Digging Deep for National Tree Day Debut

Cire Community School enthusiastically dug deep for its first National Tree Planting Day on July 29, pitching in for the environment and helping beautify outdoor spaces at the Mount Evelyn and Lilydale campuses.

Thanks to the driving force of project lead and Cire teacher Jennie Ralph, the school secured broad community support through donated seedlings and equipment with students, staff and volunteers happily working side by side to plant more than 50 natives across two campuses.

Digging Deep for National Tree Day Debut

Cire Community School’s Logan Bridgewater puts some muscle into digging, ahead of Logan Newton (red shirt) and Ben Droscher.

Established in 1996 and with Toyota as a major sponsor, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.

Since 1996 26 million trees have been planted by five million volunteers donating 10 hours of their time.

For the Community School, this year’s event was a timely initiation, given Cire’s organisation-wide theme for 2022 is Sustainability.

Jennie Ralph said it was an amazing and beneficial experience for all involved and facilitated broader community connection through the support and donations from Yarra Valley Toyota and Croydon Toyota, Yarra Ranges Council, Candlebark Community Nursery at Mooroolbark, Karwarra Australian Plant Garden and Nursery at Kalorama, and Bunnings Bayswater and Lilydale.

The day was such a success that plans are already underway for 2023. Also, follow-up student activities will continue to enrich the school’s biodiversity through projects such as making bird feeders, revamping the composting system, and keeping important issues around Sustainability and the Indigenous perspective at the front.

“It was tremendous to see the sharing of expertise and skills at all levels by volunteers, staff, or green-thumbed students – everyone was able to shine by coaching others and/or taking the lead,” 

“It was so good to see the joy of our students experiencing success and contributing.” said Jennie

The benefits of the day were many and varied:

  • Everyone involved felt valued, contributing in some way, working as a team, whether digging, planting, assembling the plant protectors, watering or feeding.
  • Gardening skills were developed
  • Sense of being part of a team
  • Learning skills to easily employ at home
  • The anticipated long-term impact includes enhancing the biodiversity of the school
  • Related/ integrated learning as students continue to think about their impact on the school; some are making bird feeders for the area to attract more wildlife, and others are looking at revamping the school’s composting system.
  • Learning, respecting and appreciating the Indigenous perspective more in terms of edible and non-edible plants.
  • Being quoted in the local paper and being in the school Blog!
  • And, of course, planning for the event in 2023!

“I was able to help people dig and show them how to remove the plants safely from their pots”. Loges, student


“It was fun. I got to dig and plant trees”. Moth, student

Planet Ark research, sponsored by Toyota, shows how time in nature enhances and grows the key areas Australians consider the most important for a fulfilling life – health, happiness, learning, relaxation and relationships.

L-R: Emily (Bunnings Lilydale), Me! (Jennie Ralph), Moth De Silva, Brad Turner (AP), Logan Newton (rear), Riley Ker (front), Kaz (Bunnings Bayswater).

The report found that nature helps make people happier, healthier, brighter, calmer and closer. With people spending more and more time tethered to screens and devices, there’s never been a greater need to add nature to our lives.

The report titled Adding Trees – A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment found:

  • Just 10 minutes of relaxing outside are enough to reduce blood pressure significantly.
  • Time in nature reduces a person’s chance of developing a range of diseases, including diabetes by 43%, cardiovascular disease and stroke by 37% and depression by 25%.
  • Nature induces positive feelings through several physiological mechanisms, including activating the brain’s dopamine reward system.
  • Students participating in outdoor learning programs perform better in reading, writing, maths and science, with 77% of teachers reporting student improvement in standardised tests.
  • A strong connection to nature makes people more likely to feel passionate about relationships with their friends and family.

Click here for further information on Cire’s Community School educational programs.

Good360 generosity continues

Cire Services and those in need within our reach have again benefited from the generosity of the expansive Good360 network.

Our Community School students recently welcomed a shipment of Lego with great enthusiasm. At the same time, a donation of Optus Donate Your Data SIM cards are being distributed throughout Cire to those doing it tough, particularly with the rising cost of living and ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Executive Manager of Education Peri Dix described Lego as an excellent learning tool, providing students of all ages and abilities to be creative, follow instructions and practice their spatial reasoning skills.

“This is all happening through ‘just playing with Lego’,” Peri explained.

And as one student added: “I love Lego; it helps me calm down and build my own things.”

Cire is part of a Good360 pilot in conjunction with Optus with the SIM cards, where people donate their unused data towards a giving program.

Cire has been distributing SIMs through the Community School, Community Hubs, First Impressions Clothing Exchange and Cire Training’s Reconnect program.

Some of the beneficiaries within Cire’s reach have included several single mothers, including an asylum seeker, an abandoned mum with a baby and young children and a mum and son in hiding with an active AVO order.

Alicia, a single mum of five and struggling on a weekly budget, said she was very grateful for the SIM cards she and her two daughters received.

“It means I have more money for food and bills for my family,” Alicia said.

Another beneficiary was a young person experiencing mental health challenges. The young person was living in a situation without Wi-Fi at home and only one phone with limited data available, so she could not connect to vital counselling, training and education. The Donate, Your Data SIM card has not only allowed her to progress with her study but lifted her mental well-being.

Good360 generosity continues

Cire is a key Victorian charity partner of Good360. This leading Australian not-for-profit helps Australian companies and manufacturers channel their surplus new products to charities that can assist with grassroots distribution to those most in need.

Rather than add to landfills, Good360 aims to help repurpose $1 billion of brand new goods to Australians in need by 2025. Good360’s approach aligns directly with Cire’s core values, including our 2022 theme of Sustainability.

Good360’s partnership manager for Victoria and Tasmania, Liz Henderson, said

Cire is recognised as one of Good360’s key charity partners because of its agile and strategic approach to supporting its diverse range of services and, ultimately, people of all ages needing extra help in the Yarra Ranges beyond.

If you’re an NFP looking for donations, visit Good360 today?

Click here for further information on Cire’s Community School.

Not for Profit People 2020

Cire’s vision to enhance capabilities is demonstrated both inside and outside our service, extending to our employee group as well as to the community. We invest in the development of our employees so they can provide high quality support to our clients and truly make a difference!

On the 24th and 25th of February, the senior members of our People and Quality team (Melanie, Katiana and Napoleon) attended the Ethical Jobs Not for Profit People Conference. The conference was run at the Melbourne Convention Centre with a sustainable and ethical approach, hosting a diverse range of speakers for the team to learn from.

Focused primarily on the Human Resources area of the not for profit – or profit for purpose – space, there were also a number of CEO’s in attendance, demonstrating the important of people and culture. Workshops and talks centred around Health and Wellbeing, Leadership, People and Organisational Strategy, Strengthening HR and Recruitment.

The team heard from some amazing speakers, such as Cassandra Hutton from St Vincent de Paul Society, who spoke on creating powerful moments to engage and mobilise people. Katiana engaged with Kristen Ramsey from Caxton Legal Centre and HR Law, and Amna Karra-Hassan blew Melanie’s mind in a powerful and dynamic session that bucked all the trends.

Keynote speaker Craig Davis from Sendle had the team thinking about the future and how harnessing human potential will be so vital. Sarah Lance from St John Ambulance Australia (NSW) engaged Melanie and Napoleon on their change journey and transformation…Which, as we all know, never ends!

Kon Karapanigiotidis from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ended the conference with a passionate and personal speech on his journey, the centre and how he has grown his team.

A range of providers manned their stands and offered exciting products and solutions. We had some great conversations and a meeting has already been set up through a timely connection!

Not just talking the talk, the conference was ethical in its entirety. All of the food at the event was vegetarian and lanyards were sourced from The Welcome House, who support young women trafficked into the sex industry in Cebu. Conference bags were from Boomerang Bags, who focus on reducing plastic bags by up-cycling second hand material into new bags.

Since returning to the office, the team has already put some changes into action – small to start but with some big plans ahead:

  • Utilising a Boardroom space for a staff break out area (when not being used of course!)
  • Practicing 5 minute guided meditations on a Monday morning
  • Keeping each other accountable in our healthy living goals

We appreciate the opportunity to attend the conference and we’re excited to continue implementing positive changes!

Thank you to our Senior Manager of People and Culture, Mel Fisher, for penning this blog for us to enjoy.

The First Impressions Clothing Exchange Grand Opening!

The First Impressions Clothing Exchange is a bright and colourful second-hand store adding joy and laughter to the Mooroolbark Terrace Shopping Centre. A dazzling array of clothing racks, laden with hidden treasures, welcome those who stumble across the First Impressions shop-front.

On Valentine’s Day, visitors to their grand opening event included Mayor Cr Richard Higgins, who stopped by to cut the ribbon and meet the team!

Operating as a small business run by women experiencing long-term unemployment, First Impressions builds on the skills of its volunteer staff to enhance their employability in addition to providing opportunities to connect with their peers and with the community. Run as part of Cire Training’s Small Business course, experienced trainers oversee the day-to-day operations of the store. At the same time, the dedicated training space helps women to build real-life experience, develop skills and gain the confidence needed to enter the workforce successfully.

For customers, the clothing exchange offers a selection of quality, affordable women’s clothing covering every occasion from casual wear to formal events! First Impressions also provide a hire service, with reasonably priced items available for those who need a short-term wardrobe for job interviews or new jobs.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mayor Higgins noted that “the crowd here today validates the importance of this service to local women”. With attendees from multiple local organisations, including Anchor Housing Support and Employment Plus, as well as customers, shop owners, volunteers and supporters, the community truly showed their support for this wonderful initiative. Mayor Higgins also mentioned- with a note of relief! – that his wife was combing her wardrobe to make a donation of her own.

The event hosted numerous speakers, including Donna Fairweather of the Yarra Ranges Council, a newly appointed ambassador for the store and Gus Seremetis, CEO of Cire Services, the main sponsor of the First Impressions Clothing Exchange program. Gus was so moved by the testimonials of the women involved that she generously extended Cire’s financial support, providing a further three months of funding.

One of those testimonials came from Karon, a program participant, who shared her moving story with the audience. When asked how many job applications she’d submitted prior to her time with First Impressions, she responded: “there were too many to count”. After years of being ignored and rejected, her involvement with the program, along with the support she received from Employment Plus, rebuilt her self-confidence.

This enabled Karon to move into paid employment successfully. However, she still heads down to the First Impressions Clothing Exchange several days per week, to visit with her newfound friends, browse the racks and to help with the store’s operations.

“It was a huge feat, and it was all hands on deck,” the store’s team leader, Renee Cooke of Cire Services, said about getting the shop up and running, “But it’s been so much fun too. This shop has made such a difference already in the lives of those who have created it, and we can’t wait to see what it’s future holds!”

For more updates on First Impressions, feel free to follow their Facebook page and Instagram account.