What do you enjoy most about your role?
The most enjoyable part of my role is seeing vulnerable and traumatised children grow into confident and capable young people. They have incredible empathy and insight that can only come from lived experience. Like hearing a 28 year-old say that their world changed for the better when they attended a Big Day Out at 10 years of age and realised that they weren’t alone. It brings me so much joy that a small thing like an outing to a fun park can change the direction of a child’s future. Knowing that our work gives hope to disadvantaged families and ultimately breaks the destructive cycle of addiction has kept me at Mirabel for more than 22 years.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Without doubt the most challenging part of my role is making sure we have enough funding each year so that we never turn a child away that is in need. We don’t believe in waiting lists for families in crisis, but we are reliant on the goodwill of the community to provide enough funds to meet ever-growing demand. Knowing that Mirabel’s future is tied to our ability to raise funds during a global financial crisis or worldwide pandemic can keep me awake at night. Thankfully the good news stories always outnumber the more stressful moments.
How has the pandemic impacted the Mirabel Foundation’s support programs for children?
Prior to COVID-19, we could not have imagined a time when face-to-face contact with the Mirabel children and their grandparent carers might place them at risk of serious harm. We never anticipated a need for our programs of support to be so completely reimagined, but we quickly adapted to make sure that isolated families were not further disadvantaged by the challenges presented by the pandemic. Heartbreaking decisions were made to postpone planned activities but we rapidly began delivering alternative ways to connect with and support vulnerable young people. Our Big Days Out became Big Days In with special guests on Zoom. Packages were delivered to doorsteps so therapeutic activities could continue remotely. The vast distance we cover across Victoria and New South Wales melted into insignificance as we found fun and exciting ways to bring people together, even when we were separated by lockdowns and geography.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Mirabel Mega Camp and Big Day Out at Luna Park events?
It is common at our Big Days Out and Mega Camps to hear children say that they’ve never had so much fun in their lives. These events are all about creating happy childhood memories while letting children discover that they are not alone in their experiences. Important friendships are formed between the Mirabel children and many of these continue into adulthood. These events are often the first time that children are able to talk openly about their difficult past without feeling judged or excluded. There is great comfort that comes with knowing you are not alone and are not to blame for your parents’ decisions.
Do you have any other updates from the Mirabel Foundation?
We had 72 young people attend our recent fun-filled day at Luna Park. Fleur, a skilled Lego Master from the recent reality TV show, happened to be at Luna Park with her son the same day. She later told us that she couldn’t help but notice how passionate the staff and volunteers were when talking to the children and how happy and well behaved the children all were. That prompted Fleur to get in touch and sign up to become a Mirabel volunteer herself! We now have some exciting Lego-inspired activities planned for the future.
About The Mirabel Foundation
Mirabel’s mission is to break the destructive cycle of addiction and disadvantage and they achieve this through their support programs for more than 1,800 children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to their parents’ drug use.
Future Generation Australia’s investment supports Mirabel to cater for the unique needs of children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to their parents’ drug use through a variety of support programs including Mirabel’s Toddler to Teen program, aiming to provide sufficient support for children and their carers to enable the children to remain with their siblings in a family environment.