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Gunawirra Family Projects has  a thriving Family Centre at Casula.

This program is a prevention and early-intervention service for “at risk”, young, pregnant women, or parents with toddlers and pre-school children. They may have exposure to substance/alcohol abuse, domestic violence or desertion by a parent.

Our workers are  all qualified and experienced. They are both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal.

The Program:

  • Communal Groups at the centre: Parenting courses involving both parents and infants, parents and children, Gunawirra aims to bring the family together in a safe, neutral, therapeutic environment. Using Marte Meo program is central to this. This is a program where the parent does not leave the child but comes with them, and is directly involved in the program with their baby or child rather than dropping them off.
  • Parent Meetings: These will be an opportunity for the mother to explore any concerns or worries they have in a confidential setting
  • Workshops: Baby and child-centred play activities, improving parent’s skills through a process of helping parents to observe parent/child interactions; Interaction coaching, baby massage, looking at picture books, nursery rhyme and lap games
  • Weekly therapy group in a safe and neutral environment; it is an opportunity for parents to explore and understand their past relationships and how these impact on their parenting. Families may wish to explore their own experiences of being parented. Group programs have been found to have many advantages. These are reducing social isolation and the mother feeling that she is the only person who found parenting difficult.
  • Weekly home visiting by a highly trained professional  families will be supported by having a trained professional come and visit them to provide support and understanding and develop a relationship that will support them through pregnancy, birth and beyond. Research has indicated that it can be helpful for parents to have an opportunity to explore and understand their own past and current relationships, with a view to thinking about how these experiences impact on their parenting. This individual one on one support  continues for the duration of the project, as required by families.
  • Gunawirra Family Camps are held in the Southern Highlands. There is no cost involved for the participants. The camps provide a few days away where Aboriginal parents are given time to reconnect with themselves, each other and their infants/children in a nurturing, safe setting. At the camps families are provided with a variety of different supports including therapies, parent/child/infant interactional guidance, family games, fathering business and mothering business, self care, baby massage, books binding families, parent craft advice, children’s games and playing as a family.

The Impact of Trauma on Child Development

Research indicates that many, perhaps most, maltreated children will have substantial problems that will affect their social, emotional, and physical development1,2.

As adults, they will experience far greater problems with mental illness, substance abuse, and poor physical health than their non-abused peers.

In addition, they will be considerably less likely to complete their education or to be gainfully employed and far more likely to have serious legal problems. Depression, rapidly becoming the second most costly illness in the world3, is at least 3 to 5 times more common in individuals with histories of child maltreatment4. Indeed, victims of child abuse are about 12 times more likely to attempt suicide5. Physically abused adolescents are 6 to 12 times more likely to have alcohol and drug problems, and sexually abused adolescents are 18 to 21 times more likely to become substance abusers6.

It is easy to see from such evidence why Gunawirra pursues the path of prevention and early-intervention.

“The risk factors, which negatively impact on a child’s development, are low birth weight, poor attachment, poverty, substance misuse, single parent, young maternal age, harsh or inconsistent discipline, parental mental illness and violent families and communities.

The protective factors shown to positively impact on a child’s development, include competent stable nurturing care, good enough parenting, close bonding and attachment, positive attention, breast feeding, family harmony, small family size with two years or more between each child, supportive relationships between adults, religious faith and positive social/community networks and opportunities.”

So, while intrinsic factors within the child’s genetic makeup and temperament affect resilience, the influence of the child’s environment can also alter the expression of those genes, Gunawirra works to optimise a child’s development, by reducing the risk factors and enhancing the protective factors.” – Report by Communication Strategy: Jane Doepel Project Coordinator Deadly Tots –No Gammin Project, Literature and Information Review (2010)


1 Putnam, 2003
2 Frank W. Putnam, M.D., is Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.Dr. Putnam is the author of over 140 scientific publications and two books on topics related to child abuse and neglect
3 The World Health Report, 2001
4 Edwards, Holden, Felitti, and Anda, 2003
5 Dube, et al., 2001
6 Dube et al., 2005