MyTime is an Australia-wide program enabled through the Parenting Research Centre that supports parents and families with a child who needs additional support due to disability, chronic illness or other needs. MyTime groups connect parents with others in similar situations and offers a facilitator to help them access local services and reliable information.
Launched in 2006, there are now over 200 groups hosted across Australia. Burdekin Neighbourhood Centre hosts the MyTime group for their area in North Queensland. The ethos of the BNC is “It’s your place! A place to build our community. A place to develop friendships. A place to learn new skills.” an ethos that the MyTime Group shares.
Gwen Marshall has been facilitating the MyTime Group in the Burdekin since its inception almost 15 years ago. The group has come under the banner of the Burdekin Neighbourhood Centre since September 2022 who provided support to ensure the program continued running.
“The MyTime Group is working really well, we are so thankful for the opportunity to keep going….At the present our Group meets monthly where we enjoy morning tea and lunch, alternating between carers meetings and whole family activities. We meet in various local parks on a Saturday for family outings with a play helper.” explained Gwen
The group has between 5-13 Carer participants and historically up to 40 for some events. Gwen highlighted that the families appreciate the social aspect of the group, coming together with other people who understand and share their experience.
“The families indicated to us that they were seeking opportunities to “get together, “to hang with people who know what it’s like, “to be with friends who understand, to help each other along the journey”, rather than being overloaded with more information while they are constantly meeting everyday challenges.”
Gwen spoke about how MyTime focuses on supporting and ‘lavishing’ its group members. The group has held weekday craft activities and enjoyed weekend trips away when they’ve had available funding. Gwen highlighted how the Neighbourhood Centre has been a great fit for the program and provides continued support for her work with the group.
“The Neighbourhood Centre supports me to devote my time to the families, they provide catering support, a meeting room, sports gear and administrative support. The Centre staff are always welcoming.”
Similarly Gwen highlighted how the participant-centred focus of the group aligns with the values and attitudes of BNC who she says have been a great fit for hosting the program. Gwen explained how the MyTime group works to make sure families can engage as much or as little as they need, depending on their circumstances.
“It’s carer-based, so decisions we make, we try to make them together. It’s very much centred around me asking them what would be good going forward. Are you happy with what we’re currently doing? We seek to be consultative. Everyone is welcome to attend… but no one is pressured. “Our group has some fantastic key members who might be involved at some points, but if something’s going on in their life and they need to step away we make sure to let them know that’s fine… We try and make the group something that is there for them, but only when that works for them, rather than it being another pressure in life”.
Gwen also expressed how many of the Group’s members have gone on to form connections with one another and the Neighbourhood Centre outside of the Group.
“The MyTime Group has a Facebook page and carers meet up at other times. It’s not just contained to a meeting once a month, it’s far more of a support network now.”
“One of our families is now seeking NDIS support from some of the other agencies in the Neighbourhood Centre as well… The staff of the Neighbourhood Centre have always been welcoming and encouraging of our families, and that is really key”.
Gwen views her involvement in the group as a privilege and is grateful to all of the organisations who help to make it happen.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity of “MyTime” for families in the Burdekin; the Federal funding through PRC distributed by Play Matters Australia and managed by the Burdekin Neighbourhood Centre. Historically, I am grateful to the Cerebral Palsy League and Burdekin School for setting this up. It’s a great program and benefits our families immensely.”
“The group is working really well, and we are so thankful for the Burdekin Neighbourhood Centre stepping up to keep it going. Immense thanks to all of the BNC team, of which we are now a part!”
Written By: Taylor Bast
Published: August 2023