Teresa O'Brien, Senior Program Manager, Communities for Children, Murraylands
A FOCUS on making a difference in her home community has delivered Teresa O’Brien a sense of satisfaction over her 10 years working with ac.care, currently as the senior program manager for Communities for Children in the Murraylands.
“Through Communities for Children, we are able to provide support and work together to develop strategies to improve the lives of the children and families in our region,” she said.
“I enjoy working in partnership with the community and engaging with those families who may be isolated, overwhelmed, fearful and experiencing hard times.”
Communities for Children is funded as part of the Australian Government Family Support Program in 52 communities across Australia to provide early intervention and prevention activities and programs designed to bring about positive outcomes for children aged up to 12 and their families.
Raised in the Murray Bridge area, completing year 12 then working for Westpac and Bank SA in Murray Bridge, Teresa spent a few years in Alice Springs during her time in the banking sector, later returning to her hometown to raise her three children before stepping back into the workforce.
She started in 2009 in a part-time program support role for Communities for Children, which is facilitated by ac.care and delivered by various community partners.
“The part-time position came up and I was encouraged to apply for this role, working closely with the local community,” she said.
“It is an ever-evolving sector and something is always happening – you have to be a bit innovative and adaptable to change.
“We do what we do because we want children in our community to have the best possible outcomes to thrive, which would not be possible without the dedication of our staff team here at ac.care and the community partners delivering our programs.”
Teresa worked alongside former Communities for Children manager the late Phyllis Crettendon, who sadly passed away after a health battle.
After the trauma of losing a treasured colleague, Teresa continued in the sector and progressed through to the leadership role, backed by extensive study, including a Diploma in Community Services Coordination, Advanced Diploma in Community Sector Management and Post Graduate Certificate in Management (Learning).
Her program management role includes consultation with service providers and the community to identify “gaps” in services, needs and issues faced by families in her region.
She is then involved in development of new programs and services delivered by community partners and reporting back to government on the success of the initiatives.
Data collection has become a mandatory requirement of the Federal Government funded programs, which Teresa explained involves extensive work with community partners around data collection, program logics and client outcomes.
“It is important for us to collect data so we can monitor how we are making a difference in the lives of clients in the community and where we can improve our practices,” she said.
Her role also extends to involvement in public events supported by community partners, such as national children’s, families, NAIDOC and reconciliation weeks and other significant events.
Although the Communities for Children program is dependent on government funding, Teresa hopes to continue working with ac.care after celebrating her 10 year milestone.
“Communities for children is valued in our community and we are hopeful of securing further long-term funding to continue building on our networks and relationships within the community,” she said.
“I have had a good ten years and there are always challenges, but it is rewarding, we do make a difference and the fact ac.care is a family-friendly employer also helps.”
Teresa has been trained as a facilitator of Drumbeat, Parent Child Mother Goose and the Seasons for Growth loss and grief education program.
“This is of benefit because we are able to help out if a community partner is unable to facilitate the session from time to time so the program can continue for the families in our community and it also gives us an opportunity to engage in direct service delivery with children and families in our region as we have limited contact in this area as the facilitating partner,” Teresa said.
“By being involved in these programs we can hear direct about the issues families are facing.”
Outside of ac.care, Teresa is an active member of various clubs and organisations in the community.