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All Newsletters : August 2005 : C-BERS: Moving With The Times

C-BERS: Moving With The Times

As the number of former residents and students of Christian Brothers’ residential and educational ser-vices seeking support to deal with issues from the past continues to dwindle, C-BERS Services (in consultation with our clients) has been working on how best to meet the changing needs of those who may still need and benefit from some form of continuing support.
The article below from C-BERS Chairperson Maria Harries provides a context for the changes that are being proposed to meet the on-going support needs of Christian Brothers ex-residents and students.

Ten years ago, and during a very painful and highly sensitive time during which there was a growing awareness about child migrants and their experiences of child migration, the traumas of institutional life and the trials of settling in Australia, C-BERS opened.

We started small in a little house in Subiaco – two days per week.

Although there was clearly a need for a service to help with a range of matters including tracing of family, travel and counselling, we had no idea whether we would have many takers because it was a highly volatile time and, quite understandably, there was not a lot of trust around.

As much as was possible, we consulted with, and were led by, the men (and some women) who had been child migrants as we carefully planned what seemed to be needed.

Soon the service grew as people realised that we could be trusted. Some people of course, chose not to use the service and that too was fine.

The men drove the service and the Christian Brothers’ Province funded it.
We moved into bigger premises, took on more staff and for some years we operated a five day a week service.

Well over 500 people have walked through our doors over these years and many of you have been frequent visitors who have become our friends and colleagues.

Last year, however, the demands on the service reduced dramatically and we reduced to a four day per week service with three very part-time counsellors.

This year, we realised that we would have to undertake more radical adjustments: as there are now very few new clients walking through our doors or ringing and the Province is spending a lot of money on renting the Subiaco premises and in employing staff.

Planning for the Future
In February of this year, the management and staff of C-BERS met with a group of people representing former child migrants, the Christian Brothers’ Province and interested parties to think about how best to meet the needs of ex-residents and students into the future.
We formed a Reference Group consisting of Frank Marshall, Michael Hogan, Maureen Briggs Trewin, Gordon Grant, Laurie Humphreys, Melissa del Borello, David Plowman, Maria Harries, Br Kevin Ryan, Debra Rosser, Br Rod Ellyard, George Horton, Mark Sachmann, Philippa White, Dennis McNerney and Allan Tranter of ‘Creating Communities’. Peter Bent and Brian Hoare joined this group in June.

Not all members could attend all of the meetings but we have now met on four occasions and there are small groups meeting around a range of issues.
We have slowly come to the understanding that we need to change the face of C-BERS completely – as someone said; “to ‘morph’ it into something else”.
There are two prongs to the change.

First, there will continue to be a counsellor available (although at this stage we are not sure where he/ she will be operating from).
Secondly, the biggest need that remains evident is for social support and so we are working out ways to help this happen.

The Old Boys Networks and the Child Migrant Friendship Society are involved in all discussions – in fact they are leading them.
A wonderful organisation called ‘Creating Communities’ is helping us move through a planning process.

The lease on the building from which we currently operate finishes in December.

Before that happens, there is much to do to ensure that change is managed respectfully and thoughtfully. In other parts of the newsletter, you will read about various aspects of our planning and you are invited to comment and offer advice.

I look forward to hearing ideas and views and, at our gathering on the 24th of November, celebrating our successes with everyone who has shared this journey as we launch our plans for the future.

Maria Harries, C-BERS Chairperson


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