Coffee With… Sue Carlile, CEO, Family Access Network

Describe the work of Family Access Network
Family Access Network (FAN) was established in 1981, based in Box Hill providing services across the Eastern Region for young people, young families and accompanying children, and across the state of Victoria for LGBTI young people, experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We do this through a range of programs, including a case managed response linked to transitional housing, private rental brokerage program, housing establishment funds, life skills program for the development of independent living skills and social supports, volunteer program to recruit and support volunteers as mentors, lead tenants and child play supervisors, capacity building children’s program, homeless youth dual diagnosis initiative in partnership with Eastern Health.

In addition to the core funded work at FAN we continue to be involved in the development of a number of innovative projects and partnerships including: LGBTIQ responses, Post Care, Young People and Family Violence, and Young Families in Crisis.

FAN has been  involved in many research projects over a number of years – notably in areas of young parenting, pregnancy and homelessness, LGBTI & homelessness, children’s experiences of homelessness to name a few – many of which have resulted in journal articles and conference presentations.

What sort of work were you doing prior to starting at FAN?
As I have been at FAN since 1985 that was a very long time ago  However during my time at FAN I have also worked for an Accreditation body, known as QICSA, currently trading as QIP – this led to undertaking onsite peer reviews in the health and community sector, report auditing and due to FAN’s work in LGBTI services, I was also involved in the development of the Rainbow Tick Standards.

Prior to working at FAN, I worked in the Law Department, DHHS – youth justice, and in local government youth programs.

What excites and motivates you in your role?
The opportunity to make a positive difference in ensuring FAN’s support to young people in the steps needed for them to fully participate in the community, be in safe and affordable housing and end their experience of homelessness. What also excites me is the opportunity to contribute to broader sector thinking and innovation.

What is most challenging about your work?
The recent release of the Census data showing 12% increase in homelessness and that 39% of all people experiencing homelessness are under 25 is hugely challenging for me and for a fair and just society.

Does Family Access Network work with volunteers? Can you describe how volunteers are add value to your work?
FAN has a strong history of working with volunteers and the contribution volunteers make underpins not only where FAN is now but the foundation of the organisation.  Currently volunteers are involved in the following ways and add value from governance right through to building positive role model relationships with young people:

  • Board – Are all volunteers and contribute to the overall governance and strategic directions
  • Lead Tenants – We operate several properties where either younger or more vulnerable young people receive additional benefit through the involvement of Lead Tenants, who provide a stabilising influence and life skills role modelling
  • Mentors – One on one positive role modelling, matched with either individual young people or young parents
  • Child Play Supervisors – with approximately 50% of all clients as young families, accompanying children attend the office either for appointments with their parents, or as participants in groups e.g. Young Mum’s Group. The involvement of Child Play supervisors ensures full participation of the young families

All volunteers undergo a recruitment and assessment process, including National Police Records Check and Working With Children Check.  FAN is committed to providing a Child Safe Environment. Induction and ongoing support and training is provided..

What strengths do you see in the young people you work with?
The young people we work with are all quite different, particularly as some are young families and others identify as LGBTI – so they are often facing different challenges.  However what inspires me is their willingness to trust again, to take the steps needed to make change in their lives, to have the courage to open up to others to seek support, to tackle all these things at the same time while also growing, learning and developing, often without the family and community supports other young people enjoy.

Where do you recommend in Box Hill for Coffee/ Lunch/ People Watching?
Red Cup – it is always vibrant, has wonderful atmosphere, coffee and food are also great.

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?
Only one thing is a challenge…………..there are so many areas that I feel passionately about but they would each in their own way not be achievable if we don’t take better care of the planet, climate change and effective responses are critical for us all now and into the future.

If you weren’t working at Family Access Network right now, what would you be doing?
Playing with my grandchildren in the garden

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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