Hospitality Jump Start for Jobs success story

An innovative and hands-on job skills program has ignited a passion for Yarra Ranges hospitality and tourism for Damien Bongouvert and provided him with much to hone and look forward to when the region re-opens to the hundreds of thousands of visitors it normally welcomes each year.

The 23-year-old has already applied some of his new expertise at his uncle’s vineyard and restaurant at Seville and equally importantly the opportunity has provided him with the confidence and pathway to secure an on-site traineeship in hospitality.

‘I never imagined I would have had these kinds of opportunities when I moved to Australia,’ said Damien who has been working at Killara Estate since arriving from France at the start of the year,  but only after his mandatory two week’s hotel quarantine.

During a timely out-of-lockdown period, the 23-year-old enthusiastically participated in the Hospitality Jump Start for Jobs program, a joint initiative between Yarra Ranges Council, Cire Services and Box Hill Institute Lilydale. He then had a window just before the current lockdown to apply his new front-of-house skills at Killara’s restaurant and was delighted by just how much he had learned.

“The course was totally hands on, covering barista training, food and beverage skills and customer service and responsible serving of alcohol (RSA). The skills are so important to have in any restaurant setting and I was really proud to use them confidently at Killara,” said Damien.

“As part of the front-of-house course Cire had a pop-up cafe day where we served lunch prepared by Kitchen Skills students.  It was great experience and also a fun way to apply our learning.”

Manager of the Killara Estate restaurant, Kevin Sheehan said Damien had really benefitted from the Jump Start for Jobs program with a new level of competence and knowledge of the sector, and confidence. Kevin described the Jump Start for Jobs program as a great initiative to help the region’s hospitality and tourism sector rebound from COVID.

“The impact of COVID has been devastating and it is vital that we draw on everything we can to work towards a great future,” Kevin said.

The Hospitality Jump Start for Jobs program comprises two face-to-face training courses focusing on Front of House and Kitchen Skills to help local people learn the essential skills most needed by the region’s hospitality and tourism sector.  Each of the week-long courses is free to those who are unemployed or underemployed and include certificate level components such as RSA. Front of House is conveniently delivered by Cire Training at Cire’s Chirnside Park Community Hub and Kitchen Skills at Box Hill Lilydale’s lakeside campus.

Keen to build a life for himself in Australia, Damien initially consulted a careers advisor at Box Hill Institute Lilydale who recommended Jump Start for Jobs and then the traineeship.

“It was a perfect fit because I was already working for my uncle and wanted to improve my skills and what I could contribute to the business,” said Damien adding that Killara’s restaurant can seat up to 120 people.

“Everyone in the program has been so helpful and encouraging.”

With an Ozzie mum and French father, Damien is from Perpignan at the foot of the Pyrenees and the last major French city before the Spanish border. Damien has often visited Australia to catch up with relatives and particularly loves the Yarra Valley and “the stunning views from Killara Estate”.  He is excited to be upskilling to help the region’s hospitality and tourism sector rebound from COVID.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Fiona McAllister said:  “Hospitality and tourism businesses are at the heart of our Yarra Ranges lifestyle and economy. Our cafés, restaurants, vineyards, gardens and other attractions draw thousands of visitors to the hills and valleys, and makes our region such a vibrant place to live.

“Having local training providers like Cire and Box Hill Institute means that community members can learn skills locally, then put their hands up for jobs locally and put those skills to the test.”

Due to on-going lockdowns, local businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry have had to stand down employees, many of whom have sought alternative jobs where possible. The Hospitality Jump Start for Jobs program helps boost confidence in the sector that they will have access to local staff with appropriate skills when the sector re-opens.

According to Victorian Government pre-COVID statistics, tourism in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges was estimated to be worth $778 million in 2018/19, representing 7.8 per cent of the region’s economy. It generated employment of approximately 9,300 people, 9.1 per cent of the region’s employment, directly and indirectly.

The Yarra Valley and Dandenong ranges is the second largest tourist destination in Victoria outside of Melbourne with approx. 6.6 million international and domestic visitors in a normal year.

Runaway success for FICE Fashion Show

A sell-out fashion show on 12 February was the perfect event to celebrate a runaway first 12 months for Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE).

An enthusiastic crowd of more than 50 women gathered for the fun at FICE’s Mooroolbark Terrace shop where they were treated to a taste of the quality fashion on offer as volunteer models gave it their all on the catwalk.

Everyone was on a high to have the opportunity to come together face-to-face to enjoy each other’s company as well as acknowledge the success of the social enterprise in helping provide women in need with positive pathways.

Local traders were also ecstatic because the event created such an exciting and most welcome vibe at The Terrace.

The event featured six volunteers modelling casual, business and formal outfits and stories of how FICE had given them a sense of purpose and confidence and helped them upskill and/or find employment.

Special guests included the multi-talented Kerrie Stanley, makeup artist for ABC Breakfast Television and award-winning milliner and who is also working on the production of Harry Potter, the Musical in Melbourne. Kerrie shared some of her make up tips with those present. Other special guests included Cr Sophie Todorov from Yarra Ranges Council, Alexandra Hale, owner and director of Johnstone and Reimer Lawyers, one of FICE’s gold-level sponsors, and Cire CEO Gus Seremetis.

FICE emerged from Women’s Warehouse, a Cire Training initiative. It is the brainchild of long-term unemployed women in the Yarra Ranges for women experiencing financial disadvantage.  FICE offers access to affordable clothing suitable for job interviews and other important occasions and equally important, the opportunity to upskill by volunteering in the shop and through mentoring and additional training and support networks and referrals.

Those at the recent first birthday fashion show learned about the growing community support and acknowledgement for FICE and its mission. Women throughout the Yarra Ranges have supported the shop from day one with donations of quality clothing. This gives other women, not normally able to access such quality items, the opportunity to purchase them at a much lower price and help boost their self-esteem.

The fashion show was made possible by a grant from Yarra Ranges Council which has also awarded funding for a mobile FICE service in more isolated communities this year. Last year FICE received a $10,000 grant from the Commonwealth Bank to assist with operating costs.

Other supporters include Good360 and Lilydale Big W and Bunnings.

Bunnings Lilydale donated lucky door prizes for the fashion show and all those who attended received a handbag donated by Big W Lilydale filled with other donated goodies.

A huge thank you to all our volunteers and models (Mary, Sarah, Karon, Maryanne, Donna and Tammi).

Like to know more, visit the FICE webpage

Cire welcomes role in new $4.5m youth health hub

A new youth health hub for young people with locations in Lilydale, Belgrave, Healesville and Yarra Junction is on track to open in August 2020.

Cire Services Inc. is excited and proud to be part of the consortia behind the hub, which is lead by Inspiro Community Health Service and includes Oonah Health and Community Services Aboriginal Corporation, Anchor and Eastern Legal Community Centre.

In March 2019, the Australian Government announced $4.5m funding for the Integrated Youth Health Hub (IYHH), which will provide young people, and their families and carers with a single entry point to access a range of no-cost or low-cost primary health care, community and social services.

The Knox headspace satellite in Lilydale, which is separately funded by the Australian Government, will work in collaboration with the hub.

Cire CEO Gus Seremetis said the consortia partners bring diverse skills and expertise, as well as additional venues across the Yarra Ranges, with a strong local presence and connections.

“As well as adding value, this will create opportunities for more community involvement.

“We will also work closely with Yarra Ranges Council and other agency partners to bring the Hub to life,” she said

Federal Member for Casey Tony Smith MP welcomed the announcement that locally-based organisations will run the new Integrated Youth Health Hub for Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN).

“With $4.5 million of Federal Government funding over three years, the Lilydale-based hub, along with a separately funded headspace satellite service, will deliver vital health and support services for young people aged between 12 and 25 living in the outer east, the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.

“Having fought for improved youth health services, it’s great to know the hub and headspace satellite service will soon get underway and be making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

EMPHN CEO, Janine Wilson, said the service aims to improve access, service coordination and integration for young people in the region.

“Through the hub, young people and their families will be able to access a range of health and wellbeing activities; mental, physical and sexual health services, including access to a General Practitioner; as well as alcohol and other drugs services, and community and social services such as housing and legal assistance,” she said.

Inspiro Community Health CEO Sue Sestan said the activities and services will be delivered by the consortium members and a range of other local partners.

“How the services are delivered will be guided by the voice of young people from the area via a Youth Reference Group.

“The services will be appropriate to the local community, providing connections, interventions and seamless care to young people where and when they need it,” she said.

Oonah CEO Anne Jenkin said our experience of embracing and supporting our young people and celebrating culture is key to our identity.

“We’re pleased to be bringing that expertise and approach into the hub development with our partners,” she said.

Anchor CEO Heidi Tucker said the hub will feature a strong ‘lived experience’ workforce.

“We will employ staff who have used a variety of health services as young people who will assist other young people to navigate and use the services they need,” she said.

Eastern Community Legal Centre CEO Michael Smith said young people need to feel they belong and can trust the services they access.

“Once they have that, they usually don’t want to retell their story to lots of different professionals.

“The hub gives us a real opportunity to wrap health and other supports around them, with confidentiality and care,” he said.

The hub will be located in Lilydale with outreach services operating from Belgrave, Healesville and Yarra Junction.

The hub was co-designed with local health and community services, the education sector, Yarra Ranges Council, youth representatives and other community members.

A Youth Reference Group will be involved in designing, monitoring and evaluating hub activities and services during its operation.

The hub is currently funded until 30 June 2022 by the Australian Government under the PHN program.

Integrated Youth Health Hub (IYHH)

Teddy Bears Picnic – celebrating children

Cire Services was a bit like the Pied Piper of the Yarra Valley recently when it hosted two fun-packed festivals at its community hubs to celebrate national Children’s Week.

Hundreds of pre-schoolers and their families including mums and dads and grandparents, and the local young-at-heart, gathered for the festivities which focused on the 2019 theme of ‘Children have the right to be healthy, safe and happy. Richer countries should help poor countries achieve this’.

With a teddy bears picnic theme, all who attended enjoyed a full program of activities at the Chirnside Park and Yarra Junction hubs on Tuesday and Thursday, 22 and 24 October respectively.

Teddy Bears Picnic - celebrating childrenHighlights included performances by educational theatre company, The Flying Bookworm, the musical magic of local drummer Kofi Kunkpe, storytimes with Bookaburra and Eastern Regional Libraries, energetic dance classes with Count Me in Dance Company, badge making, plaster mould painting, playdough, robotics, and cut and paste and sensor activities and lots more.

It was also one-stop shopping for information about local services and activities with stalls promoting Cire Children’s Services, Cire Training, Cire Community Hubs; the CFA complete with truck; local pre-schools and primary schools, Yarra Range Council Family and Community Services (FaCS), EDVOS, Healesville Hospital and Yarra Valley Health, Eastern Regional Libraries, Brain Gym, and Count Me in Dance School.

In keeping with the 2019 theme, and to plant the seeds of social justice among our youngsters, Cire showcased a charity it supports in North Bali.  The son of the founder, who was a special guest at Chirnside Park where he wore traditional dress, thanked all those who donated to the Aura Sukma Insani Foundation. Former Cire employee and Yarra Junction resident, Heather Dryden volunteers at the charity which focuses on education, housing and medical care in remote areas.

Cire hosted the teddy bears picnics with the support of Yarra Ranges Council as well as businesses from the region including the Fingers Orchard at Launching Place, Yarra Valley Archery Park, Belgravia Leisure’s Yarra Centre, Oz Tenpin Bowling, Bunnings Lilydale and Croydon, Maroondah Golf Park, and Readings.

‘Cire is proud to partner with others to ensure such an event is successful and that we work together to strengthen our broader community, through inclusiveness and connectedness,’ said Gus Seremetis Chief Executive Officer of Cire, one of the largest not-for-profits serving the Yarra Ranges and beyond and unique to the region.

‘It is tremendous that Children’s Week is helping sow the seeds of social justice with a focus on helping less fortunate children overseas, as well as promoting the rights of children in Australia.’

Ms Seremetis was delighted to welcome Dodi Sukadana from the Aura Sukma Insani Foundation.

‘Cire’s values closely align with those of the Foundation which we actively support,’ added Ms Seremetis.


The Lost Teddy Bear

This story started at a delightful Teddy Bears Picnic at Yarra Junction Recreation Reserve. The picnic was one of two hosted by Cire Services Inc in the Upper Yarra and Chirnside Park to celebrate National Children’s Week.

The Lost Teddy Bear – by Simone Whitehead

Molly and her friend Skye were very happy to be going to the Cire Teddy Bears Picnic in Yarra Junction. Molly knew that Skye would enjoy it because there would be other teddy bears for her to play with.

They had so much fun! Molly sculpted with play dough, made a teddy bear badge, threaded beads, painted a plaster mould, blew bubbles, sang nursery rhymes, played the drums and much more!

That night, Molly was so happy but as she was getting ready for bed, she realised Skye wasn’t with her. Molly couldn’t remember when she had last seen Skye. Oh no! Where was Skye?

As it happened, Skye had been separated from Molly at the Teddy Bears Picnic. Skye had been so busy blowing bubbles that she hadn’t seen Molly move on to the next activity. Skye was suddenly all alone.

Luckily, a lady found Skye and kindly reassured her she would be safe until she was reunited with Molly. Despite looking everywhere, the lady couldn’t find Molly so she took Skye home where her daughter made sure Skye wasn’t scared, particularly at night.

First thing in the morning, the lady was able to contact Molly but they couldn’t meet for two whole days. The lady reassured Molly that Skye was being well looked after.

The next day the lady and Skye went to another Cire Teddy Bears Picnic. This time at Chirnside Park Community Hub. The lady was one of the organisers and Skye was keen to help with all that had to be done.

Skye had loads of fun making badges, painting plaster moulds, watching the Flying Bookworm theatre show and even offering to drive the local fire truck back to the station! She was a great help. That night she slept so well and felt safe knowing the lady’s daughter was taking such good care of her.

The next morning Skye awoke with great excitement. Even though the past couple of days had been fun, today was the day that Skye would be back in Molly’s arms. Skye loves Molly so very much and Molly loves Skye just the same.

It had been a wonderful adventure, but Skye was delighted to be home again.

The Teddy Bears Picnic 2019

Molly and Skye reunited

The End

Photos by Grant Schoenmaker

State Member pays neighbourly visit

State Member for Evelyn, Bridget Vallence recently received a first-hand account of how Cire Services is going from strength-to-strength as one of the region’s most significant and dynamic not-for-profit organisations.

Mrs Vallence gained the insight during a neighbourly visit to our new premises in Lilydale, just two doors from her own office. Mrs Vallence was welcomed by Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis who outlined many of Cire’s achievements so far this year as well as the programs and services it continues to introduce and deliver, to best meet the needs of people of all ages across the Yarra Ranges and beyond.

Cire’s Lilydale premises accommodates Cire Training and Corporate Services, providing improved teaching, learning and office space as well as a greater public profile. The move has also freed up much-needed space for the Community School at its Mount Evelyn campus and Yarra Junction Community Hub.

Gus said Cire was committed to providing educational opportunities for people of all ages through its core operations of Cire Training, Cire Community School, Cire Children’s Services and Cire Community Hubs. She said Cire delivered its services across multiple sites at Lilydale, Mount Evelyn, Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park.

In addition to occupying the Lilydale office at 211 Main Street, Gus explained that 2019 has been a year of exciting milestone achievements. These included:

  • At the invitation of Yarra Ranges Council, taking over the management of Chirnside Park Community Hub and revitalising the purpose-built resource through a range of initiatives.
  • Securing registration to commence a 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten program at Chirnside Park Community Hub in 2020.
  • Community Training Provider of the Year in the prestigious Victorian Department of Education and Training’s 65th Anniversary Victorian Training Awards. In addition, in the 2019 Learn Local Awards, Cire was named a Learn Local Legend and a finalist in the Victorian Learn Local Practitioner Award – Nina Bekker, Cire Training’s Business Development Manager; and the Victorian Learn Local Creating Local Solutions Award – Women’s Warehouse Essentials.
  • Finalist in prestigious national business and educational awards in the respective categories of social change-maker and specialist school.
  • Cire Community School’s reputation as a school of choice validated by a waiting list of students.
  • Commencement of the building of a hospitality training facility at Cire Community School
  • Successful launch of Cire initiatives including First Impressions Clothing Exchange for, and operated by, long-term unemployed women; Level Up youth program with a focus on esports (video games) at the Chirnside Park and Yarra Junction community hubs.
  • Securing funding from/partnering with philanthropic organisations such as the RACV Foundation and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to expand our services and programs.
  • Securing competitive government and philanthropic grants.
  • Relaunch of Cire’s website