Opening of CatholicCare’s Muswellbrook Community Hub will assist drought-stricken farmers, vulnerable youth and wider community

BISHOP Bill Wright and Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen will officially open the Muswellbrook Community Hub, encompassing a variety of community providers on Tuesday.

“Opening our Muswellbrook office enables CatholicCare to extend the services we provide the wider Hunter community in general but in particular to the number of young people and children who need our support,” director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Gary Christensen said. 

“An increasing number of children are unable to live with their birth families, and the situation is now at crisis point. 

“In NSW, there are more than 18,000 children and young people living in out of home care. 

“In line with recent changes announced by the NSW Government, CatholicCare is working in local communities to recruit and assess carers who can provide these children and young people with a loving, permanent, safe home for life. 

“The opening of our Muswellbrook office will enable us to offer greater support to our existing carers and hopefully entice more locals to consider becoming carers, which will assist in addressing the massive shortfall across regional NSW.”

The Muswellbrook Community Hub incorporates CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning, Access Programs and One Door Mental Health, with additional providers likely to join the premises in the coming months. 

“The opening of the Muswellbrook Community Hub is CatholicCare’s response to the strong interest from the Upper Hunter community in our social services, particularly from those interested in becoming foster carers, as well as to those seeking access to mental health support and disability services,” Mr Christensen said.

“We invited other service providers to join us in the Francis Street location, so that collectively we could provide holistic support across the lifespan.”

The opening marks the second office in the Upper Hunter for the organisation, with the launch in Singleton taking place in October.

CatholicCare recently announced that it will provide free family and relationship support services, as well as counselling, to families in the Upper Hunter who are affected by the worsening drought. 

“We exist to support vulnerable people in our community and it is important that we position ourselves to become part of a local solution during times of adversity,” Mr Christensen said.

“Accessing counselling services is not a sign of weakness and most people who initiate counselling do not have a serious mental illness- often they have life challenges or are going through difficult life-cycle transitions that may be taxing their current ability to cope. 

“This, in turn, may be adversely affecting their well-being and ability to function as well as they would like. 

“We are offering our services to Upper Hunter locals affected by the drought, free of charge, because we want to be able to provide them with support and guidance around issues including, but not limited to, work-related stressors, financial problems and relationships.

“Counselling during these times can be quite helpful in providing both the support and skills to better address these life challenges. 

“Ultimately, accessing counselling is an invaluable investment in your emotional, physical and mental health and is an act of courage not weakness.”

CatholicCare offers its services to the public, regardless of whether they are Catholic and its services are not influenced by religion. 

Close to 100 people are expected at Tuesday’s event including a large number of local community partners from representatives of Muswellbrook Shire Council, including mayor Martin Rush, Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Benevolent Society, APM Youth Employment Services, Integrated Living, Upper Hunter Shire Council, Foundation Care, St James Primary School and St Joseph’s High School Aberdeen.