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Cire celebrates sustainable living at Ecotopia

Ecotopia, ECOSS’s annual community festival celebrating sustainable living and multiculturalism, was held on Sunday 24th March.

Ecotopia is a celebration of sustainable living in the Yarra Valley and a major yearly event for ECOSS, a not-for-profit organisation based in Wesburn which is situated on a permaculture designed property promoting sustainable living solutions for the Yarra Valley community and beyond.

Cire Services, who is a major sponsor of Ecotopia, was invited to participate, giving us the opportunity to advertise our new direction for our dedicated Community Hub – Yarra Junction, after the move of our head office and training department to Lilydale, and showcase the great ways we plan to grow and support our community.

Cire has recently made the decision to utilise its location in Yarra Junction as a Community Hub.

We aim to strengthen the grassroots of our organisation, which started over 40 years ago, by giving locals easy access to our services in Yarra Junction, and help people to get involved and have local input and knowledge.

“I’m really looking forward to growing the Yarra Junction Community Hub and helping to facilitate community ownership and participation. This space is here for the community, and our team have a holistic view of bringing the community together and being proud of the town we call home.” Simone Whitehead, Community Hub coordinator

Our Yarra Junction Community Hub coordinators, Simone and Penny, started the day at Ecotopia setting up an approachable space for people to come and see what our Hubs and the broader Cire community have to offer.

Eliza, Cire’s Early Childhood Education and Care trainer, was keen to help and enlisted the support of some of her Certificate III students to set up an activity to engage families and children through playdough activity tables.

“I was very impressed with my students who contributed their time to participate in a hands-on learning activity. The students made playdough in one of our classes, set up the activity area and interacted with families.” Eliza Lee, Early Childhood trainer

Also on offer was a flag making table where visitors could come and paint their own flag in colours, patterns and symbols that resonated with them.

Cire Community Hub was proud to be a part of an event that celebrated sustainable living in the Yarra Valley and look forward to next years.

If you didn’t get the chance to say hello to us at Ecotopia and would like to know what is happening, are interested in running a course, or hiring out space, please drop into Cire Community Hub – Yarra Junction and introduce yourself to our coordinators, Penny and Simone or contact 1300 835 235.

If you’re lucky, they might even make you a cuppa!

Cire joins Rotary

Cire Services Inc. has added further depth to its community partnerships by becoming one of the first organisational members of Wandin Rotary Club.

Cire has welcomed the initiative because it helps build on our existing relationship with Rotary and work even more closely with a service organisation very much driven by similar values and goals.

‘We are honoured to have been invited to join Rotary which is such an enormously respected organisation worldwide,’ Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis.

‘We already enjoy a great relationship, having partnered in various projects and we greatly look forward to more collaborations in the future to help improve the lives and opportunities for others in our region and beyond.’

In welcoming Cire, Wandin RC President, Heinz Budweg, said he looked forward to partnering more with Cire in the future to deliver many positive outcomes for people of all ages. He also commended Coldstream Primary School which joins Cire as the first organisational members with Wandin RC.

Wandin RC’s has provided invaluable support to Cire across its diverse services with initiatives including scholarships for students at the Community School, defibrillators for Cire Community House and our Mt Evelyn campus, and books for Yarra Junction Child Care Centre. Through Rotary connections, the Days for Girls program has been introduced at Cire Community School to help make education more accessible for girls in Third World Countries, and students have assisted with landscaping projects at Yering and Coldstream primary schools. Plans are also underway for Rotary to provide mock employment interviews for our students.

In jumping aboard Rotary, Cire has launched a postal stamp collection drive to support ROMAC – Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children. Please see the end of this article for details.

Rotary International has 1.2 million members and more than 35,000 clubs across the globe who contribute 16 million volunteer hours each year.
The organisation is driven by a philosophy that: ‘Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves… Each day, our members pour their passion, integrity, and intelligence into completing projects that have a lasting impact. We persevere until we deliver real, lasting solutions.’

For more than 110 years, Rotary has bridged cultures and connected continents to champion peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, promote clean water and sanitation, and fight disease.

Eliminating polio has been one of its greatest campaigns with 2.5 billion children immunised against the debilitating illness, particularly in Third World countries.

Another of its projects is ROMAC which funds life-saving and dignity-restoring surgery for young children from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Everyone can help ROMAC by collecting used stamps. All you need to do is cut the stamp off the envelope (please do not peel off), leaving roughly a 2cm border. Once you have collected a few, drop them into Cire’s Yarra Junction office in an envelope marked ‘ROMAC – Sandra Bucovaz’.

A recent comedy night hosted by Wandin RC raised $13,000 for ROMAC!

If you would like further information on Rotary visit www.wandinrotary.org

Pictured: Cire’s Manager of Partnerships and Funding, Sandra Bucovaz, and Coldstream Primary School’s Chaplain, Chris Waizel, with Wandin RC president Heinz Budweg (centre).

Pram Walkers – be active and meet new people

Social connection and healthy lifestyles are promoted through Cire Community House’s Pram Walkers group. Pram Walkers is a new activity for Upper Yarra parents to join, which will improve health and fitness, get parents out of the house and into fresh air and provide them with opportunities to meet other community members.

Facilitated by Kate Downward of Fresh Air Health and Fitness, Pram Walkers is a walking group for parents with young children who meet once a week. Through her fitness group, Kate is “dedicated to helping women get fitter and stronger” and providing an opportunity for children to see their parents as healthy role models. As a mother of two, Kate takes this approach with her to Pram Walkers, promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles while understanding the happenings of parenthood.

Pram Walkers is a great way to introduce exercise to busy parents’ lives, as it gives the opportunity for healthy exercise while linking parents to others within their area, creating networks and allowing the possibility for friendships to develop. The group is targeted to parents with children ranging from newborn to preschool age. Parents can bring a pram or a carrier sling to transport their children.

Pram Walkers can provide parents with benefits such as improved physical and mental health through exercise, social support from peers, time to enjoy the beautiful surrounds of the Upper Yarra Valley and the support of an experienced walking facilitator.

What to bring: a pram or a sling to carry children in, water for you and your child, comfortable clothing and walking shoes and sunscreen and a hat in the hotter weather for yourself and your children.

Simone Whitehead – Cire Community House Coordinator

Pram Walkers is held every Wednesday at 9.30am. Participation is by gold coin donation. No booking is necessary. Pram Walkers is currently meeting outside Cire Community House (2463 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction), but will be changing locations further into the year to continue exploring the wonderful area we live in. To keep up to date with meeting locations, please follow Cire Services Facebook page and look out for Pram Walkers posts every Tuesday. Alternatively, you can contact Simone at Cire Community House to find out meeting locations or for further information about this group.

Cire Community House has lots of exciting activities planned for 2018. Keep an eye out for our Community House Term One Guide, which will include a range of courses, groups and events.

Creating Wildlife Habitat

Conservation of habitat is important to protect indigenous fauna and flora and help preserve biodiversity and endangered species. All too often humans impact on the habitats of local wildlife, either knowingly or in ignorance, with a detrimental effect on population, biodiversity and species. The Yarra Valley is fortunate to host myriad fauna species and here at Cire we take our obligation to preserve and protect wildlife seriously too. One of Cire’s core values is to protect the environment in which we live.

Recently the severe windy weather caused some concern on the safety of a few dead but standing messmate eucalypts at our Yarra Junction campus. The canopy weight of the trees was causing movement of the tree roots in the ground and causing them to lean and eventually fall; and large limbs were regularly dropping.

Did you know that it takes 200 plus years for natural hollows to form in dead trees? So with some ingenuity a group of environmentally conscious Cire members set about to see what could be done to preserve the trees as a habitat source rather than removing them in total.  It was decided to remove two thirds of the height, which entailed the bulk of the canopy and weight, to allow root stability and also create manmade habitat holes in the standing trunk butts.

Possums, bats and birds had all been seen regularly at the campus and the diminishing habitat was of concern. We brought in experienced tree climbers to remove the dead canopy and limbs which left tree butts approximately five metres high. The climbers were highly skilled and very adept in wielding chainsaws from great heights as well as creative in habitat design.

Trees were selected for access and proximity to other trees and vegetation as well as protection midst the stand of trees. This was to ensure that animals could move easily between trees, have a food source, be protected from predators as well as feel secure when at rest.

The results have proven early successes with a brushtail possum moving in within a week and a variety of parrots eagerly inspecting the man made hollows. The bat hollow is yet to show signs of occupation, but we are hopeful.

The extensive tree works was done by Arbortrim as a training exercise for students with newly acquired skills and resulted in great outcomes for our local animals and birds.

The accompanying photos show the skills of the arborists, the process to create the hollows and the end result. After the weighty canopy was removed and the tree butts were made safe, a slice of tree trunk was removed at an appropriate height, the hollow was created with a chainsaw and a cover plate screwed back over the hollow. Three habitat designs were created: one with a top entry, a side entry and a bottom entry – especially for bat habitation.

Cire is proud to care for our environment and consider all options in support and retention of bushland and preserving the natural habitat for our indigenous fauna.

A fresh approach to learning

Cire Children’s Centre has had the pleasure of having the enthusiastic Jo Gaissl attend to assist educators in implementing the Linking Learning program. The Linking Learning program was developed to improve the learning outcomes for Victorian children from birth to 12 years, using song, stories, language and play. This program presented facts about how language can be impacted by a child’s environment.

Did you know that by the age of three, children born into low-income families heard roughly 3 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. With this knowledge knowing that our children could be missing out on vital learning experiences we can aim to improve their future by utilising the tools used in the Linking Learning Program. Check out the video below to see how this program has been of benefit to our community.

Jo Gaissl spent five weeks mentoring Cire educators across our children’s services. During this time Jo helped the educators gain skills in communication methods and refining teaching practices to include additional language development opportunities for the children.

As part of the Linking Learning Program educators were allocated one on one professional mentoring time to further explore language opportunities. These included stories, song, dance, movement and social opportunities.

“It’s a fantastic program! Having been involved in the pilot has demonstrated the need to focus on language development. At Cire we welcome opportunities to further enhance the child’s experience and learning outcomes because education is the key to every child’s future.” Lysa Smart – Centre director, Yarra Junction Childcare

“This program has really opened my eyes to a new understanding of the way we communicate with children and in the ways in which we can extend this in our every day lives. It has given me more confidence and the tools in which I can use to teach language to children.”Claire Savage – educator, Yarra Junction Childcare

This individual focus time was unique as it was tailored to suit each educator. During this time educators had a chance to show their own strengths, discover language learning processes and learn how to use many unknown day-to-day opportunities in a children’s education setting.

Educators were able to then use these professional mentoring times and reflect on their language and planning, celebrate their achievements and consider further exploration and direction in their professional learning, with the aim to implement these tools on a daily basis.

“I’m getting a lot out of the program; it’s really helped me to have a better understanding of linguistic development” Toula – educator, Yarra Junction Childcare

“Jo has helped me to utilise language in addressing and guiding behavior, she brings lots of fresh ideas!” Rebecca – 4 year old kinder teacher, Yarra Junction Childcare

Programs such as this are a wonderful opportunity to discover new language learning processes for the educators to use in their teaching practices.  We would like to thank Jo Gaissl for her hard work with the Linking Learning Program and for giving Cire the opportunity to participate.

If you would like further information on Cire Children’s Centre or our kindergarten program, click here to learn more, or you can contact us to arrange a tour on 1300 835 235

Good news for quality training

In a sector plagued by bad news, Cire Training would like to share some positive news. From January 2017, Victoria’s training and TAFE system is being overhauled through Skills First.

“Skills First – our new approach to training and TAFE – will ensure public funds are spent effectively, and that students get real training that led to real jobs” Gayle Tierney, Minister for Training and Skills

Built on the Andrews Labour Government’s commitment to the training and TAFE system, Skills First offers real training for real jobs, through:

  • High quality training that students and industry can trust
  • The opportunity to develop the required skills– and the skills employers want – for jobs today and tomorrow
  • A real voice for industry in training
  • Funding for learners who need additional support to engage with, and succeed, in education and training
  • Access to targeted, relevant training for students in regional areas

With the introduction of Skills First, Victoria – the Education State – is leading the nation to ensure quality in vocational and educational training.  Students, industry and the community can have renewed confidence in government-funded training. This new approach to funded training is designed to make sure that public funds are spent effectively, and that students get the training they need to secure a job.

Cire Training is one of over 300 quality training providers who have been offered contracts to deliver government-funded training in 2017. Contracts were offered following a rigorous selection process where providers had to show evidence of their ability to deliver quality training. Providers also had to prove their strong organisational capability and clearly demonstrate their financial viability.

Cire Training, which offers accredited, pre-accredited and workskills courses from campuses located in Yarra Junction and Mount Evelyn, has proven its ability to deliver quality community-based adult education and training in the Yarra Valley and Outer Eastern Suburbs.

Cire Training is working closely with other local Learn Locals and Swinburne University to provide industry taster programs for the community. These programs will support the local community to identify possible career paths and opportunities for training. If you are unsure about which training program is right for you, consider participating in a taster program.

Not sure about where you want to work? Not a problem, Cire Training can help you plan your career, develop a resume and apply for a job. We have a range of pre-accredited programs to support your journey.

Cire Training offer accredited courses in Early Childhood Education and Care, Education Support, Horticulture, Individual Support and Leadership and Management. If you are thinking about a career in one of these fields, Cire Training can help you get there.

To find out more about the courses offered by Cire Training, visit our website or call 1300 835 235

Onion weed is taking over

Allium Triquetrum, commonly known as Onion Weed or Angled Onion, has been declared a noxious weed in Yarra Ranges Council Shire. A weed, in general, is a plant which is growing in the wrong place. A noxious weed, by definition, is a plant that causes environmental or economic harm or that has the potential to cause such harm. They can also present risks to human health. Onion weed is a noxious weed for most of the southern parts of Australia.

Onion weed is a perennial (reoccurring) and has thin green strappy leaves growing from a small white round bulb. When cut or crushed it gives off an onion smell. White bell-shaped flowers grow at the top of a long stalk in Spring and form seeds in the Summer months.

The weed is spread by the wind blowing the seeds into new areas, as well as the formation of small bulblets attached to the parent bulb. It thrives in damp, semi shaded conditions, which is why the Yarra Ranges is so susceptible to it. In our area, it is easily spotted in gardens, lawns, roadside, ditches and paddocks, the white flowers tells us that the bulbs are dividing and new onion weed is spreading.  It grows easily and quickly chokes the ground, impacting on the other plants. Weed identification and control are important parts of environmental management.

One positive about onion weed is that it is classed as an edible weed. All parts of the onion weed are edible- flowers, stems and bulbs. The stems and leaves have a mild spring onion or leek flavour, whilst the bulb has a mild garlic flavour. Each of these parts can be used in cooking such as stir fries, soups and salads.

Certificate II in Horticulture at Cire Training covers plant identification, propagation, irrigation, pruning, transplanting, as well as weeds management.

Students get creative with hair and beauty

As part of the curriculum at Cire Community School, students are required to choose and participate in a ‘project day’ also known as a Personal Development Skill (PDS) class. In these classes, the students are required to work toward goals that the class set together.

Hair & Beauty PDS at Mount Evelyn campus is taught by Megan Small, and her students think she is great. Megan ensures her students get the help they need to get the results they desire. The atmosphere in the class is always a positive one because Megan adds her touch of magic to the group with the least likely students being brought together and working as a unit. The students are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone and apply themselves at things they may usually shy away from. As her students say, if you know Megan, “shy” isn’t in her vocabulary.

The way Megan tailors her curriculum means the students focus is on positive experience, not on doing school work. Megan’s students enjoy the time they have together whilst putting their new-learnt skills into action to better their community and the lives of people within that.

“My class mates are a big part of my enjoyment with this class. We are an unlikely group but we work together well. We motivate one another to persevere, we help those that fall behind and we are just a group of young girls having a good time! I consider myself very fortunate for the amazing class mates I have and how compassionate and kind they all are. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside these girls and I hope in the future they pursue all their dreams and aspirations in life because they have worked unbelievably hard to get there and they deserve it!” VCAL Student 

The Hair and Beauty class’s project for first semester encouraged the participation in volunteer work with groups such as Alexandra Gardens, an aged care facility in Donvale. The students provided the residents with companionship whilst furthering their manicure skills, painting the resident’s fingernails, giving them hand massages and spending time together with the residents chatting.

The students agree the experience was vastly different from anything they had expected. Every time, without fail, the class left with grins from ear to ear buzzing from the fun they had at Alexandra Gardens. It was fascinating for the students to hear the stories and struggles of the aged care residents and to hear how similar their lives are to the students’ lives in some ways, yet so different in other ways. The students found themselves encouraged by the residents to keep going and to follow their dreams and aspirations. Bonds were formed and Megan found herself being asked to organise another date for the class to visit.

“It’s a great feeling to give back to our community for no profit other than the grins that we all leave with. We have learnt so much from our volunteer work, it’s very clear to all students that you only get as much as you put in and we plan to take advantage of that and gain as much as we can from this semester” VCAL Student

The class also visited Megan’s Hair salon Megga Hair where they invited support groups like mothers who suffer from Post Natal Depression along to enjoy free manicures and hair styles that Megan has previously taught the students to create, this is what our students had to say…

“It’s so beautiful to see the women transform into gorgeous confident women and the feeling it fills you with is beyond extraordinary.”

“Even if I am having a bad week, every Tuesday seems to make it that little bit brighter. I think a big part of that is to do with our teacher and the enthusiasm she brings in every morning and the belief she has in each student even if we don’t have it in ourselves.”

“I’m so grateful to not only my teacher, but my class mates for making every semester in Hair & Beauty an incredible journey full of laughter and fun. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work all parties put in and I will carry the memories I make here well into my adult life and hopefully I will one day be in a retirement home having my hand massaged by an intelligent young woman like my fellow students telling her about my experiences and life journey too.”

Hair and Beauty class student, Molly Charles, feels that Cire Community School is a space of opportunity and support. Molly moved from a mainstream school to Cire and has noticed positive changes since making the change.

“The teachers here interact with the students and are happy to go through steps showing no frustration even if they’re sitting there for an hour saying the same thing over and over. They are willing to do whatever it takes to help the kids here and teach them, but they teach so much more than maths and English. They teach life skills not just banking and all of that but how to go about things in a way that no mainstream teacher would. I value the relationships I have with my teachers at Cire because not only are they teachers they’re my mentors.” Molly – VCAL Student

Cire Community School offers a full range of VCAL programs, for further information click here or call 1300 835 235.

YVCS November was a big month

The Yarra Valley Community School had another great month. Lots of activity and some celebrations were the highlights of a very productive month.


Photo shoot for the new brochure

Image of the YVCS brochureBoth campuses got involved in a professional photo shoot for the official YVCS brochure. The students who participated were really enthusiastic and helped our marketing department by role playing scenarios that could be featured in the final artwork for the brochure. There were many laughs during the shoot, the students were able to do the odd ‘Blue Steel’ and other poses to make the occasion an enjoyable one.

A huge thanks to those who participated and thanks for the support from Lisa Angus Photography.

The brochure is now available at both YVCS campuses and reception at the community house in Yarra Junction and the Mt Evelyn office, so if you haven’t seen it be sure to pick one up on your next visit.


Congratulations Harley

Image of Hayley Lubeck with his awardYVCS student Harley Lubeck (middle) was recently awarded the Ian De La Rue Youth Initiative Award, along with four other outstanding young locals for his contribution to the community. The award was presented by the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Banks and is named in honour of the late Ian Delarue, inaugural chairman of the Upper Yarra Community Enterprise (Warburton Community Bank). It is presented annually in the spirit of Ian’s commitment to our community and his passion for encouraging young people to strive for excellence and to be active in and contribute to their local community.

Harley, who was nominated by Tony Aulich of Yarra Junction Football Netball Club (YJFNC), has without exception demonstrated a maturity and clear passion for his area. Harley recently completed his VCAL at Yarra Valley Community School (YVCS) as well as actively participating recently in the Warburton Skate Park initiative and a co-organised fundraiser for war veterans.

Harley  assisted the YJFNC by taking on an array of responsibilities after the death of club stalwart Peter Wadsworth. Tony says, “Harley has stepped up and has continued the type of work that Peter did putting up his hand for anything that’s asked. He has never missed a night, or a day, and is reliability and initiative personified.” Harley also coaches the after-school kids football program through YJFNC.

Harley was recognised not only as a community leader but a role model to other young men, “He shows other youth they can do it,” said Tony.

Among the audience when the awards were presented was Tony Aulich and YVCS Yarra Junction VCAL Coordinator Karen Swankie, who are both extremely proud of Harley’s achievement.


Image of Karen Swankie and Liz NunnPositive outcomes with Anglicare

On Wednesday 18 November 2015, Anglicare – Linking Youth and Families Together (LYFT) and YVCS celebrated their collaborative working partnership. Students were recognised for making positive changes, setting goals and embracing life improvement skills. All staff were present to celebrate this partnership with a very delicious sponge cake that was enjoyed by all.

LYFT service is an element of the Substance Use Recovery (sURe) program that assists young people and their families experiencing difficulties associated with alcohol and drug use.

“Over the past two and half years I have had the privilege of working with the staff and students at YVCS. I worked at YVCS as their Drug and Alcohol Counsellor rachieving some successful outcomes.

YVCS has worked extensively with Anglicare to deliver programs and services to those at risk young people; to support their engagement in education and training, reduce anti-social, unhealthy behaviour, provide positive benefits to the community with very positive outcomes.

I am honoured to be part of such a fantastic youth program which is not only beneficial to the future of the lives of these youth people, but to the community of the Yarra Ranges.”
Elizabeth Nunn – Youth and Family Councillor – Anglicare 

“This has been a marvellous program and the students have participated enthusiastically. Liz has established a wonderful relationship with each of the students involved.”
Tony Aulich – YVCS Education Support


If you would like to know more about our youth education services and VCAL programs click here.

Learn locally – kick start your career

The following article appeared in the Mail newspaper (Education Week feature) – Tuesday 12th May 2015

Upper Yarra Community House  has recently partnered with ECOSS in Wesburn, close to both their Yarra Junction and Mount Evelyn Campuses.

This is a great opportunity for people who want to learn locally and are looking to start a career in this rewarding sector.

Both UYCH and ECOSS are committed to delivering quality training along with excellent facilities in the heart of the Yarra Valley, which is known for its outstanding produce and agriculture.

By partnering with ECOSS there will also be a strong emphasis on organic and sustainable agriculture techniques.

UYCH are one of the main providers in the outer east offering the Certificate II in Horticulture, a newly developed course that is highly regarded by industry experts.

It’s a great hands on course which will not only enrich the learning experience, but it’s a great opportunity to further promote sustainable living within our local community.

Short but informative’ Introduction to Horticulture’ courses are also being run.

Partnering with another local not for profit organisation, like ECOSS, ensures that UYCH can further enhance education opportunities for our local community.

For further information on Certificate II in Horticulture and  Introduction to Horticulture short courses click here or call 1300 835 235.

If you would like to know more about ECOSS visit www.ecoss.org.au