What follows is an extract from our annual report. If you would like a full copy please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again this year, the focus for Siblings Australia has been on trying to access core funding to enable some succession planning, alongside attempting to continue to provide services with limited resources.
We have continued to provide opportunities for siblings to connect with others, run workshops for parents and providers on how best to support siblings, both here and overseas, developed resources and contributed to research. We also took part in networking opportunities within relevant sectors (health, disability, education). We have continued to be the ‘go to’ place for enquiries, via email, phone and website, about sibling support from around Australia and also, on occasion, overseas. The following gives a brief overview of our activities this year.
We have continued vigorous advocacy at the national level of government, to promote the inclusion of siblings in national policy and programs. This has included regular teleconferences with the Department of Social Services so they could gain insight into the needs of siblings and how they might be incorporated into policy/strategic directions. These included senior staff in the areas of Family Policy and Programs; Disability, Employment and Carers; Family Relationships; However, over time these had limited outcomes in terms of acknowledging siblings in any meaningful way.
We have provided several submissions to government enquiries, along with multiple phone calls and emails to raise the need for greater recognition of the organisation and the siblings who it advocates for. We have also talked with a number of agencies about how the issue of siblings might be progressed including: AIFS, Autism CRC, Positive Partnerships, Beyond Blue, Families Australia, Valuing Children Initiative, DSS Advocacy and Accessibility, Raising Children Network, NDIS, etc.
We applied for one community grant ‘Fund my Community’ without success.
Multiple contacts with the NDIS has led to a number of achievements, through two grants:
- through the Sector Development Fund we developed online information for adult siblings, including the NDIS, and local peer support networks for adult siblings to connect and share information – final report is online
- through an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building grant we mapped sibling services in Australia, highlighting needs and gaps – report is now being finalised
Siblings Australia is registered as an NDIS service provider in SA, NSW, ACT and Tasmania. Awareness of this by parents and NDIS planners is still poor so we have had few parents take up the opportunity of one on one sessions to assist them in supporting their children who are siblings. We continue to explore ways to raise awareness and uptake of this service.
Our Sibworks program continued to be used by a number of agencies around Australia (and some overseas). The program is still included in the Communities for Children Evidenced-based program profiles, developed by the AIFS.
We wish that there were more opportunities for young siblings to access this group support program but many agencies are finding it difficult to provide support to siblings within the new NDIS framework, where there is less flexibility for agencies to support the whole family.
Siblings Australia has continued to be recognised as a Health Direct Information Partner, which means that our online information has been assessed as appropriate and accurate, and is included in the new national Carer Gateway.
A number of presentations/training were held through the year (*indicates both parent and provider workshops), including:
- Training on Sibworks program at Junction Australia
- A webinar for parents through the Parenting Research Centre
- Adult Sibling Forum Adelaide August 19 (at Orana; included presentation from Legal Services Commission)
- *Developmental Disabilities Council Perth, August 23 – a wonderful event, which included visits from the local Mayor and councillor
- Italy (Turin) conference Sept 24-25 – another wonderful event with several hundred sibs, parents and providers
- Adult sibling forum Perth October 27 – again, included a session on legal issues
- Webinar for agency in Karratha Nov 24
- Melbourne Nov 29-Dec 1, 2 parent workshops, one provider workshop and presentation to VIC Carer Supports Network
- Developing webinars – host Lifestart in Sydney – session at their professionals day
- Mid May workshops for parents in three locations in Victoria – Kyneton, Castlemaine and Bendigo
- Presentation to international Carers Australia conference, Adelaide, October 2017
- Webinar for parents on supporting siblings
These presentations continue to receive very positive feedback with the majority rating them as ‘excellent’. Attendees regularly say things like “It was great to hear simple, practical ideas that I can suggest to families. It was one of the best workshops I have been to for a while.” Unfortunately such requests for workshops have diminished over the last few years with the introduction of the NDIS, and the restrictions that agencies now experience in funding.
We have continued to send out email updates to our database of 1500+. The Siblings Australia Facebook page has 2858 ‘likes’ and we continue to engage with this audience. Our SibChat group of adult siblings now has 362 members and there have been several face to face get-togethers in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. I also co-facilitate SibTeen, which includes teen sibs from the US and Australia. These online options are a huge support to siblings.
In addition, we have had a number of media opportunities, through both print and radio interviews.
Regrettably, siblings are still overlooked in both policy and programs and there is no real imperative for anyone to do anything regarding their support. There is a long way to go before we have every sibling access just a little support to help them cope with the challenges they face over a lifetime. Such activities would benefit not only siblings but the whole family, including the child/adult with disability, and the wider community, through less reliance on health and social services. I have applied for two major grants which, if successful, would allow us to grow and build on our work, but also develop some sustainability for the longer term.
However, grant success cannot be assumed and, as I reflect on another year, I am faced with one certainty. If this grant funding cannot be accessed by early next year the organisation will close. This will be devastating but, having been doing this for 19 years, the last 10 largely without funding, it is impossible to continue in an environment where there continues such lack of recognition of this issue through both policy and programs.