Morning tea with our MLA, David Michael

Morning tea with our MLA, David Michael

Sharing news and exploring opportunities in our local school communities

Having the ear of those in office that are eager to initiate positive change within their communities is of great benefit to chaplaincy services and those dedicated to delivering them.

On Friday morning Janine Rule, YouthCARE Area Chaplain accepted an invitation to meet with David Michael, MLA, along with YouthCARE Chaplains Gwynneth Bishop (Takari Primary School), Merrilee Wong (Balcatta Senior High School) and Marlene Kruger (West Balcatta Primary School) over morning tea. With a history of advocating for and championing works and upgrades to schools and facilities, David was keen to hear about the emerging trends and issues our chaplains address as well as better understanding the effectiveness of our services and support for students.

Expecting only a few minutes of David’s time, Gwynneth, Merrilee and Marlene were invited to share their backgrounds and observations of the student experience at their respective schools. That was not the case, as David discussed, in depth, his observations of school communities and welcomed further discussion on YouthCARE, its people and its value.

Having lived locally for his entire life, David is an avid supporter of the community as a whole and we were heartened that he wholeheartedly supported our ethos of respect, compassion and service for all.

Special CEO Update on the National School Chaplaincy Program

A Funding Update from the CEO of YouthCARE

YouthCARE welcomes the announcement of the New Labor Federal Government for its support of school communities through the school chaplaincy program with the addition of student welfare workers being introduced to the program.

This announcement augments funding to the strong support YouthCARE’s school chaplaincy has received from the McGowan Labor Government and successive previous state governments in Western Australia. 

In 2021, the McGowan Labor Government made a significant step and committed to funding school chaplaincy for any state schools that wishes to access this service. The program is currently being rolled out in WA with overwhelming subscription for the service.

“The school chaplaincy service has strong support in the Western Australian community” said Tamsyn Cullingford, the CEO of YouthCARE.

She said that “For over 40 years, YouthCARE’s school chaplains have made a vital contribution by supporting the wellbeing of students and school communities as part of the school’s wider welfare support program. The work of our chaplains has been critical in supporting school communities, especially during the height of the COVID-19 challenges faced by our community.”

YouthCARE’s school chaplains are well trained. They hold a minimum Certificate IV in community services or equivalent, with over 70 % of chaplains exceeding this minimum qualification and a significant number holding graduate qualifications in related fields, such as human services, education, social science and pastoral care.

Alongside its school chaplaincy services, YouthCARE also provides its highly valued Pastoral Critical Incidence Chaplaincy service to school communities in response to critical incidents throughout WA.  In addition to this, YouthCARE also provides chaplaincy to school principals in several regional and remote communities.

YouthCARE looks forward to working with the Federal Minister in support of school chaplaincy in Western Australia.

Special CEO Announcement

A message from the Chairman of YouthCARE

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Board of YouthCARE, I take great pleasure in welcoming Tamsyn Cullingford as the in-coming CEO of the Churches’ Commission on Education Incorporated.

Following a comprehensive selection process that was led by Rev’d Stephen Francis, along with Bishop Don Sproxton, Dr Kaaren Watts and Ms Li Ai Gamble, Tamsyn stood out as the best candidate to lead YouthCARE.

Tamsyn comes to the organisation with wide experience in the health sector both in Western Australia and Queensland. She has held a number of leadership roles with the last being an Executive Director in Queensland Health in Mount Isa.

The in-coming CEO has a strong commitment to her faith with a long association with the Catholic, Baptist, and Anglican church traditions.

We look forward to the vision and leadership that Tamsyn will bring to the organisation in guiding it to its next phase.

Over the coming weeks and months, Tamsyn will work with Stanley to familiarise herself with the organisation and meet with a wide range of supporters, volunteers and staff.

The handover period will take place over a number of months. Tamsyn will be formally taking over as CEO at the Annual General Meeting on 30 March 2022. Stanley will assume the role of out-going CEO until the first week of July 2022.

The Board will have more to say about the completion of the current CEO’s appointment over the next few weeks.

The Board thanks all supporters for their prayerful support and encouragement during the appointment process. We also thank Stanley and Liesl, our Head of Human Services for assisting the Board and the Recruitment and Discernment committee.

We invite all who are associated with YouthCARE, to warmly welcome Tamsyn and offer prayers for God’s blessings for Tamsyn, Dan and their two girls.

Yours most sincerely

Glenn Bergsma FAICD

A message from the Incoming CEO

Dear Friends and Supporters of YouthCARE

It is with great joy and excitement that I join the YouthCARE family as the incoming CEO of the Churches’ Commission on Education Incorporated. I feel so blessed to be joining an organisation that values and lives out respect, compassion, and service in everything that it does.

I grew up in South Africa and migrated to Western Australia in 2005 at the age of 20. Having always wanted to serve and help others, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy at the University of Notre Dame, and started my career at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. I worked as a physiotherapist for several years before discovering a love for service improvement, change management and innovation. I subsequently completed a Master of Business Administration to further develop my knowledge in these areas, and am a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. I have also recently commenced studying a Master in Divinity (part-time) as I seek to serve YouthCARE, its staff and its communities.

For the past 10 years I have worked in senior roles across the public health sector in Western Australia and Queensland, including in project management, change management, financial recovery, and operations management. Most recently, I have worked for Queensland Health as an Executive Director in a remote health service, covering over 200,000 square kilometers of North West Queensland. I have a strong interest in innovation, policy development and corporate governance, and I am deeply passionate about reaching people, especially those who are at risk or disadvantaged.

My wonderful husband, Daniel, is a Perth local and works as an electrical engineer, and we have two daughters, Mabel (four years old) and Molly (three years old). Since returning to Perth in December 2021, we have attended a local church, and have been incredibly blessed by the encouragement and support from our church leadership and community.

I want to thank the Board, the Recruitment and Discernment Committee, Liesl, and Stanley for their support, prayer and encouragement throughout the application and appointment process.

I so look forward to meeting each of you and to walking alongside you as we continue to express God’s love and presence in the lives of young West Australians through the wonderful work that YouthCARE does.


Tamsyn Cullingford

The Story That Ended With a New Beginning

A chaplain in the Esperance region recently joined a year one and two class for their English lesson.

The students were encouraged to write a story following the principles of narrative structure.

Narrative structure is the creation of a plot by manipulating a chain of events, or cause and effect. This could be through a linear format (ie. beginning, middle, end), multiple plots, or be reverse chronological order.

Chaplain Jake was inspired by the idea a narrative could conclude with a new beginning instead of an ending. So he started writing a story as well.

Thirty minutes passed and one by one the students and chaplain read out their stories.

There were stories about …lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Jake’s story was such a hit that the teacher suggested he should publish it.

A few months passed and Jake had shelved the idea of publishing the story until an incident occurred. It caused Jake to realise that people in his community could benefit from hearing The Big Old Tree, even if it was just a couple of people.

The only complication was that the story needed an illustrator to bring it to life.

“After discussion with some of the teachers about finding an illustrator, one teacher suggested I ask Anika, a year 2 student who has amazing drawing skills for her age,” said Jake.

The first illustration created for the book was a sad prince and a tree.

“When I saw her pictures I knew it was exactly what I wanted for the book,” said Jake.

The Big Old Tree has since inspired many people and is a great reminder of how a little bit of positive encouragement can go a long way.

You can catch more stories from our Esperance chaplains on the Goldfields, Esperance and Lake Grace Region Page.

The Huggle Tree Project

The students at Pegs Creek Primary School have a new way to regulate their emotions when their feelings get a bit too much, tree-hugging!

Two trees in the centre of the school were selected to be wrapped in crocheted and knitted pieces of wool.

Chaplain Naomi organised the project to add a splash of colour to the school and unite the school community.

The students can have a huggle (a cross between a hug and a cuddle) from the Huggle Trees when they require comfort or assistance to calm down.

“There are many researched benefits for people to tree hug,” said Naomi.

The motion of hugging a tree can increase a person’s levels of the hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones are responsible for making you feel calm and happy.

“The hope is that kids of all ages (including teachers and parents) can grab a huggle whenever they need one if they are in the blue zone, or just needing to feel the comfort of something soft,” said Naomi.

Other chaplains across the state have also completed the Huggle Tree Project with their school communities.

You can read more stories from the region on the Pilbara Region Page.

Primary School Students Knit for the Homeless

The students at Collier Primary School have been busy knitting scarves with their chaplain over the last couple of months to keep the homeless warm in winter.

Every child involved in the lunch time project was challenged to create and donate a scarf of their own, with many students creating more than one.

It was a great character-building exercise for the students to explore various character strengths, including how to demonstrate mindfulness, gratitude, and compassion.

“Character strength education is a key part of Grow Your Mind, which Collier Primary School uses as a whole school wellbeing program for students, teachers and families,” said Chaplain Meng Chan.

The Grow Your Mind program has been run at the school for many years and positively impacts the way students think, feel and behave in their communities.

The knitting project perfectly demonstrated to students how you can be mindful and compassionate towards others in their community.

The wool for the scarves was generously donated by the Como Rotary Club, who will be distributing the scarves to the homeless on behalf of the students.

“Collier Primary School is proud to present the students’ handmade scarves to the Como Rotary for giving away to the homeless,” said Mrs Chan.

In total, the students donated 17 French knit scarves.

YouthCARE Recognised for Emergency Service Volunteer Support

Over the weekend YouthCARE received a Volunteer Employer Recognition Award (VERA) Distinction.

Three nominees received Distinctions for Outstanding Support at the ceremony, which acknowledges the long-standing support of businesses and organisations receiving their fourth VERA.

YouthCARE was recognised for protecting the welfare of employees through our post-incident welfare checks (Pastoral Critical Incidence Response) and providing pastoral support.

Two Pilbra-based Rio Tinto sites also received Distinction Awards with a ceremony to be held in Bunbury for the South West recipients.

In total, more than 26,000 emergency service volunteers assist the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) in the preparation, response, and recovery of emergency situations.

Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby highlighted the ongoing support and generosity of volunteer employers and self-employed volunteers at the ceremony.

“We rely on volunteers to help protect communities right across the State, and that would not be possible without the support of their employers,” said Minister Reece Whitby.

Award nominations were 20 percent higher this year, which reflected employer support of volunteers during a challenging year.

WA was struck by bushfires in Wooroloo and Red Gully, Tropical Cyclone Seroja and severe flooding throughout the State this year.

“It has been a difficult twelve months, but it is heartening to see such a significant rise in the number of employers supporting emergency services in Western Australia and I thank them for their efforts,” said Minister Reece Whitby.

Employers recognised through the VERA program provide flexible work arrangements allowing volunteers time off work to train for and respond to incidents, which is often at short notice and for extended periods of time.

Since the inception of VERA almost 1000 businesses, organisations, and self-employed volunteers have been recognised.

WA Liberals announce an increase in Chaplaincy Funding

WA Liberals announce an increase in Chaplaincy Funding

This morning, Zak Kirkup and the Liberal party announced an election commitment towards chaplaincy services in Western Australia.

The announcement included a significant expansion of the existing school chaplaincy service.

“The mental health and wellbeing of students has become a critical focus for many schools to manage and a consistent message from school communities is the need for increased services to address the increasing demand for support.”

“Expanding the School Chaplaincy Service to all schools that wish to access a chaplain will give more students the opportunity to receive valuable pastoral care and support offered by chaplains,” said Liberal leader Zak Kirkup.

“YouthCARE welcomes the election commitment from the Liberal party. This announcement recognises the valuable work YouthCARE chaplains and their commitment to their school communities. This new funding will allow all schools that want a chaplain to access a chaplain.”

“We also welcome funding for new opportunities and we look forward to working in partnership with other school services that have also been acknowledged in this funding announcement,” said Stanley Jeyaraj, YouthCARE CEO.

Read the WA Liberals announcement here.

Premier Mark McGowan announces funding boost for student support and wellbeing under a re-elected McGowan government.

Premier Mark McGowan announces funding boost for student support and wellbeing under a re-elected McGowan government.

This morning, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that a re-elected McGowan Government will deliver over $100 million of additional funding for important student support and wellbeing services and programs in schools.

This announcement included funding for chaplaincy services in WA government schools.

“This wide ranging package will also provide an additional $21.8 million for schools to engage chaplains ensuring every WA State school has access to resources to provide additional emotional and social support for students,” said Premier McGowan.

This announcement acknowledges the valuable and positive contribution YouthCARE chaplains have made to WA school communities over the last 40 years.

“On behalf of YouthCARE all our wonderful chaplains, volunteers and supporters, we thank the Premier Mark McGowan and the Minister for Education, the Hon. Sue Ellery MLC for this great news. It is a recognition of the critical role of YouthCARE chaplains  to our state schools across WA. Our chaplains are there for their school communities, through good and challenging times. This new funding allows new schools that do not have chaplaincy funding to access our service. We look forward to getting on with the job by continuing the positive contribution we make to our school communities,” said YouthCARE CEO Stanley Jeyaraj.

It is 40 years since the late Hon. Kim Beazley Senior recommended that chaplaincy be made available to state schools in Western Australia and this announcement is a testament to his legacy.

“I also wish to thank all our supporters including our volunteers, churches, local businesses, local government, parents and the wider school community who have stood by us for many years in the delivery of this critical service.”

“This announcement also shows the importance of working together with other school services. We look forward to partnering with them in helping our school communities,” said Stanley.

Read WA Labor media statement here.

Growing Connections at Perenjori Primary School

Growing Connections at Perenjori Primary School

Two hours south-east of Geraldton lies a town called Perenjori where YouthCARE chaplain Robin has started in her role in the local primary school.

Looking for a way to get to know the students, Robin planted some vegetables with some of the students around the school grounds.

“The school already had some garden beds that weren’t in use, and I had seedlings and seeds from my home garden that I could bring in! A few community members also donated seedlings for me to use!” said Robin.

“I mentioned to some of the students about the garden and if they would like to help. At recess and lunch, the students saw what I was doing and came and helped with the planting and watering. Now the students check and water even on the days I’m not at school!” said Robin.

The gardens have created a conversation starter for Robin to chat with the students in a casual setting. She has a place to bring students who might need some downtime and distraction from what is going on in their lives.

“This year we grew peas, spinach, kale, turnips, lettuce, and a cherry tomato. The students pick the peas and eat them fresh.

“The turnips were made into turnip soup which we made in the K/PP class along with damper. Their class had a theme for the week from the book “The Gigantic Turnip” It was so much fun to cook with the kids and talk around the table with them as we prepared and enjoyed the soup.”

As the garden has been so successful, the P&C has purchased three more garden beds, tools, and equipment for Robin to use and set up with the student’s next term.