It is run by a dynamic group of staff and volunteers under the guidance of Kurri Kurri Community Services, a successful not-for-profit organisation that has provided community based programs and wellbeing services since the 1980’s.
Heddon Greta resident Michelle Hancock leads a very busy life, working full time and caring for her family which includes four teenage children.
Michelle’s youngest daughter Chloe lives with Down Syndrome and has been part of Kurri Kurri Community Centre’s out-of-school-hours (OOSH) program for the past six years.
The service allows Michelle to drop Chloe at the Kurri Kurri based facility each school day morning as she travels to work and then pick her up each afternoon on her way home.
Chloe loves attending OOSH and has formed friendships with many of the other children who attend. She enjoys the many activities and has learnt new skills she can utilise in school.
Michelle is very comfortable sending Chloe to OOSH every day and says the service is consistently good.
"The team at the OOSH have been wonderful to Chloe. I’m extremely happy with the service they provide. I couldn’t recommend the OOSH service more highly. They really have been a great help to our family."
Heddon Greta resident, Max Gruisinga is one of the friendly faces behind the wheel of the Kurri Kurri Community Services mini bus. Moving to Australia from Holland at the age of six, Max and his family have been actively involved in the Kurri Kurri Community for many years.
Max worked at the BHP Steelworks in Newcastle for many years until it closed and went on to work for a Morisset based construction business for another 10 years.
Upon his retirement a friend asked Max if he’d help out driving the KKCS bus once a fortnight and, eight years on, he remains a valued part of the team.
Every Thursday Max picks up clients from the Brain Injury and Alzheimer’s group and brings them to the Kurri Kurri Community Centre for the day before dropping each person home again. He also drives the community centre bus for Kurri Kurri Primary School for school excursions and for other community groups who hire the bus from time to time.
Max’s wife is living with Alzheimer’s so he does what he can to give back to the community and help ease the burden of other families in his situation.
Not only does Max donate his time to KKCS, he is also a President of the Cessnock/Kurri Kurri Lions Club and a proud member of the local Rotary Club. He also volunteers at the Kurri Kurri St Vincent De Paul Society outlet and assists with their deliveries.
When he’s not caring for his wife and attending to the many volunteer and club related roles he holds, Max enjoys spending time with his four Bull Mastiff dogs.
Skye Cousins was born and raised in the Kurri Kurri area and continues to live locally at Weston. She attended Kurri Kurri High School up to the end of Year 11 and then commenced a course at Maitland TAFE before falling pregnant with her first child, Chloe.
In June 2017, 22-year-old Skye joined the Young Parents Network, an initiative of KKCS that is the result of Targeted Earlier Intervention Program reforms through the NSW Department of Family & Community Services (FACS).
“Recent changes to funding from FACS bought a focus onto a number of target groups, and one of these was young parents,” explains KKCS Youth Services Manager, Lakin Agnew.
Members of the Young Parents Network come together once a week to share their experiences and participate in a variety of activities including craft and personal development workshops.
At each meeting they are supported by social workers. The group also shares a meal together. The gathering also serves as a playgroup for the 20 or so children who attend with their parents. Everyone agrees this is one of the more important aspects of the program. “The interaction between the children is one of the most important aspects of the get-together,” says Lakin.
“Many of the young parents don’t have a lot of support and can’t get out as often as they’d like to. Consequently, the children don’t have a lot of opportunity to play with others. This weekly gathering allows the parents to see how their children are developing in relation to the other kids and it gives the kids a chance to socialise regularly.”
"KKCS were early adopters of this program,” explains Lakin. “We knew our region had a high percentage of young parents and we saw an opportunity to be providing this better service to this group”.
Skye was also previously involved in another KKCS incentive aimed at helping your mothers integrate into the community and develop skills that will help them with their future endeavours to find employment. Known as ‘The Village’ the program was delivered by WEA and participants earned a Certificate II in Work Skills.
"After the WEA course finished, I didn’t really have a support network aside from immediate family, but now I have a great support network and have made some very good friends. It’s a safe environment and we’re not judged by anyone."
She is excited about what the future holds.
“I’m keen to do my RSA and RSG training so I can find work in the hospitality sector. I think I’d be suited to it. The Young Parents Network has given me the confidence to start thinking more closely about my future. I’m grateful for the time and the space the The Centre have provided to our group.”