Last month, 18 young people, seven foster carers, eight Salvation Army staff and the CEO of Foster Care Association of Victoria, Katie Hooper, arrived in Darwin for a once-in-a-lifetime expedition.
The ‘Going Places Creating Memories’ trip was organised by the Salvo foster care program Westcare which provides unique opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
This year, children and young people from Westcare’s foster care program travelled to such iconic locations as Beswick Falls, Butterfly Gorge and Douglas Hot Springs.
Due to its breathtaking views, Butterfly Gorge was a hit. After swimming across the main pool and into the gorge, the group climbed across rocks until finally coming to the back pool where they were able to swim and enjoy sunbaking on the rocks.
Ben* nominated this day as his favourite of the trip and said, ‘The swim was hard, but once we got there it was worth it. It was really nice there and I loved being able to dive into the water and spend time relaxing.’
Another highlight of the trip was the visit to Ubirr Rock to witness the panoramic views of the flood lands and Kakadu National Park. It was there that the group was able to view Aboriginal rock paintings and X-ray art, as well as learn about Indigenous culture and area history.
On his experience atop of Ubirr rock, Peter* recalled, ‘We had such an amazing view from the top of the rock, it was like something out of a movie. When everyone became silent as the sun was going down, I felt really happy and lucky to be viewing something so special with my new friends.’
During the trip, staff and carers noticed positive changes that became apparent in the young people on the trip, such as quieter children coming out of their shells, children who became leaders of others on the trip and many young people who overcame fears of swimming, animals and speaking in public.
Along with these changes, members of staff were pleased to see the blossoming friendships between the young people, as well as hear the children recall their memories and favourite parts of the trip on the last night, which was a night of celebration and a chance to view some of the best photos of the trip.
The trip was also of particular importance for the children with an Aboriginal heritage, as they were given the opportunity to visit important Aboriginal locations and learn more about their culture from elders in the community, something that they may miss out on due to living in foster care.
‘All children, including children in care, need to have the opportunity to create meaningful memories of their own and that’s what we are trying to provide for the kids in our care,’ said Chris Jones, senior manager for home based care.
‘Visiting in the Northern Territory was an amazing opportunity,’ Katie Hooper told Warcry.
‘To spend time with such a terrific bunch of children and young people and Westcare staff was a gift. We smiled, played and relaxed. I will never forget those experiences, moments or friendships.’
Westcare knows that providing meaningful experiences for vulnerable children and young people is paramount to their recovery, and is proud to be continuing to deliver meaningful and lasting experiences for the children in its care.
*Names have been changed due to laws restricting the publishing of names of children in care.