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Cancer Champs

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This month we headed down to meet the team at Cancer Council Singleton and find out about the amazing things these guys do for our Upper Hunter communities.

Glen Parsons, Community Programs Coordinator, Clint Ekert, Community Relations Coordinator and their team of hardworking and selfless volunteers spend their days working hard to improve the lives of cancer sufferers and their families in the Upper Hunter.

When Glen started with the Cancer Council in March 2011 one of his first missions was to find a home in the Upper Hunter for the Cancer Council.

“I’d been driving from Broadmeadow every day covering areas from Maitland to Dungog to Merriwa to the Murrurundi Range. 20,000kms in 6 months was a lot of kms on the old Camry. We knew it was time to set up a permanent presence in the Upper Hunter,” Glen told us.

“We researched all the options and decided Singleton was the best fit. It made sense as it was right in the middle of where we needed to be and gave the best possible coverage. On February 7, 2013 we had our official opening of our Singleton office. Young local cancer survivor Tia Morgan opened the office for us because we thought that best represented what we were about. Community.”

The minute you step through the doors of the office you will be greeted with a smile and a cuppa from people who understand what you are going through and are there to help in any way they can.

“We’re a one stop shop,” says Glen. “If we can’t help you then we know who can. One of our main challenges is that not enough people know about all the services we offer and that’s something that we want to change.”

Services include a legal and financial assistance program where financial counsellors will help a person free of change with their finances and pro bono solicitors who will help create wills or access superannuation for those with a terminal diagnosis.

“We have lots of other things we can help with too such as financial assistance. We know there is a cost to cancer and people struggle and we can help to offset that,” Glen says.

“All of these things can be a great comfort for families that are dealing with a devastating situation. We even have counsellors that can help throughout the process. But above all, you will find information and support,” he adds.

But these guys aren’t just sitting in the Singleton office. They are always out and about servicing all the little communities that make up the Upper Hunter. 

“Cancer does not discriminate and so we have to get out and educate people wherever they are. If they’re on a farm, in a mine, or working in the local shop, we’ll be there,” says Glen.

These days Clint heads up the fundraising side of things, while Glen works on creating and maintaining their programs. 

“Clint inspires people to fundraise and then I get hold of that money and spit it back into the local community. Support, prevention, screening and advocacy are the four things we are focused on,” Glen says passionately.

One of the programs that Glen is most proud of is their Transport to Treatment program and after hearing about it you’ll understand why. For people diagnosed with cancer in the Upper Hunter, just getting to treatment can be extremely difficult and costly. For example, when you’ve got to get from Merriwa to Newcastle for a series of chemotherapy treatments, there’s no public transport and you’re looking at almost a 400km round trip in a car. 

Glen tells the story of what set the program in motion. “One day I had a man phone up and ask me for advice. His wife had cancer and they only had enough money to get her to treatment or to buy food for the week. When I heard their story I knew this was not good enough and I made it my mission to get free transport for everyone. Three months later it was done and no one has paid since. It might not sound like much but if the least I can do is get a person safely from their house to life saving treatment, well that’s a good start.”

By offering the transport to treatment service, it’s not just a financial burden that’s lifted from the person. There’re also emotional and physical burdens, such as trying to transport yourself, having family members take time off work, or having to make desperate decisions like the couple in the story.

Another important program Glen works on is in prevention. He regularly visits workplaces to hold preventative cancer talks. Whether your organisation has 2 people or 200, he’ll be there to talk about their services and the vital importance of things like screening. Glen’s major focus for the next 18 months is around bowel, breast and cervical screening. 

“Recent statistics show that if a person uses the free bowel cancer kit from the government and they are diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer there is a 99% chance that they’ll be cured and come out the other side. For us to push that information is extremely important,” Glen says.

Then there’s the fundraising side of things which Clint heads up. “All the townships throughout the Upper Hunter are extremely generous,” Clint says. “We are not government funded and it’s the community support that allows us to operate.”

Clint explains how fundraising works best when the community gets behind an event. Relay for Life is a great example of that and it’s been a resounding success over the years. Recently he’s been hard at work bringing us ‘The Stars of the Hunter’. This exciting event on June 29 has received incredible community support and no doubt will be a fixture on the Upper Hunter calendar in years to come.

Last but not least Glen talks about advocacy. “I just cannot emphasis enough how important the people in this community are to what we do,” says Glen. “Without volunteers we could not operate. Debbie Rae is a great example of that. Like all our volunteers, Deb is passionate and loves helping. She and all the other volunteers are the real heroes.”

Cancer Council Information Support Line – 13 11 20
69 John Street, Singleton
02 6572 5400
www.cancercouncil.com.au
Preventative Cancer Talks in the Workplace – 0428 101 252
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Community

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is seeking leader to join Advisory Committee

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The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is calling for Expressions of Interest from local business and community leaders to join our Hunter Advisory Committee. The Committee represents the region comprising Newcastle and the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West and Mid North Coast. Its purpose is to advise and assist the Board and Senior Management Team on matters relevant to the local region while providing governance and oversight on decision making.

The Committee currently has 7 members, including its Chair. Nominations are open for one new member and this appointment will be through a merit based process that considers skills, experience and qualifications. 

Expressions of interest close on Friday 16 October

Position advert and Position Description:

This is an unpaid voluntary position and the Service would like to thank our Community for your continued support as we operate 24-7 for all people in our community.

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Community

Students Have A Yarn

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St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.

Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.

A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.

In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.

Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”

“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”

The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.

St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.

“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.

“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”

“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”

St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.

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Community

Have You Checked On Your Mates?

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This year has been an absolute shocker and it’s no secret that it has certainly taken a toll on all of our mental health in some way. R U OK? Day this year was more important than ever, and our mining companies and leaders went above and beyond to encourage employees to have meaningful conversations and connect with those around them. Let’s remember to take care and reach out to our mates every day of the year.

McLanahan

This year with COVID-19 restrictions in place the McLanahan team’s participation in R U OK? Day was a little different compared with previous years when they have hosted an R U OK? Day ambassador at their Newcastle premises.

Still wanting to make a difference, McLanahan donated over $2,000 to Craig Clarkes in his Coals to Newcastle Ocean Swim to raise money for Beyond Blue.

“Wow what an amazing generous donation from the McLanahan team. Hugely appreciate your kind praise and lifting the fundraising campaign over the $30,000 mark. Thanks heaps. I will be in touch.”

All staff members received an R U OK? lanyard and a yellow iced cupcake with the R U OK? flag.

DK Heavy Plant Services

RU OK? – that is what everyone was asking in the DK Heavy Plant Services (DKHPS) Workshop on September 10.

Too often people struggle in silence, do not know what resources are available, or even where to start when talking about their mental health.

Sue Milton, General Manager of Upper Hunter Community Services, was able to share with the DKHPS workforce simple advice and resources on these issues and whilst together enjoyed a great afternoon tea and conversation.  

Banlaw

To start the conversation, Banlaw grabbed some delish donuts for the team to enjoy, whilst taking time out to ask work mates R U OK?

“As you can see from our cheeky photo’s, the donuts were a hit and a way for all areas of the business to mingle and remind staff the importance of prioritising their mental health and looking out for those around them,” said Internal Sales Coordinator, Lauren Tonks.

With the combined efforts of their Newcastle and Perth offices, Banlaw successfully raised $216 for suicide prevention.

Northwest Mining

The team at Northwest Mining started the day bright and early with a mental health toolbox talk for R U OK? Day and encouraged the guys to participate by wearing their TradeMutt shirts – a workwear brand, with the mission to make the invisible issue of mental health impossible to ignore. 5% of TradeMutt’s profits go towards ‘This is a Conversation Starter Foundation’.

This led into a BBQ lunch for everyone, cooked by the company owner Shayne Clark. “We discussed some statistics on mental health and chatted about how to start conversations if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health,” said Shayne.

“Everyone was keen to be involved and engaged in the conversations, it was a great day.”

Bengalla

The Bengalla Team celebrated R U OK? Day this year, focusing on teaching people that there is more to say after the initial R U OK? It is important to keep the conversation going and check in on your work mates.

To support the initiative employees enjoyed a coffee and a Kit Kat before and after shift to start the conversation with their work mates. The four important steps include:

– Ask R U OK?
– Listen without judgement
– Encourage action
– Check in

It was an opportunity for team mates to check in on each other and it was well supported from all of site.

MACH Energy

R U OK Day saw Tom, Chloe and Matt take the opportunity to catch up over coffee and acknowledge that a conversation could change a life.

There was discussion around keeping an eye on your mates, actually asking R U OK? and what’s next after you’ve asked the question. The team remembered there’s more to say after R U OK? such as;

– How are you travelling?
– You don’t seem yourself – I am here if you want to talk about anything.
– Have you been feeling this way for a while?
– Have you thought about talking to your doctor or a health professional?
– Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.

Persas

The PERSAS team enjoyed each other’s company during a BBQ and discussed the benefits of R U OK? Day, while social distancing of course.

One thing that was emphasised on the day was not waiting until the next R U OK? day to have open discussions regarding each other’s wellbeing, instead keeping it as an open page where employees can talk to each other at any time.

Morgan Engineering

The R U OK day message is important to Morgan Engineering, but not only just one day a year. Mental Health is important to the Morgan Engineering workforce all year round. This year R U OK? Day coincided with the company’s fortnightly Toolbox talk, and Business Development Manager Graham Sutton said that everyone got involved with the conversation.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss what mental health means to our company,” said Graham.

“With many of employees on shift work and having to spend a lot of time away from their family and friends, it’s important for the whole Morgan Engineering team to be there for each other and check on their mates.”

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