Siblings Australia, a unique national organisation, was established in 1999 by Kate Strohm, with the assistance of Dr Jon Jureidini, in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. The organisation’s focus is on siblings of children and adults with disability or chronic illness, and over a period of 17 years it has developed a national and international reputation for its work with families and professionals.
The organisation Mission Statement says it all. Siblings: Acknowledged, Connected, Resilient.
Siblings can often be overlooked, which can lead to feelings of isolation. If this continues, children can become vulnerable to a range of emotional and mental health problems. However, if siblings are acknowledged, and connected to sources of support, they are likely to become more resilient.
What we do
Siblings Australia aims to create connections between siblings, between parents and siblings, and between families and professionals. Our focus is on strengthening families. Consequently, we aim to increase the availability of information and support services for siblings of people with chronic conditions, through increasing awareness, understanding, skills and capabilities at two levels:
· direct support to siblings
· working with parents and service providers who, in turn, are able to better support siblings
The organisation has developed a number of resources and services for siblings, parents and providers, including:
- Sibling groups for young siblings, forums for adult siblings and online support services for adult and teen siblings (the latter in conjunction with the Sibling Support Project in the US). Connecting with peers in a safe environment, siblings are able to share a wide variety of concerns with others who fully understand and give much needed support to each other.
- A website that includes extensive information and links to resources/services
- Fact sheets for adult siblings developed as part of its Adult Sibling Project in 2009. The report highlighted a number of issues that still come up in our connections with adult siblings.
- Workshops and online/print resources for parents
- Professional development regarding the support of siblings, both here and overseas. Again, feedback has been extremely positive. The Sibworks program (you can see a short film about the program here) for young primary school aged siblings, developed by the organisation some years ago, has been used by providers around Australia. The DVD, Stronger Siblings, was developed to assist organisations to support parents to support their children who are siblings. It includes discussion notes to be used with a group of parents.
- Research regarding a number of issues relevant to siblings. Several reports are available via the website
- Advocacy for the needs of siblings to be recognised by governments and social policy makers. Submissions have been provided for a number of situations and advocacy by other agencies has been supported.
- The Director, Kate
Strohm, has been asked to present all over Australia, in Italy (4 times),
Scotland, England, US and Canada. Her book on siblings has been published in
Australia (with a revised edition in 2014 - also available as an e-book), the UK, and US, and has been
translated into Korean - it can be ordered here
- In 2004 and 2009 Siblings Australia hosted a conference for families, professionals and researchers – it attracted delegates from around Australia and overseas
- The organisation receives many enquiries via the website, email, and Facebook from siblings, parents and providers, asking for information and advice
You can read more about the work of Siblings Australia via various papers on the website, including a Briefing Paper/Action Plan on the Submissions page mentioned above, and the following links:
· Learning Links factsheet sourced from a keynote paper at the 18th Early Childhood Intervention (NSW chapter) Conference 'Made in Australia - Research and Practice' 2003
· Guest editorial in the Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health 2008
During the last 8 years this work has been carried out through the mainly voluntary efforts of its people (Director and committee of management). Without the capacity to train others in this work, the future is very uncertain. It would be regrettable if the knowledge and expertise developed by the organisation over many years were lost through lack of funding and other support.