online teaching this time, we knew what there was to lose. Our students, our results and our sanity!

There were no meetings of goodwill, we taught an hour less each day to save us becoming exhausted. Mark and I were teaching full time, so we could not support the teachers by popping into classrooms. 

And it was numeracy and literacy, day after day, beloved projects just could not be taught online, there was no room for peer teamwork.

To be honest, I started to struggle, I missed everyone, I was teary and dealing with people struggling at home. I was like the outgoing kids, I missed my dose of people, the ones that made me laugh, made me proud and gave me my energy to continue such a rewarding yet taxing job.

I also worried endlessly about the students that had stopped picking up the phone, the parents that were sick of talking and my colleagues that were dragging themselves to the other end of the day. 

I stayed home, wore a mask and had no visitors, desperately trying to do my bit to help reduce COVID numbers.


Returning to school was wonderful, everyone was smiling, nearly everyone had made it through. It was wonderful to see everyone and I felt that my class had a special connection by sharing the challenges of going online together.

It was okay that we had no excursions, no speakers to welcome, no sports day, graduation dinner, work experience or volunteering

Less than half of the VCAL students will graduate this year because the lack of community involvement has not allowed them to finish all of their subjects. COVID has put many plans back at least six months for these students. 

Unfortunately, some students didn’t make it. The lack of human contact, the lack of routine and the decisions driven by boredom have interrupted their journey to a positive life. However, we will keep contacting them, keep showing them that we care and keep doing our jobs.

I am so proud to be a teacher at Cire, now more than ever. 

Thanks for your time and showing an interest in our teaching journey.

For further information about Cire Community School click here

Zooming in on over 50s to beat isolation

From fitness to computer classes to accessing services like Telehealth and government sites, to family gatherings and simply checking in, many of Cire’s mature-aged learners are staying connected during COVID thanks to a special digital device loan program.

Without devices of their own, many of these seniors would have been even more isolated and vulnerable but the program and the ongoing support of Cire trainers, has enabled them to venture into a brave new world of connectivity, as well as further develop their overall online confidence and skills.

Cire was fortunate to gain funding through the Federal Government’s Be Connected initiative to roll out the digital device loan program through its learning and training sites at Yarra Junction, Lilydale and Chirnside Park.

“It has been hugely rewarding to be able to support the over 50s in our community with Samsung tablets to help keep them connected with the outside world in the comfort and safety of their own home,’ said Jenelle Strachan, Manager of Cire Community Hubs”.

‘During the pandemic, Zoom has become a household buzz word for connecting people, socially or for education and work.  Equipping our over 50s with devices, skills and confidence to use various platforms to see and connect to their families and friends has been an incredibly powerful tool in helping combat feelings of social isolation and loneliness.’

Cire is part of the Be Connected network, an Australian Government initiative aimed at increasing the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology. It targets those aged 50 years and over, who have minimal or no engagement with digital technology.

The COVID loan program was in response to a Be Connected survey that revealed that 75% of older learners did not have devices at home and access to the internet which seriously limited their ability to stay in touch with family and friends during social isolation and restriction periods.

Pat - grandmother from Lilydale

Pat – grandmother from Lilydale

One Cire learner, Pat from Lilydale was thrilled to receive her device because she said she could ‘see’ her grandchildren and also keep up her Fit4Life classes that were being delivered virtually by Chirnside Park Community Hub.

Alan, from Cire’s project-based Tech Hub Class where students learn practical and necessary skills for everyday life, was equally thrilled. The loan meant he could continue to access the internet including the Be Connected site to further learn how to operate and perform specific skills based on his own needs, as well as access apps to help him with his spelling.

‘The Be Connected website is the best I have ever used and all the material has been very thoughtfully written and designed with the true user in mind,’ said Alan. Pre-COVID Tech Hub classes used the Be Connected app and students found it very user-friendly with a great blend of videos, quizzes and information.

Philip and Sui who both come from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds agreed that having a device enables them to access Zoom classes and continue with ‘speaking practice and pronunciation. Thank you so much’.

An equally appreciative Tami from Cire’s Reconnect program said it has been a real confidence booster being able to ‘play around’ with the device to learn how to use it and safely.

Pictured above
Cire trainer Rowan Barr with Alan and Naomi Taylor, Cire Community Hubs Coordinator


Some tools to help with isolation 2.0

With the third weekend upon us, Isolation 2.0 brings its own set of challenges and a raft of emotions for us all. Here are some tools you may wish to utilise to navigate your way through this time.

You Do You
It is important to remember your experience is individual, so try not to compare yourself to others. If you see your friend, colleague, neighbour looking chirpy and chipper, and believe you ‘should’ be feeling the same way, it really minimises your own experience. It’s ok to feel the way you feel. That is your right as a human being. Be cautious about what you are viewing on social media also. Many people tend to show only the highlights of their life, and may not share that after their post of looking fabulous by the pool, they flop on the couch with a bag of chips and a glass of wine.

If someone you knew was experiencing the feelings you are, what would you say to them? Would you tell them to get over it and toughen up? Or would you gently remind them that they are doing their best? Think about your own self-talk and how compassionate you are being towards yourself. If you find yourself being compassionate towards others more than for you for yourself, tap into that feeling of compassion, and turn some of it inwards.

We hear about counselling and seeking professional help, and sometimes we have a negative view about it or it just seems to be words. So how about re-framing to simply talking to someone? Talking to someone who won’t judge, or not know what to say, or get affected by your experience? Sometimes we worry about burdening others with our problems or experiences. A counsellor is there to walk alongside you, and they are trained to manage their own experience so it won’t impact you. You don’t need to worry about them, and just know they are there to listen to you.

I’m going to remind you about gratitude because there are days when we might feel like there is nothing to be grateful for. ‘I have to wear a mask to go outside, why should I be grateful??’ But there is always something to be grateful for. The kind words of a colleague, your morning coffee, running water, a warm place to sleep. We can easily take these things for granted, so remind yourself of those things that you are grateful for today. And remember, you might just be the part of someone’s day that they are grateful for.

Break Time
It’s not always easy to have a structured or even a long break during the day but make the effort where you can. Grab a cup of tea, a walk around the block, eat your lunch sitting down looking out the window. Whatever you can do to reset and refocus means you can put more into the rest of the day. Try not to just take a break when you get exhausted; recharge your batteries before they run out. If you can structure your breaks, get into a healthy routine and perhaps set a reminder in your calendar to take a break. Without others around us to say ‘hey I’m going to grab a coffee, want one?’ it can be easy to power on and forget.

While it is vital to focus on our own health and wellbeing, doing something kind for others can also bring a sense of fulfilment and peace. Can you donate to your favourite charity? Or send a care package to your friend? Deliver a meal to your grandparents? Clean out your wardrobe and donate some clothes to FICE? Caring for others is so important, and it just might leave you feeling better too.

There are so many courses available online these days, making learning more accessible than ever for a lot of people. Whether it’s for fun (i.e. belly dancing through the Hub) or improving life skills (i.e. Smart Money – Financial Wellness through the RTO), learning something new expands our life experience. It’s also a great way to meet and connect with others.

More the norm than ever, meditation is recognised as a useful exercise for our minds. It can seem daunting if you don’t understand it, so use a guided meditation app like Smiling Mind or Headspace to help you along. Meditation isn’t a relaxation practice – it’s like a gym workout for your mind! You can learn to be more mindful by just focusing on your breath. Think about times when you’ve been living in the past, or stressing about the future. Mindfulness gets your right back to the present moment, where you just focus on what is happening here and now. You can then decide, what will I do next? Ok, I’ll just put the kettle on. I’ll get a mug from the cupboard. I am calm. I am safe.

I got a fancy pedometer watch that pretty much electrocutes me when I need to get up and move…despite it doing this I still put it on every day! It is a good reminder to get my steps up. Yes, I need to don a mask if I walk outside. I can also exercise inside, with equipment or an online video to follow. It’s amazing how exercise improves our mental, and of course physical, health. So get up and go. Start small and build yourself up.

Studies have shown that listening to music reduces your heart rate, lowers blood pressure and increases serotonin which makes you feel happy. You can also have a little jig around the house to get you moving, sing out load to give your lungs a bit of exercise and take a trip down memory lane when listening to those songs from years gone by.

I hope this helps give you some food for thought about the things you can do to support yourself and others through this time. You got this.

Take care, and be kind to yourself.

4 Effective Ways to Relieve Stress Naturally

In today’s fast-paced world and with the added pressures of COVID-19, many of us are dealing with some level of stress in our lives. Stress can manifest in many different ways; difficulty sleeping, concentration issues, loss of appetite, overeating, physical tension and headaches. The good news is, there are some really effective ways to help relieve stress naturally!

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils are fantastic for relaxation and restful sleep. Their effects have been scientifically studied and proven to work in the brain, helping to relieve stress and anxiety. Lavender oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils for stress and through a vast range of studies, has demonstrated the ability to positively affect the nervous system by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Ylang ylang, valerian, roman chamomile, cedarwood and neroli are also great essential oils that can have powerful effects on stress levels.

2. Herbal Tea

Herbal teas have been used for centuries as a natural aid to help relieve stress. Chamomile has been scientifically proven to naturally increase levels of serotonin and melatonin, leaving you calm and relaxed without feeling too drowsy. It can also help soothe muscle aches and headaches, commonly associated with tension held in the body. Other teas that are fantastic for reducing stress include valerian root, lemon balm, rosehip, peppermint, liquorice root and green tea (to name a few!).

3. Mindfulness

Similar to meditation, mindfulness is one of the most effective ways to take yourself out of ‘fight or flight’ mode when stress and panic take over. Using a few simple strategies, you can quickly centre yourself back to the present moment and calm your racing mind in moments of anxiety. Here are 3 simple mindfulness methods you can use in less than 60 seconds to quickly reduce stress:

  • Take a big deep breath, focusing all your attention on the sensation of the coolness of the air as it enters your nose, feel your belly rising as it fills with air and slowly breath out through your mouth. Repeat 3 times.
  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on the different sounds around you. Try not to judge or analyse them, just observe. Can you hear cars? Birds chirping? Simply observe these sounds for a few moments to help ground yourself back to the ‘now’.
  • Close your eyes and scan your body by bringing your awareness to each part of your body as you slowly move your awareness from the tips of your toes, right to the top of your head. Again, don’t judge anything you feel. Simply observe the sensations as you can.

4. Journaling

The simple act of picking up a pen and paper and writing down your thoughts and feelings is a fantastic way of de-stressing. Many psychologists recommend journaling to their patients due to the countless studies that demonstrate its effectiveness for health, stress-management and overall happiness. When you take your racing, jumbled thoughts from your mind and put them onto paper, you are better able to examine them in a more healthy and constructive way. This will give you a ‘third-person perspective’ on your issues so that you can work on them one by one, rather than feeling overwhelmed by having to solve everything once.

Blog by: Karina Stone

Check out some of Cire’s programs that aim to help people stay connected and feel supported.

Engaging the Community through Social Media

The response to the COVID-19 outbreak has created many changes in the tertiary education space. Students have rapidly transitioned to remote learning, while institutions worked to set up virtual classrooms and upskill their training staff. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for students during the transition has been attempting to complete their work placements in the Community Sector when most organisations have sent the workforce home. Indeed, the prospect of completing placement on time has been grim for some. However, for the students doing placement at Cire Training and Hubs, the experience has been quite different thanks to their ability to adapt to the changing landscape of community need.

As with many organisations, Cire Training and Hubs shifted a number of its services to online delivery and offered social and educational programs via Zoom or social media. The transition to this medium provided an opportunity for placement students to engage with the community in a new and exciting way. A handful of students jumped on board with the experimental venture and produced a “Social Isolation Survival Guide” filled with activities and information on personal wellbeing. The survival guide was distributed as a free resource to dozens of organisations and community groups with hospitals, early childhood education centres and schools among those who provided their clients with the guides, receiving an astoundingly positive response.

Following on from the success of the survival guide, students were eager to set up a program consisting of community interaction and engagement. After many planning sessions and Trello cards filled with ideas, the group came up with the concept of running an evening Zoom session for the community with special guest speakers. The name of this project was “Friday Night Live” and after a number of sessions, it became a hit with guests ranging from Pat Boucher from Yarra Ranges Life TV to Neal Taylor, CEO of Holy Fools. The program gave members of the community an opportunity to log on and ask the special guests questions and discover ways to become involved in their community.

The placement students have expressed the value they have found in learning how to deliver community programs in an online format. The process of adapting to new ways of doing things alongside our staff has helped immerse the students in what it is like to work in the community services sector. Furthermore, the ideas they have developed and the projects they have implemented have served ongoing needs within our community in a fun and inventive way. The possibility of delivering an online placement would not have been possible Box Hill Institute’s trust and support in the placement program at Cire Training and Hubs. For our students, this may have been an unusual placement, but they have risen to the challenge and delivered amazing results. Thank you!

Jarred Kellerman – Business Support Manager  – Training & Hubs

Education and lifelong learning during COVID-19 times

Welcome to issue #3 Cire Training SkillsHub. As you can see we’ve moved to an online version for Term 3. Don’t worry the much loved printed version will be back for Term 4, and we will also continue to deliver this online for those of you who prefer to check out what’s on offer on your phone or tablet (it’s even better for our beloved planet).

As the end of Term one was fast approaching so was the Victorian Governments initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the weeks leading up to the Easter holiday’s Cire training were concentrating on setting up our online training platform. We decided to go with Google classroom and Google Meet, as the adult students were somewhat familiar with this platform. So while the students were rewarded with an extended school holiday break, from the 21st March staff worked tirelessly to prepare for remote learning for the start of term 2.

On the whole Term 2 has been a success, much reliant on this preparation from the Cire training staff. I know that I am now quite the expert at uploading resources, videos, weblinks and classwork to the Google classroom and can even insert a virtual background to a Zoom online meeting. I can appear to be in my lounge room or on a beach, complete with colourful umbrellas and clear blue skies. I mostly choose to be seen in my lounge room due to the poor internet connection, but I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with internet issues.

During this term I have indeed worked from home in my front lounge. I had a large window to work next too and have enjoyed the comings and goings of traffic, both vehicles and humans in and out of my street. I have loved watching people and small family groups going for their daily walks, and all the different dogs that have accompanied them. In particular, there is a large golden retriever who runs ahead of his family and bounds onto my lawn and driveway with such delight that I can’t help but smile. My cat, Monty, is not quite so impressed! I had a tree just outside my window, which was at the beginning covered in bright green leaves. Over this time it transitioned through autumn into beautiful leaves of yellows, oranges and reds until now it stands bare with not one left remaining.

I have been increasingly proud of how all of our Cire students have continued their learning journey during Term 2. Many of our students had issues with access to suitable devices, internet access. They needed to juggle other responsibilities such as working and caring roles, but they still signed in to their sessions to stay connected and learn new skills.

It was with such pride that the First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) re-opened its doors on Wednesday 10th June, celebrating with a 50% off sale. During Term 2 the FICE shop was closed, but training and support for community continued online. Although this was a fantastic way to stay in touch, the team are over the moon to be open and trading and supporting the local community.

Now, as Term two is coming to a close, and we look forward to Term 3 and the changes that it will bring to our training space. Where possible we will return to in class, face to face learning, maintaining COVID safe guidelines. This will significantly improve some learning journeys and bring our students back together to continue their connections. A number of our courses will continue to be delivered remotely; some will be blended (online and on-campus) as we continue to comply with social distancing.

I would like to finally thank all of the Cire family, both students and staff, for sticking together during what has been a challenging time. It has been truly amazing to be part of a team who just got on with the job at hand to enable our students to continue their learning journeys with Cire.

If you would like to subscribe simply click the Sign Up! button above.

So onwards and upwards, watch out, Term 3 here we come!

Enjoy SkillsHub online
Nina Bekker – Business Development Manager – Cire Training & Hubs


Working from home – a student’s perspective

COVID -19 has disrupted the lives of everyone in the world. While schools were closed and other support services were finding new ways of operating,  it’s important to still stay healthy both physically and mentally.

No chance to say goodbye

As humans we are social beings, being taken away from that social interaction hits most people pretty hard. Not being able to go see your friends or even just people at work & school can be difficult. I found it hard not getting out every day and seeing people at school. It can be pretty hard at some points as we go through this time being at home, there will be times where it’s hard and stressful, but you have to remember that feelings don’t last forever. Also making time to see people in person whether that’s a walk or talking over the fence, making time to still see different people is really important.

Thinking creatively and problem-solving

Working from home can be tough, and there will be times that you will have to think out of the box and come up with an alternative to something you are doing. For example, doing school work from home takes you away from that sense of being taught, and not having someone there to ask questions to in person. But there are some good things too like being able to be more concentrated on your work with fewer distractions, being able to get more work done and have time to really think about your work.

Organising your day

Being at home all day doing school work can feel like there are lots to do, making a solid plan/timetable of your day can really help with managing your work and getting it all done in time. Making time for breaks and snacks. I found that I needed to make time for a walk each day to get out in nature and have some fresh air. It is really important making yourself stay focused and motivated to get yourself through the day and getting the job done.

Trying something new

Trying something new that you wouldn’t usually do can be a great way to learn new skills and learn how to be better at existing skills. I have learnt how to write better emails and how to communicate online better. Also, I’ve enjoyed getting better at participating and showing up for online classes. I’ve also learnt how to manage my time and how to stay motivated.

Working at home can be difficult at times, but overall I’ve found it not too hard. And I quite enjoyed working from home and I’d be happy if I had to do it again.

VETis Tourism student 2020

Amazing virtual makeover for Training & Hubs

Cire Training and Hubs (T&H) has reached new and innovative heights in service delivery during the COVID-19 restrictions, highlighting its expertise and commitment to offering flexible teaching and learning opportunities to people of all ages.

Whilst the physical sites have been closed, much has been happening in the cyber world with T&H rapidly embracing the challenge to deliver online and providing learners with extra support where necessary.

 “It has been fantastic to see how quickly we have been able to adapt to successfully deliver training online, and find ways to continue to support our students and broader community virtually across all of our services. This is a testament not only to our trainers and support staff, but also our students who have been working closely with us to make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Laura Shortis, Executive Manager of T&H.

“We have even seen higher levels of engagement among some people with our flexible delivery to enable learners to continue with, or commence their studies and be engaged and connected.”

A standout has been First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE),  which grew out of Cire’s Women’s Warehouse and has been creating all kinds of COVID-19 restriction ‘inspired’ records.

FICE provides long-term unemployed and financially disadvantaged and vulnerable women with access to quality and affordable clothing, on-the-job-training through its Mooroolbark shop, together with a broad range of teaching and learning opportunities and other supports.

With its shop closed, FICE has undergone its own makeover with a vengeance reaching more than 10,000 people through social media platforms. It is planning to continue the online sessions post COVID-19 to foster an ongoing connection with the broader community and complement Cire’s face-to-face learning platforms.

With engagement of over 7,000 and videos views at 7,400, the digital campaigns are playing an integral part in keeping the community up-to-date and providing practical assistance on finances, accessing material aids such as food, bill paying and providing advice on job searching and applications. Sessions have also been expanded to assist people to update resumes and cover letters in anticipation of the job market reopening.

FICE is confident that it will connect face-to-face with approximately 100 women a week when its shop reopens while its virtual reach will be many thousands a week.

Other initiatives from Cire Training and Hubs include:

  • Training’s pre-accredited and accredited courses have moved online with great results in terms of attendance and feedback from students.  Training has worked closely with those experiencing online learning challenges such as limited access to technology and resources and provided tailored support where needed.  The success of the transition in such a short period of time is a true testament to the dedication and expertise across the training team.  Expressions of interest are being invited for Cert III Individual Support and Cert IV Education Support, both starting in July (Term 3).  The style of delivery will be determined on restrictions at the time.
  • Smart Money has been delivered virtually for the first time and has been well received. Cire’s pre-accredited team has been providing additional support to small businesses given the current environment.  Small Business Hub is offering a special discounted membership fee for those joining the pandemic.
  • Community Hub programs online. Using Zoom for the Fit 4 Life seniors exercise class and weekly craft group has been extremely successful.  We have also been trialling new initiatives such as the Lego Lockdown Challenge and Minecraft competition.
  • Hub staff are volunteering with the CHAOS Chatline to assist those in the community who are reaching out for connection and support during this challenging time.
  • For the more vulnerable, Cire has distributed items such as Quilton toilet paper from Good360 which distributes new and surplus goods donated by its network of Australian manufacturers and businesses. While the FICE shop has been closed, there has been much online delivery of services and support such as virtual ‘Frock up Fridays’ with Good360 pamper products as prizes, and a Zoom makeup session with donated L’Oreal makeup packs for participants.

Laura said the feedback from learners has made worthwhile all the hard work in embracing change so quickly and overcoming the challenges along the way.

The following helps capture the appreciation:

“It is fantastic to do all these exercises online with others.  You still get the community feel even in isolation. It is so nice to see other people we used to see all the time, plus it actually makes sure we do exercise and do it properly with supervision. Great fun for all” – Julie, Fit 4 Life participant

“I have enjoyed studying online as it gives me the flexibility to study from home and enables me to perform my family commitments. The workload is manageable and my teacher is easy to get in touch with and flexible in providing extra support when required” – Gavin, Certificate IV Education Support student (pitured above)

“I never thought I would enjoy learning about superannuation so much! Sue steers you through the confusing world of superannuation, with clear, informed and easy to follow teaching. The course is well thought out with the different aspects uncovered in each session, Sue takes the time so you truly understand what it is you are learning, I feel so much more confident and empowered in understanding my superannuation – thanks for such a fabulous course” – Alexandra, Smart Money attendee

Students and trainers have embraced the changes during this challenging time, as seen in this video for a Kitchen Kaos.

The Training and Hubs team are excited to be able to welcome people back to both the Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park Community Hubs following the announcement of the easing of restrictions. Both hubs will be re-opening on the 1st of June and will be resuming standard programs and services as the restrictions allow.

If you have any questions please contact us via email or call 1300 835 235

Cire Kids Hub is a Hit

Lights, camera, action

Cire Children’s Services has gone virtual in a big way in response to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as remaining open to continue to deliver long day care, occasional care, kinder and outside school hours care, particularly for essential services workers and other parents needing support.

The new virtual persona of Children’s Services has topped the charts, unexpectedly showcasing some amazing extra-curricula talents among our educators and staff, as well as keeping engaged and connected, youngsters unable to physically attend our sites at Chirnside Park, Mount Evelyn and Yarra Junction, Badger Creek and Woori Yallock.

Drawing on their previously untapped talents, and taking the plunge for some, the educators have been extremely creative and resourceful in using Facebook posts and videos and creating our own YouTube playlist to deliver a raft of exciting initiatives.

Cire Kids Hub is a HitThe virtual initiatives include our recently launched Cire Kids Hub featuring videos of educators presenting a range of activities such as storytime, with a special session on the significance of Anzac Day and making playdough with rosemary; singing; Spanish and Japanese lessons; and craft projects for children and parents to do together including making worry dolls to help children identify and manage any concerns. Educators have even combined their culinary expertise for a cooking session focusing on healthy lunch box ideas and eating habits that would have sent high profile master chefs into a frenzy of envy. Since the launch of Cire Kids Hub, our Facebook engagement has increased by over 60% so we know video is the best way to engage through social media.


Executive Manager of Children’s Services, Diletta Lanciana, said she was extremely proud of how the Children’s Services team has risen to the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions to keep young children engaged and connected.

“They have provided invaluable support to children, their parents and their families at a time of great need,” she said.

“Our centres have remained open positioning our staff as frontline workers providing an essential service during the pandemic. They have been extremely professional and have followed closely all recommended practices to ensure the safety of children, families and educators.”

For those children unable to physically attend the centres, the fact the directors have been delivering online helps provides a reassuring level of normality.

Children’s Services Compliance Director Mel Saaghy-Walsh has herself become a fan.

“We know we have lots of clever and talented educators but when they step out of their comfort zones and become involved in something like this, that’s when you really see them shine even more,” Mel said.

“I enjoy watching everyone’s clips and can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Meanwhile, one mum said:

It is so exciting for our child to see her educator, Anna on Facebook. She really enjoyed the story of the apple and couldn’t wait for me to cut the apple in to show a star pattern.”

Other Children’s Services initiatives have included:

  • contacting families who aren’t attending to see how they can be best supported while they areCire Children's Services Apple Week 2020 at home
  • supporting families with resources and referrals
  • offering extra days of care for families who are essential workers or vulnerable
  • craft packs for families who may not have access to craft items at home
  • Just before the COLVID-19 restrictions, Finger’s Orchard at Launching Place donated apples to Children’s Services to distribute and whet the learning appetites of youngsters for a special program focusing on healthy eating and fresh fruit production. In learning where the apples came, the children were introduced to a broad range of other topics including an appreciation of other cultures with the orchard employing a team of pickers from Vanuatu.

Mother's Day gift - thanks to Good360Other benefits to families experiencing extra challenges due to COVID-19 have included items from Good360 which distributes new and surplus goods donated by its network of Australian manufacturers and businesses.

Children’s Services educators made up ‘Little Cups of Care’ with a range of items from Good360 for children to give to their mums/carers on Mother’s Day.  A large donation of Quilton toilet paper was also distributed to families across

Click here for further information on Cire Children’s Services and to book a tour.