In a submission, Save the Children Australia has called on the Federal Government to fund critical psychosocial support for children in the upcoming Budget.
Since it’s introduction early last year, Journey of Hope has helped close to 4,000 Australian children tackle their mental health needs but a survey estimates, the unmet demand is upwards of 10,000 children.
Matt Gardiner, Executive Director of Save the Children’s Australian Services said it was critical the ground-breaking program was funded to ensure children receive the support they need, irrespective of where they live.
“When we began this program, we were confident it would have a positive impact on improving the mental health and wellbeing of children.
“However, we have been overwhelmed by the response and it is critically important that it continues to be funded beyond June.
“Children and teachers across both states have told us that they don’t want it to end.
“We want to work with important stakeholders and government to continue this critical work. It’s important that this type of work is systematically included in the way schools operate.”
Journey of Hope is an evidence-based program that has operated in 68 schools and early learning centres across Victoria and New South Wales to support children recovering from the Black Summer bushfires, floods and coronavirus.
Rocio Levings, kindergarten teacher of Buchan Uniting Early Learning Centre in Victoria, said they had seen a marked improvement in the wellbeing of children since Journey of Hope was delivered in their school.
“Our children and families have experienced a series of events over the last two years - drought, bushfires and covid - which have impacted their emotional wellbeing on many different levels.
“We have dealt with challenging behaviors and many stress and anxiety related issues in children on a daily basis.
“Although our staff team is well trained in supporting children’s behaviors and self-regulation skills we found that having Journey of Hope’s fresh approach worked wonders.
“The way the team were able to instigate conversation about feelings with our children was very valuable.
“We noticed that particularly two children that had quite severe trauma and were never comfortable to talk about their feelings, started to open up and explore their emotions.
“The Journey of Hope team were able to create a safe environment for the children to feel safe to open up and speak up about their feeling and further more guide them to find strategies on how to deal with their feelings.
“The program was very empowering for our children and we are very sad to hear that the funding is not available for further visits.
“We feel they have only just started to reach or children and they have only just started to reach themselves.
“We wish funded programs like these would be more focused and funded long term rather than just being another tick on a report to say that something has been done.”
An evaluation of children across New South Wales and Victoria who participate in Journey of Hope found that children said they feel safer and happier since starting the program and want it to continue.
“…there’s no need to use anger when there’s other ways to solve the problem”
“some of my problems are getting resolved when it just feels like having fun”
“I’ve learnt how to manage feelings… and I’ve learnt how to make it leave if it’s a bad feeling”
“..it (Journey of Hope) makes me feel free to do anything and speak aloud”
Initial findings from the evaluation show that:
1. 90% of students learnt how to manage their feelings
2. 88% felt that coming to JOH made them feel better about school
3. 79% of students practiced what they had learn
4. 70% talked to an adult recently about their feelings
Save the Children’s Build Back Better: Student Wellbeing, Engagement and Recovery policy paper is available here.
* names changed to protect the identity of the children
For media inquiries contact Anna Jabour on 0403 322 992