Two staff from Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Gympie Children and Families team have been nominated in the annual PeakCare Awards for their tireless contribution to their community.
Cultural support worker Russell Bennet (of Gubbi Gubbi/Waka Waka/Kullilli heritage) was nominated for the “Deadly Award” while Foster Care practitioner Narrelle Paulsen was nominated for the “Legend Award” for her lifetime contribution to the wellbeing of Queensland children, young people, parents, and families.
Mr Bennet works with young people, families, and professionals in preventing children from entering care, as well as working with children who are in care and the carers who support them.
“Personally, I don’t do this job for the award or the pat on the back. I do it to help my indigenous mob and the kids and to help out the community,” Mr Bennet said.
“The reward for me is getting these kids employed. This year I hope to continue guiding the young people into employment, training and education and to carry on the cultural education and to be as inclusive as I can.”
Mr Bennet actively connects the community through individual and group mentoring sessions with children focusing on addressing barriers, exploring cultural backgrounds, taking children back to country, grounding children in country, building self-esteem and resilience, promoting positive behaviour choices, respecting Elders and improving employment outcomes.
He also teaches Indigenous and non-Indigenous students about the local bush tucker garden as well as participating in the Men’s Shed.
Ms Paulsen started her journey as a Foster Carer with her late husband and provided quality care for many children over 30 years.
For the past 12 years she has provided quality training and support to carers in the Gympie region.
She has also drawn on her knowledge and skills to author and publish a trauma-informed children’s book called ‘The Back-to-Front-Boy’.
She hopes the story will help traumatised children to celebrate their differences; that it will support carers and other children to be accommodating and supportive of traumatised children’s differences; and that it will send an overall message that stakeholders supporting traumatised children need to look past the behaviours of these children and seek to understand the individual.
Ms Paulsen said she was surprised but “very grateful” to be nominated for the award.
“I had no idea, it was a big surprise,” she said.
“I’m passionate about children and families. Supporting children, carers and families – seeing the support result in reunification is the best and most important work we do. Keeping children safe is the ultimate goal.
“Our team always help and support each other and we’re very lucky in Gympie to have that network.”
“My children and extended family have been amazingly supportive as are those of all our carers, it’s so important to have a strong home team as well on the journey.”
Mr Bennet said he loves how supportive his team are of his ideas.
“It’s tremendous. I come up with an idea and I’ll put it to everyone and they all back me 100 per cent and that makes my life real easy,” he said.
“I’m very proud of my young people because I’ve produced some very good mentors. I’m proud of their achievements and where they have come from, they even have goals these days.”
Outside of work Ms Paulsen loves looking after her grandchildren, quilting with her sisters and nieces, and catching up for a coffee with friends and family.
Mr Bennet enjoys 4WDing, fishing, camping, watching movies and doing work around the house.
A spokesman from Anglicare Southern Queensland said; “We would like to wish Russell and Narrelle all the best with their nominations.“
Voting closed last Friday with the winners set to be announced at Peak Care’s AGM on Wednesday 31 March.