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Passion has its own rewards
Mel Haley has seen her Buoyed Up program adopted nationally and recognised by the yachting community.
Picture: Elesa Kurtz
CANBERRA'S Mel Haley is passion-
ate about helping the community.
Little did she know that one of the
programs that she manages at Com-
munities@Work would ultimately
change lives overseas.
"There was one family from [over-
seas]. [The mother] had no English
and was in a very controlling relation-
ship and her upbringing had involved
women being submissive in a way.
She sought parenting advice from
our Parenting Matters program. She
first went there without her husband
knowing and kept it very quiet -- she
didn't want her husband to see her as
a failure," Ms Haley said.
After acquiring skills and finishing
with the program, the mother returned
a couple years later. She had learnt
English and was coping well but that
wasn't where the story ended.
"She just came in a couple of
months ago because she was moving
back to her home country. She said to
her caseworker, You saved my life -- I
am taking this program back. I ended
up telling my husband and family what
I'd done.' [Her husband] was fine with
that the whole time," she said.
"She's actually going to take the
program back to her home town and
wants to get other families involved
and do the training to help more
people in her country. It was just really
lovely. That was, for me, a justification
we're really helping people."
Ms Haley always had a passion for
early childhood development and
That passion has come to life
through her role as director of child
services and family programs at Com-
"My major in my degree was
focused on early intervention, so
wrapping services around families and
children which I believe lessens the
burden on the juvenile system and our
prison system later on in life -- that's
sort of lead me to coming into
children's services," she said.
As director, Ms Haley works to
identify needs in the ACT and how to
address them, which involves net-
working with the wider community.
She oversees several initiatives
including parent support services,
school programs, school-based care
and more. A highlight has been
Buoyed Up, an introductory sailing
program run in partnership with Can-
berra Yacht Club to give children
confidence-building sailing experi-
The program recently expanded
elsewhere in the country and was
recognised at the Australian Yachting
Awards in October. "Buoyed Up is just
amazing, where it's come from in a
small space [of] time," she said. "The
outcomes that have come out from that
really just cement that getting children
physically active and getting children
into something they're really inter-
ested in means the learning outcomes
in the classroom are far better."
Her advice for others considering a
similar path is simple.
"If you've got the passion for it, the
opportunities are endless," she said.
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