Our Story

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The Story of CFN

During the months of December 2000 and January 2001, the Queensland Government held consultations in the Caboolture and Kilcoy areas in an endeavour to understand the extent, range and preferred respite and family support requirements for people with a disability and their families.

During these consultations, a number of themes in local demand for respite emerged, some of which were that:

  • the respite should be flexible – not just centre based.  A range of tailored supports should be available
  • the rural components of the Kilcoy and Caboolture Shires should be given consideration, especially transport matters and social isolation
  • the respite experience for the person should be positive and reflect a sense of holiday and fun. It should add value to the person’s life and “give the family a break”

Ann-Marie O’Brien, in her role as Service Co-ordinator for Homelife Association Inc, had heard from many families and had received a lot of phone calls from people seeking respite in the Caboolture area as the options available at that time were inadequate. When Disability Service Queensland’s called for applicants in December 2002, Homelife submitted an expression of interest, seeking to auspice the new Family Support and Respite Service, which they referred to as Caboolture Family Network.

Soon after Ann-Marie received a phone call from Disability Services Queensland advising that Homelifes’ application had been successful and they had been given the green light to auspice a new family support and respite service for the Caboolture/Kilcoy Shires.  

Debbie Mansbridge commenced as Caboolture Family Networks’ Coordinator in June 2003 from a room at the office of Homelife Association Inc. She, Ann-Marie and the Homelife Management Committee shared a strong unification in terms of their vision for Caboolture Family Network and the type of respite and support it would provide. They believed in offering a service that:

  • Had a strong and respectful partnership with a person with a disability, their family and/or carer and the wider community;  
  • Acknowledged that every family and/or carer had a need for ‘time-out’;
  • Encouraged people with a disability, their family and/or carer to make choices in their own lives;
  • Promoted dignity, respect, privacy, confidentiality and accountability;
  • Provided good planning;
  • Provided access to all people without discrimination;
  • Allowed a person with a disability, their family and/or carer to raise concerns without recriminations;
  • Assisted a person with a disability, their family and/or carer to develop meaningful social and physical inclusion into the local community.  

They wanted to create a holistic model, one where each family and/or carer related to one key staff person who planned, organised and coordinated their support with them. These support plans would be reviewed every six months with the family and/or carer where they would have the opportunity to discuss their current situation and plan the support that best addressed their needs for the next period of time.

This was an extremely flexible approach. It would allow the support plans of each person with a disability, their family and carer to look quite different from those of any other family. It was also a family-centred approach as opposed to a service-centred approach. They created different types of support to meet the needs of families in the area of:

In home support –providing support in the family home to enable the family and/or carer to attend to other responsibilities or support for the individual with disability to contribute to family life.

Community support – assistance to enable the individual to participate in recreation or leisure activities and which, ideally, should provide opportunities for relationships to develop and grow.

Host family support – when a person with a disability stays with another family in their home for overnight, weekends or school holiday stays.   

Family support – assisting the family and/or carer to continue to be a family by supporting them in flexible and holistic ways

Respite – i.e. camps, holidays or using Caboolture Family Network’s Retreat

Vacation Care 1:1 activities based program for school aged children

Funding arrangements –  financial assistance for eligible families and/or carers can to purchase support that makes it easier for families and/or carers to provide care

With  Caboolture Family Networks’ support and respite vision in hand, Debbie introduced herself to the local community and launched into the task of developing a steering committee to help with the forward progression of the new service.

The first meeting of Caboolture Family Network was held at the office of Homelife Association Inc., 17 Oaklands Drive, Caboolture on July 3, 2003. Discussion took place in relation to the following:

  • The developmental stages of the project, creating a platform for the organisation and a working plan for the next three months
  • What it meant to be a steering committee member
  • The purchase of a wheelchair accessible motor vehicle
  • Priority/selection process forms

Debbie invited all parties interested in becoming a member of the steering committee to throw their hat into the ring and many stepped up to the plate, forming the inaugural Caboolture Family Network steering committee.

The biggest challenge facing Debbie and the Caboolture Family Network steering committee at this point in time was the procurement of the respite house. Every single person associated with Caboolture Family Network; co-ordinators, auspicing bodies, steering committee members, staff were adamant that they didn’t want to purchase or build a respite facility. They wanted to create a retreat.

Their vision was to create a welcoming and homey 3 bedroom, wheelchair accessible retreat, built along environmentally sensitive and sustainable principles. Their mental picture saw the retreat nestled into a small farmlet with interest spots around the property – chickens, small farmyard animals, floral and organic vegetable gardens and orchards. So they set about searching for exactly the right place, either land they could build on or an already established home they could modify.

In April 2004, a suitable house which ticked all of the boxes was found. It was a three bedroom home on 2½ acres of land at Elimbah. It was reasonably priced and close to Caboolture CBD.  Plans for the retreat went to the architect then to the Caboolture Shire Council for approval and the builder collected the approved plans and commenced modifications on July 7, 2004.

In the meantime, Homelife and Caboolture Family Network staff were asked to come up with suggestions for a name for the retreat. There were many responses and the suggestions were well thought out. However, throughout the whole journey, from Homelife’s original submission right through to the signing of the contract, Ann-Marie and Debbie had always referred to the respite house as “The Retreat”. So “The Retreat” it became and has been known as ever since!

The official opening of the “Retreat” took place at the Retreat, 17 D. Newman Court, Elimbah, on Saturday, February 18, 2006 by the Honourable Warren Pitt MP, Minister for Communities and Disability.

Caboolture Family Network has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2003. From humble beginnings in the garage of the offices of Homelife Association Inc, CFN has spread its wings and moved into offices of its own, first at 17 Morayfield Road, Caboolture and as of 2015, at 10 Grant Road, Morayfield. During this time Caboolture Family Network has also changed its name, simply to, CFN. The name change reflects the ever growing demand for CFN’s services beyond the Caboolture area and because we have always been referred to as CFN in that typical Australian tradition of abbreviating all of our words!

The CFN office, wherever it’s locale, has often been described as a place of warmth and acceptance and the Retreat has reached and surpassed everybody’s expectations and is looked upon as a place of fun and laughter.

Since opening our doors in 2003 we have supported hundreds of individuals with disabilities and their families or carers. Some of whom were seeking one off respite; some seeking regular respite and some who, for whatever reason, find themselves unable to have their family member live in the family home.

We have supported siblings in group activities to share their stories with their peers and to learn some coping skills, as well as just to have the opportunity for some time out with the focus being on them and on having fun.

CFN’s Enthuse program has been going from strength to strength with young people learning a range of new skills. Skills they will use to pursue their goals of living independently, finding paid employment and getting out and about in their local community.

Many families have participated in PATH planning and in the process been able to set clear goals and direction for a good life for their family member now and the future.

We have our annual traditions such as Melbourne Cup functions and Christmas Parties and we also host various information sessions to ensure the families we serve are kept abreast of important sector issues.

While every family’s journey is different, one thing they all have in common, is the need for a service that does not judge them, that does not discriminate; that offers support and encouragement to achieve the very best outcome for their family; a service willing to share not just the successes, but to be there through the struggles; a service that gives of itself with kindness, dedication and understanding. A service with vision, purpose, dreams and principles.

CFN is a place where people and ideas come together. We work toward a common goal and that is to create a better world for people with disabilities and those who provide love and support to them. Our aim continues to be, to ensure that everything we do,  both at a service and a community level, is geared towards creating this world.