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CREATE through the years

Written on March 7, 2019

For CREATE’s 20th Birthday, we interviewed some CREATE legends- the people who were around for the earlier days of CREATE.

Mal Marcus
Founding member of CREATE from 1994 to 2004.

Rachael Donovan
Former CREATE Young Consultant and current CREATE State Coordinator

Rory Jeffes
Former CEO of CREATE Foundation


ON WHAT LED THEM TO CREATE

Rory: I was first introduced to CREATE in 2002 when I participated in the Sydney leadership program hosted by Benevolent Society – I met some representatives from CREATE there and I found the stories of young people in care personally confronting.  The experience inspired me to find a way to support children and young people in care – back in those days it was a pretty dysfunctional system from a young person’s perspective – so I applied for the role of CEO of CREATE and was very fortunate when I got the job!

Mal: In 1994 I was 19 year old and I had heard about the Association of Young People In Care (AAYPIC – before it was CREATE) by an old worker of mine.  She knew of my community leadership throughout high school. I had a tough care experience but for quite a few great people who gave me encouragement and confidence to stand-up and fight for fairness in all areas of life. So, it was natural progression to get involved in standing up for the rights of children and young people in care – having had to do so for myself and others for a long time already.  I wanted to get involved to make a difference for young people to ensure not only their voices were heard but that young people in care were directly involved in the changes in the out of home care system

The first meeting I went to was really good – I felt welcomed to the clan! There is something that can’t be faked when it comes to shared experience and we all that had shared experience.  At the first committee meeting we talked about planning for our next group events with young people –  mixing activities and discussions about what’s important and what they thought needed to be changed about the care system – at the time this was called club VAYPIC.  The Salvation Army gave us a hall in Brunswick to use for VAYPIC members – agencies like DHS and Mackillop supported young people to come, it was mainly kids from local group homes and foster homes.  About 25 young people in total at the time.

Rachael: I think I was referred to CREATE from the Department. I secured a paid youth work traineeship and spent two years as a Young Consultant starting in 1998. I was really inspired by the work of CREATE as it was an opportunity for me to make a difference for young people in care and have my voice heard. CREATE provided me with an opportunity to not only to make a difference in the world, but to form connections and friendships with other young people in care, some of which are my closest friends still today.

Before I came to CREATE I didn’t feel like I had that one support person in my life who was rooting for me – but the people and CREATE as an organisation gave me that. I was given amazing opportunities, including the chance to travel, which was really exciting as I had never before been outside of Queensland. I got to travel all over the country for events, conferences and Face to Face forums. Working with CREATE completely changed my life – it gave me the confidence and skills to know I could be an advocate and go and work in this field. It was really amazing – to know that my voice mattered and that I mattered, that I had a role to play and that I was capable. My time with CREATE opened doors in my own mind and in the real world for me.


ON THEIR ROLES AT CREATE

Mal: I joined as a member in 1994 then served on the management committee of VAYPIC and AAYPIC, I served as chairperson on each for a while and was involved in running committee meetings, local groups and workshops. We participated in media training and did some interviews for newspapers and radio to share our stories and raise awareness of what is was like to be in out of home care. The work AAYPIC and then CREATE was doing true grassroots work and lead to HUGE changes in the care system. WE are the peak body for young people in care and that spirit was very much the feeling at the time.

About 10 to 20 of us members did a five day train the trainer in NSW and took back what we learnt to our State bodies and trained up Young Consultants. My role was to train Young Consultants and support them to do the work they do as advocates. In this capacity, I was involved at the beginning stages of developing Young Consultants training in a mentoring role. I was on the national committee of Australian Association of Young People in Care and was involved in organising conferences, planning and running workshops and media training for the Young Consultants. 

Jan Owen, Leanne Clarkson and Marlena (Sue) Basser were the beginning foundations of AAYPIC. QBYPIC were able to get some Young Consultants involved on the AAYPIC committee who then later moved in to paid positions at CREATE. A lot of the people on the AAYPIC’s national committee moved on to paid roles at CREATE. It was a natural progression that CREATE became a national organisation bringing together all the state bodies.

Everything I did at CREATE was as a volunteer.

Rachael: Throughout my time at CREATE I was involved in lots of different roles – training Young Consultants, helping to run camps like Mission:be, Face to Face conferences, sharing my experience in public forums and with Ministers.  I was given the opportunity to have direct contact with decision makers and influence change across the system.  Our main work at the time was advocating for the inclusion of children and young people in decisions about their lives (for example, case plans).  Twenty years ago youth participation was a relatively unfamiliar concept so we did lots of work to create a cultural shift across the sector.

During my time at CREATE I was also directly involved in working with and supporting young people in care.  I developed content for the CREATE magazine sourcing personal stories from young people, information about their rights, and included fun activities and games.  The magazine has grown so much in distribution, content and design since those days – it’s amazing to see what it has become and how far it reaches!


ON CREATE’S EARLY YEARS

Mal: Prior to this time we spent a lot of time on the mission statement and vision for AAYPIC– I remember lots of debate at the time about the wording of the mission statement and being involved with shaping the term ‘creating opportunities for young people in care’. I believe from this passionate commitment to young people’s lives, by others with a care experience, a seed took root and CREATE as we know it today grew.

CREATE launching meant that there was more people on the ground employed – prior to that we were at the mercy of our auspicing bodies and when we became CREATE we were able to have a funding model that meant we could we could have offices and our own space and were independent from other agencies.

The spirit of the of the founding members carried-on as it went from loose associations to something more coordinated as one messenger – it became a nation of young people in care speaking up. In fact it sparked a flame of enthusiasm, one I passionately want to keep alive. If you are in care, or you have been in care, this is the organisation that can project your voice, your experiences and connect with others who share a common experience. Your voice can be heard across the nation.

Rory: CREATE was an organisation built on passion, its central premise was that children and young people in care were the central voice of the organisation – this made it extremely powerful but also meant there were a number of challenges in making the organisation sustainable.  When I came on with CREATE it was a period of transition, the challenge was to ensure that young people remained the central voice of the organisation and that we could make long term systemic change to the care system.  My arrival coincided with this enormous sense of passion from a national network that was disparate and spread across the country – one of my jobs was bringing people together under a common goal– all the stuff that’s not about the passion but about the effectiveness – bringing some sophistication to the messaging but also the internal processes of the organisation.  The huge challenge was improve CREATE without losing that sense of what it was all about in the first place; I this has been achieved.


ON BIG ACHIEVEMENTS, MILESTONES AND CHALLENGES

Rachael: The event when AAYPIC (Australian Association of Young People in Care) developed into CREATE was incredible– it was facilitated by supportive professionals but it was developed from the ground up by young people in care – the logo, the vision and the mission were all created by young people! It was such an inspiring and collaborative event and there were some truly great moments.  Being involved in ‘creating CREATE’ was very healing for me and for others – it made me feel like my journey and experience had a greater purpose and that I was contributing to something bigger than just my own life.

Rory: One of the big achievements during my time was that all of the national state and territory offices became more cohesive and focused on getting outcomes   I am really pleased and proud of the way organisation developed while I was there, we built a stronger and more robust future for CREATE.   The organisation achieved a huge amount while I was there in terms of advocacy but that was due to hard work of others and would have happened regardless of whether I was there or not.  IT was about bringing about some of the lessons I had learnt in the corporate sector to CREATE and creating more sustainability

Mal: The challenges we faced as smaller, independent state associations were overcome by coming together. The challenges I see into the future is forgetting where we began, forgetting the achievements and positive outcomes for the rights of the child. CREATE will always be relevant, as long as there is an out of home care system. Sharing your care story, your insight and understanding could be the one thing that makes that monumental change for another


ON WHAT’S CHANGED OVER THE YEARS

Mal: It seems that there was a period were CREATE moved away from grassroots to providing a service to the sector, but now I think the pendulum is swinging back the other way.  CREATE’s core is all about young people empowered to saying something that will have a ripple affect into the future.  I think CREATE is moving in that direction of having more young people with a care experience being directly involved in shaping the organisation. 

Moving forward – I can only see it moving from strength to strength – agencies need to know about CREATE and automatically inviting their children and young people to become members of clubCREATE. Imagine seeing CREATE posters or information in every office space and venue in the care sector – wouldn’t that be awesome!

Rory: CREATE has continued to do extraordinary work.  CREATE’s advocacy has changed the care system and continues to shape the system.


ON CREATE’S IMPACT OVER THE 20 YEARS

Rory: CREATE’s core achievement is to turn out-of-home care around 180 degrees, from being all about the system to being about the child or young person and I think that is a massive.  I think Jacqui has played the most amazing leadership role.  CREATE remains focused on change for, by and with children and young people – it has managed to not lose sight of that vision over its history.

Mal: It’s changed the care system – in each state and territory there is a bill of rights for children and young people in care. Is there is a charter of rights for any other group? There is an independent Commissioner for Children and Young People in in each state and territory and it’s a direct result of CREATE’s advocacy.

Young people now own their care record – this is a monumental shift from being serviced and not respected, to acknowledged and respected (many of us do not have reliable witnesses to what, where and when things happened in our lives. That information was kept secreted away collecting dust. That information is now the property of the child – thanks to CREATE.)

CREATE has also collaborated with other Young People organisations internationally and gone on to influencing care services around the world exchanging ideas and shaping each other’s approaches for positive changes in the lives of children and young people.

Rachael: The inclusion of children and young people in more areas across the sector and breadth of engagement has been amazing to see. Politically, CREATE has had a huge influence in legislative reforms such as the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care in each state and territory, the extension of support post care and legislative change more broadly.   I have witnessed CREATE grow in excellence and reputation and the fact that so many agencies across the sector want to engage with CREATE and value its work shows how much it has developed as an organisation. 


ON WHAT THEY’RE DOING NOW

Rachael: I moved on from CREATE around 2001, due to my traineeship ending, having my second child and starting university. From there I completed by Bachelor of Social Science and Masters of Community Development.  After I graduated I went to India for five years and worked for a community development NGO.  I developed grassroots projects with marginalised groups and families in the areas of health, education, empowerment and economic development. It was very challenging but inspiring work.

In 2017 I returned to Australia to work for the Department of Education and Training on Indigenous Land Management programs with adolescents in remote parts of the Northern Territory. This work connected me to country and culture and ignited in me a passion for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I currently work at the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), building youth participation in all areas of the Commission’s work and promoting it across the sector*. Ensuring the voices of children and young people are represented and influential is the greatest part of my work.

Mal: I was working in adventure tourism industry and outdoor education as a specialist instructor. I specialised in working with people in the bush and remote places, mainly working with young people and empowering them.  About ten years ago I had change of career and now I work for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne – so it’s in community services but in a different way that what I did at CREATE.

Rory: My first love was always music – I kind of became diverted in youth development. During my time CREATE my own kids were growing and some of impacts child abuse that was I was witnessing really starting to get o me – I needed for myself and for my family to move on from CREATE, which led to me back to music.  I Sydney Symphony Orchestra and in 2017 I moved to be Chief Executive Opera Australia – the largest arts company in Australia.


ON THEIR BIRTHDAY WISH FOR CREATE

Rory: CREATE primarily is about supporting young people until they become adults.  At twenty – CREATE is clearly an adult in the sector – long may they thrive!

Rachael: CREATE has achieved so many amazing things over the last 20 years.  I am so proud to have worked during CREATE’s founding years and am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and skills this experience has given me.  I am excited to see what the future holds for CREATE, and I have no doubts that it will be brilliant, inspirational and influential!


These interviews were conducted as part of a timeline of CREATE’s history. This timeline will feature interviews from CREATE’s founder Jan Owen, current CREATE young people and carers, contributors, and many more. Stay tuned for when our timeline is released this May!

*Since this interview, Rachael has moved to a position within CREATE as Queensland’s State Coordinator!