Making a difference through volunteering

At just 23, Cire Reconnect client and FICE volunteer Bella O’Hara has a list of community involvements that would take most people a lifetime to achieve, plus the unwavering passion to match.

Her biggest motivator is her determination to advocate for people with a disability and those with mental health issues, especially men and young people.

“I have been so supported by so many people, I just want to give back as much as I can,’ said Bella, who needs extra learning support, a disability she once loathed but has now embraced so she can be her best self.

Bella’s community work was recently acknowledged in the 2022 Maroondah Youth Awards. She was part of the FReeZA Bassline Productions crew, who were honoured with the Team Award for their contributions to the art, music and cultural event management program.

The award nomination read: Bassline Productions met weekly in 2021 to design, plan and run live music and cultural events in their community. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the group was forced to continually innovate and persevere, resulting in some of the most creative event ideas in recent years. The group showed teamwork, collaborating to bring these events to life, while also supporting each other in the process. Character strengths demonstrated were creativity, perseverance, and social intelligence.

“It was so exciting to receive the award,” Bella said, adding that she loved meeting and working with others in the team to bring joy and happiness into the lives of others, particularly after the harsh Covid lockdowns and restrictions.

With such an inspiring approach to life and service to the community, it is little wonder that Cire is privileged to have such an inspiring young woman as part of its Reconnect program and helping out at First Impressions Clothing Exchange, unwittingly showing leadership through her service to others, contributing to community and advocacy.

Already a confident young woman with a belief in herself when she “discovered” Cire, Bella said programs like Reconnect and FICE had helped put her on a positive pathway to employment and relevant skills.

“I feel much more confident about what the future holds,” said Bella, who has shared her Cire experience in the following interview with her Reconnect case worker Sarah Kilgour as well as with FICE co-ordinator Renee Cooke in the most recent FICE newsletter.

A young woman who has the courage to create her own opportunities, Bella would love to work in disability or retail and, through whatever she does, tell the story about having a disability.

“If you have a disability, live life in the moment and don’t ever give up… I don’t look like I have a disability, I am a very slow learner and need extra support, but  I am very independent…I used to dislike my disability, but I now embrace it, not fight it. It is so important to find the right support and a good support agency and to believe in yourself”.

Click here for further information about Cire’s Volunteer Program.


Cire’s Reconnect kicking goals for all

Cire’s Reconnect program is going from strength to strength, with client numbers almost doubling in just 12 months, demonstrating Cire Training’s reputation for supporting a diverse range of people to engage in positive education, training and employment pathways.

In 2021, 40 people benefited from Cire’s person-centred and holistic approach, and even more so due to the impact of Covid; the current caseload is 79, with an identified need for even more places.

Reconnect is a Victorian government-funded initiative to support eligible adults to engage with a training and/or employment pathway of their choice.  The program supports adults who have been unemployed and not engaged in education for six months or more, as well as certain other priority groups.   Those engaged with Youth Justice, on certain Humanitarian Visas and with lifetime experiences of Out of Home Care are also eligible.  Using a case management model, the program supports people to engage with education, training and employment while providing wrap-around supports and referrals for up to 18 months.  In this way, adults who may have otherwise struggled to engage in accredited training or sustained employment have the best chance of succeeding in their goals.

Funding for more participant numbers has steadily grown since Cire commenced delivering Reconnect in 2018, and last year Cire Training again successfully applied for extra funding for additional places in 2022.

Reconnect Coordinator, Erica German, said the additional funding clearly demonstrated Cire’s reputation for assisting learners to access supports, services and education and training opportunities.

“What makes us unique is our person-centred and holistic approach and local knowledge and networks with easily accessible support services,” said Erica, commending the expertise and commitment of the training team and ancillary staff.

Cire’s tailored assistance includes the delivery of tailored pre-accredited training programs, further strengthened by Cire’s wrap-around supports and established network and connections with external agencies

Cire’s wrap-around model is even more significant given the impact of Covid and ongoing challenges.

The pandemic presented challenges in terms of client engagement and rebuilding relationships with local support services to organise co-locations and receive referrals. These included the difficulties with support services working remotely as well as courses still being delivered online rather than face-to-face.

“With more people now back in their offices and a return to face-to-face delivery, it has become easier for us to support clients and refer them to more easily accessible local supports as needed,” Erica said.

Senior Reconnect Case Worker, Sara Chehade said the impact of COVID had been noticeable among clients in terms of their mental health and social interaction and the need to rebuild confidence and trust and re-engage.

“Reconnect has been so helpful because we offer that extra layer of support in our case management approach and holistic wrap-around support to assist the overall wellbeing of participants and help them identify a suitable pathway moving forward,” Sara said.

“Our learners also know that through Reconnect, they will receive 18 months of support to maximise their opportunity to succeed”.

Adding greater depth to Cire Reconnect, participants have access to additional tailored supports such as Study groups and literacy support for those wanting to pursue careers in Community Services through the Skills for Work and Study- Community Services program. These programs offer extra support to further develop confidence and self-esteem as well as maximise opportunities for success in chosen courses.

Sara said it is extremely rewarding to see Reconnect clients succeed and pursue positive pathways. There were many examples, including those of Maria and Bella.

Reconnect participant Maria enrolled in Cire’s 2021 intake for a Diploma of Community Services. Unfortunately, due to pandemic lockdowns, remote learning replaced the face-to-face classes Maria specifically wanted. She found it challenging to complete her units with limited trainer interaction.  However, she persisted and also joined the Reconnect Study Group for further assistance, support and interaction with others and has now successfully completed her diploma.

Clearly demonstrating the benefits of Cire Training’s holistic approach and the benefits of being part of a larger organisation, Maria gained the confidence to embrace other opportunities along the way. She volunteered with First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE), which has led to a paid position with the program and has now come full circle and been engaged as a peer support worker with the Reconnect team.

In the meantime, Reconnect participant Bella has kicked many goals since joining Reconnect in April this year, highlighted by her nomination in the upcoming Maroondah City Council FReeZA Youth Awards.

Bella, who has actively engaged in several Cire Everyday Pre-Accredited Learner Programs and activities and volunteers at FICE, is an active member of several community-based youth and mentoring programs.

The Reconnect Program is a Victorian government-funded initiative to support people experiencing challenges such as unplanned unemployment and who are:

  • Young people aged between 17 to 19 years:
    • Who are not engaged in education or training for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week).
  • Mature participants aged between 20 to 64 years:
    • Unemployed for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week) and
    • not engaged in education or training for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week).
  • Young people (17 to 24 years of age) who have been, or are currently on, Youth Justice Orders
  • Asylum Seekers: A person without citizenship but holds a valid:
    • Bridging Visa Class E (BVE)
    • Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV)
    • Temporary Protection Visa (TPV)
    • Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) (subclass 449) visa (449 visas)
    • Temporary Humanitarian Concern (subclass 786) visa.
  • Out-of-Home-Care (Aged 17 to 64): A person that has a current or previous experience with Child Protection
  • Other: From time to time, we may approve the accommodation of additional target groups during the term of the program (for example, this may include groups such as people impacted by bushfires, COVID-19 or retrenched workers etc.).

Click here for further information about Cire’s Reconnect program or Sara on  0475 807 044.

Image – Cire trainer and Reconnect caser worker Sarah Kilgour provides support to a pre-accredited taster group for those interested in undertaking qualifications in Community Services and including Reconnect clients. The group from the left are Kate, Travis, Hamid, and Ali.


New changes to Government course funding- How it can affect you

Skills First is the Victorian Government’s Funding Strategy aimed at supporting and upskilling Victorians. It includes the funding of qualifications which are delivered through traineeships, apprenticeships and classroom delivered programs. The impacts on an individual’s eligibility for a funded place, are discussed here. It is advised that you consider the location of the choice delivery, availability and cost of a course. Information about client feedback and what successful completion meant to the student is also something worth considering. Training should be about gaining skills that directly support your ability to get a job.

The Government is committed to improving the quality of government-funded training in Victoria and in line with the Education State Agenda. Only Training Providers with a proven track record of quality training delivery have been offered a 2018-2019 VET Funding Contract. Cire Training, (formerly Upper Yarra Community House) has been operating as a Registered Training Provider (RTO) since 1992, delivering a range of training and qualifications to the community. Cire Training was audited in November 2017 and has been offered a contract for the Skills First Funding program for 2018-2019.

The Department has restricted the number of places offered to every training provider who delivers qualifications where the anticipated commencements are significantly in excess of projected jobs and training needs.

The Skills First Contract is designed to provide high-quality skills in the areas where there are jobs available. It is important, as a prospective student, that you do not waste your funding entitlement on a qualification that may not enable you to achieve improved employment outcomes or a job. If you are unsure contact Cire Training to speak to an enrolment officer.

Cire Training regularly offers short industry taster courses where you can find out about different industries. Look out for our ‘Plan your career courses’ which include a tour of the sites where the courses are delivered and the current work pathways. This will give you an idea if this field is where you want to study and work.

Restrictions to enrolments in the following qualifications now apply to RTO classroom-based programs. If you are offered a Traineeship in one of the qualifications there are no restrictions. The six restricted qualifications are:

  • CUA51015 Diploma of Screen and Media
  • CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care*
  • MSS40316 Certificate IV in Competitive Systems and Practices
  • CHC30113 Certificate III in Childhood Education and Care*
  • HLT33115 Certificate III in Health Services Assistance.

*If you do want to enrol in one of these qualifications you should contact Cire Training on 9736 1457 now, to find out if the course is suitable for you and to secure your place.

Skills First also offers the Reconnect Program which is designed to provide additional support for unemployed people who are finding it hard to secure a job, or who really do not know where to start. Cire Training can provide a range of supports and has special programs for men and women who need help with goal setting, determining career direction and applying for a job. If you need some help or just want someone to talk to, contact Michelle Spokes or Sammy Egan on 9736 1457 today, and get 2018 off to a positive start.