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Out and about on the coast

Social outings have become a highlight for Home Care Package customers on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.
Social outings have become a highlight for Home Care Package customers on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.

Groups of Australian Unity customers are regularly attending luncheons, musical performances and riverboat trips using funding from their Home Care Packages. 

These monthly social outings, organised by Australian Unity service coordinators, are much-anticipated events for customers living in towns on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.

“Our customers have been to the Heritage House Museum in Bangalow. It used to be the childhood home of one of our customers and has been renovated and turned into a museum,” says Bonnie Burns, Home Care Service Coordinator for the Byron Shire.  

“We went to a flower show in Mullumbimby. We also went to the Ocean Shores Country Club, Brunswick Bowls Club and Main Arm Store for monthly group lunches.” 

The outings provide an opportunity for customers to make friends and discover new interests and local businesses they’ve never visited before. 

“A lot of our customers don’t have family living close by and can be quite restricted in being able to access local attractions, so these events help them gain a sense of community,” Bonnie says. 

She says the outings have brought together new friends and reunited old ones. “It’s lovely seeing their faces each month when they see each other. Some of them have gone to school together or have known each other for years but haven’t had a chance to see each other for a very long time. 

“It’s a lovely moment for them to catch up.” 

"A lot of them have become very close and call each other weekly if they don’t have an event on.” - Bonnie Burns Home Care services coordinator 

Kim Keevers, Australian Unity Service Coordinator for Murwillumbah, has organised and attended several successful social outings in her area, too. 

“We had a morning tea and entertainment at the Condong Bowling Club, which was a great success. They absolutely loved that,” Kim says. 

Country and western singer Barry Glasby, joined by Australian Unity Care Worker Gordon Crowther with Kim playing the part of Sadie the Cleaning Lady, entertained more than 30 customers at the morning tea. 

“It was a bit of fun and everyone was laughing,” Kim says. “I wasn’t prepared for it,” she says of her role as Sadie, “I was just told I was doing it.” 

Another highlight was a tour of the Tweed Valley Farmhouse Cheeses factory – which included Home Care Package customers from all over the Far North Coast. 

“They were told the story about how they make the cheese and where it all comes from and where it originated,” Kim says. The tour finished with a feast that included scones with jam and cream and a selection of cheeses. 

The monthly social events are sparking other small group outings initiated by the customers. “We have four ladies who get together once a fortnight,” says Debra Robinson, an Australian Unity Home Care Worker. 

“They’ll meet up, whether it’s in the park with a care worker, and have a cuppa. They went down to the Men’s Shed and had a look around there. They really enjoy it. They ask each other, ‘where should we go next?’ and they make arrangements, which is really nice.” 

Bonnie says the social outings have provided customers with a support network of peers experiencing similar difficulties and health concerns. “A lot of them have become very close and call each other weekly if they don’t have an event on,” Bonnie says. 

“If they are feeling isolated or a bit down, they lean on each other now for a bit of mental support.” 

The initiative is also a way to combat social isolation, which is a serious concern for older people who may be cut off from family. 

“One of my customers especially loves to go because she lives alone and has no family around,” Kim says. “So that’s her way of getting out and meeting other people. And she absolutely loves it.” 

Words: Georgia Lejeune

How it works

Customers enjoying a day out.

These excursions are classified as a social support service and are funded by customers’ Home Care Packages. They are not compulsory and often require a small out-of-pocket expense.   

“If there’s any out-of-pocket expense, such as the cost of the tea and coffee, the customer pays for that themselves. But we try to work with the local businesses to get special seniors deals for them so that we can keep the extra expenses as low as possible,” Bonnie says. 

Each event is carefully planned, with Care Workers or Support Service Coordinators completing a risk assessment prior to the excursion and attending on the day. 

Accessibility, affordability and fun are all part of the planning process for the Far North Coast services team. 

“We talk to the business owners and we make sure there are ramps if required or a disabled toilet, and that there’s plenty of parking,” Bonnie says. 

The social outings are informed by suggestions from customers and Care Workers, with upcoming events such as the Bangalow or Murwillumbah Shows thrown into the mix. 

“We ask customers at the previous event what they would like to do next month. We’ve got a list of activities and cafes that they want to try,” Bonnie says. “We’ve pretty much got it booked out for all of next year.”

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