The much anticipated second together program Facilitator Forum was held on Thursday the 12th of November, 2015, at Mantra Parramatta.  Approximately 65 participants and Carers NSW staff gathered for a full day program, which aimed to bring together Carer Support Group facilitators from around New South Wales together for a day of sharing of experiences.

Participants travelled from as far away as Dubbo, Cootamundra, Grafton, Kyogle, Parkes, Mudgee, Taree, Bowral, Evans Head, Raymond Terrace and Murwillumbah, as well as the greater Sydney metropolitan region.  Many carers made arrangements for respite or alternate care for the person they care for, to enable them to travel away from home and take part in this important event.


The following sessions were conducted during the day.


  • together Program Highlights

Amanda Princess, together Program Administration Officer, Carers NSW 

Amanda provided an overview of the program and its development since funding of the program commenced in July 2012.  The theme of this years’ Forum was 'Celebrating our Success' and there was much to celebrate.  There has been an 85% increase in the number of registered CSGs since last years’ forum, growing from 177 to 327.

A motto of the together program is "not all Carer Support Groups are the same” and across the 327 registered carer support groups, there’s a broad range of activities conducted in the together program.  They range from cooking groups and walking groups, to ukulele groups and music therapy groups. There are gardening, art and craft and yoga groups, as well as bicycle and movie groups.

 The goals of the together program is to have:

•             500 groups registered by June 30 2016,

•             Acquittal’s completed by 31 August 2016,

•             Establishment of an Online Internet Forum

•             Facebook

•             together program evaluation

•             e-learning workshops up and running

While the together program celebrated its success there is a need to look at the challenges that lie ahead.

 •            Logistics of managing over 300 groups throughout NSW

•             Engaging Regional Assisting Organisations (RAOs) we currently have 22 Active RAOs throughout NSW

•             New program financial model for 2015-16 and beyond

•             Ability to provide sustainability grants with a limited budget and resources


  • together Program Evaluation Project

Ros Richardson, Manager Education, Carers NSW,

Amelia Hawkshaw, Research and Development Assistant, Carers NSW,

Holly Jennens, Intern (Macquarie University), together Program, Carers NSW.

The together program is undertaking a formal evaluation process of the program. This evaluation presents an exciting opportunity to document the program and report on its outcomes.  Evaluation is a process which gathers evidence about the effectiveness and/or efficiency of a program.

This evidence is used as the basis for a judgement about the worth of a program. All stakeholders involved in a particular program should be part of the evaluation of the program.

Evaluation of the together program is required by our funding body FACS (ADHC). 

Evaluating what Carers NSW does builds a foundation of knowledge that will drive the organisation to improve what is delivered and how it is delivered.

Questions generally asked in an evaluation include:

•             What impact has the program had?

•             What effect is the program having on its stakeholders or participants?

•             What can be modified to make the program more effective?

Evaluation should use best practice methodologies to ensure that relevant data is collected, providing clear, accurate and reliable information. This is essential in forming judgements and providing advice about the program.


  • Showcasing the together community Online Forum, Poster board presentation and Art exhibition

Matthew Elder Education and Training Officer, together Program Carers NSW 

The focus of the short session was on building a sense of community within the together program.  This session brought attention to four exhibitions which demonstrated the various reaches of the together program.

Online Forum

The session saw the introduction of the Online Forum to the facilitators of the together group. 

Matthew walked through a dummy site and explained the role that the forum will play in increasing engagement amongst facilitators from across the state.

Poster Boards

The together program invited members of the program to submit pictures and stories (through set questions) for the formation of group posters.  Fifteen posters were created as a result, of which 13 were printed and displayed at the forum.  As well as posters being printed in A1 format, 30 copies of each were printed in A4 size.  Attendees were encourages to take home posters of fellow groups to help stimulate ideas and activities for their own group. Attending facilitators were encouraged to take their posters home at the conclusion of the forum.

Facilitator tele-meetings

The importance of the Facilitator tele-meeting was raised as one of the ways the together program builds on mutual support amongst facilitators.  Held once-a-month the tele-meeting brings to together facilitators from across the state to debrief, offer mutual support, and share with one and other strategies and in the running of a carer support group.

Coota Carers Artwork

The Cootamundra carer support group – Coota Carers, submitted to the together forum artwork that the group members had made as a result of accessing funding from the together program.  Artwork was shipped from Cootamundra and placed on display throughout the forum.










  • Funding and Carer Support Groups Funding CSGs to make them sustainable in the future          

Matthew Elder, Education and Training Officer, together Program, Carers NSW

One of the greatest challenges for Carer Support Groups moving into the future is funding. The together  program provides ‘seed’ funding to help establish and promote sustainability for newly established groups.

Creative approaches to funding the group have included:

•            1st Lions (Carers) Club Branch in the world

•            Bunnings Sausage Sizzle

•            Cadbury Chocolates

•            TAFE Courses providing services

•            Gold Coin Donations

•            Bring A Plate 

There are different types of small grants and funding opportunities for carer support groups in NSW. Your group may not be able to apply for some grants if you are not under the auspice of an organisation.


  • NDIS Update on the National Disability Insurance Scheme                                                     

Sarah Judd, Policy and Development Officer, Carers NSW,

Steph Berick, Carer Support Group Facilitator, ANSA,

Tatiana Salazar, Education and Training Officer, Carers NSW

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) session gave participants the opportunity to hear from both carers and the Carers NSW Policy team about experiences in the Hunter NDIS trial site and Carers NSW efforts to provide carers with resources to assist them in dealing with the NDIS. 

With a Q& A with Steph Berick Carer Support Group Facilitator from ANSA who has experienced the NDIS.


  • New Project ‘Supported Decision Making for young people with disability aged 14-18 years old and their families/carers

Mary Magias Senior Education and Development Officer, Carers NSW                                                                                          

Carers NSW in partnership with Mirri Mirri (a youth leadership and mentoring organisation) will be delivering a series of supported decision making workshops between January – June 2016. These workshops will focus on developing knowledge and skills to support young people with disability to make their own informed choices in preparation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). They will also build on the capacity of families/carers to support and assist their children and young people with disability to make their own decisions. Supported decision making is based on the principles that:

•             Every person has capacity to express their will and preferences

•             A person with disability has the right to make decisions

•             A person with disability also need access to appropriate support and information to make decisions

Workshops will be delivered across metropolitan and regional NSW. If you would like to receive information about these workshops please register your interest by emailing [email protected]

This project is funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.


  • Workshop Session                                                                                                                           

Concurrent afternoon workshops discussed particular group issues, including attracting and maintaining members and managing diversity in groups. Forum participants where broken in to 3 groups being able to participate in each session.

A:  Successes and Challenges in Facilitating Carer Support Groups

B:  Challenges and strategies for attracting and maintaining memberships

C:  Exploring Diversity in the Carer Support Group


  • CSG Facilitator Health and Wellbeing

Fiona Goodwin, Wellness Facilitator and Educator

Fiona presented a session on Looking after you: Mindfulness for Facilitators. The session focused on self-care and the importance of finding sustaining ways to manage ones own health and wellbeing. Mindfulness is about training oneself to pay attention to self in a specific way.


  • Post Forum Evaluation

Following the forum, an evaluation of the event was conducted via SurveyMonkey.           

Of the 53 carer support group facilitators that attended, 36 completed an online evaluation form

(68 % completion).  The results of this evaluation, and a selection of feedback comments are provided below


  • Very good leaves no room for improvement--although little is needed.
  • It was my first participation, so I cannot compare with the past ones. Overall, everything was satisfactory.
  • I would have liked a clearer idea of what was happening in lead up to Forum. Agenda, what drivers do on arrival and mileage is to be claimed.
  • Make sure all forms are sent directly to the individual participants rather than the group as we had trouble forwarding them.
  • More time for questions and answers.
  • Enjoyed it all, very well organised, great to meet up with so many people, many thanks.
  • Unable to attend Networking and Canapés.
  • Great job by facilitators! Thankyou!
  • Really loved this year’s conference


Q3 Overall did the Forum meet your expectations and how? 

  1. Yes
  2. Yes. Putting faces to the voices we hear over the Tele-meet is a plus. Also being made aware that there are many people sharing similar issues and needing help and receiving it.
  3. Yes - it was helpful in hearing about other support groups
  4. Yes. It certainly did.
  5. Yes, were very well organise
  6. Yes, the outline of the forum was well planned. I learned a lot from each presentation. All speakers are well versed in the topic they presented.
  7. Yes it did but I would have liked another day. The forum showed how and what kind of situations to expect and the diversity we should expect.
  8. Yes an occasion to encouraged people to network and to linkup with people from past forums
  9. I think the forum is valuable and provided a lot of good information
  10. Yes, I got lost of insightful information from the sessions and participants.
  11. Yes loved learning what other groups do and how they do it.
  12. Yes. Time to share successes and challenges gave me different perspectives to consider and alternatives for attracting and maintaining attendances.
  13. Yes. The opportunity to meet, interact and share with others in the same role has given me the confidence to return to our group with new ideas to face the challenges we were experiencing
  14. To be honest I did not learn a lot of new information myself, however this may not be the case for others. I am fortunate to have done a lot of personal and professional training in the past. However it was great to meet and form connections with other group facilitators. I learn a lot by listening to others ideas.
  15. Raised my awareness of what program and carers NSW offer; broadened my knowledge and connections.
  16. It was worth attending but aimed at lower management level 17 listening to other Facilitator & knowing we all have similar problems in our group. 11/16/2015 11:06 PM
  17. This year was great, maybe because there were so many more unpaid carers attending and we heard more of them. I loved that you all were the speakers.
  18. Definitely. Putting a face to the voices from the tele-meetings & the networking were especially good but overall it was the support from other delegates & staff.
  19. Exceeded expectations, quality and content was brilliant
  20. Yes and more I really enjoyed the two days so much information THANK YOU.
  21. It certainly did. Input, information given was clear, not rushed, all of us listened to and encouraged.
  22. Yes it was an excellent Forum and wonderful to meet folks that I had spoken to on the Teleconference.
  23. Yes; was empowering to get to know others in similar roles & shared passion
  24. I had no expectations, but left with a lot of knowledge and ideas
  25. Yes we always learn so much and come home with a new goal and in turn a better group
  26. Yes, I learned more about the Together Program and from the personal sharing about NDIS & NDIA as well as other support groups that are being run across NSW.
  27. Yes it did thank you!
  28. It was good and very informative
  29. Yes and no, I expected more, but it was good for volunteer facilitators
  30. Yes it provided us with the whole overview of the organisation. Great to network with other facilitators and get their ideas and stories.
  31. Yes it was awesome very informative


Q4 How might your participation inform your role as a carer support group facilitator?

  1. Seeing how other folks cope with their problems and being made aware of the resources that are available. The workshops were great, and ideas were snatched up happily,
  2. Help me to learn from others and new strategies in recruiting members
  3. I have the time to talked to another workers and carers to shared our experience and knowledge
  4. Through the sharing of ideas of some facilitators, you see yourself leading your group and trying to bring the members together to help run the group by involving other members to play important roles within the group.
  5. As the answer above. And shows that you should not be too definite in your own opinions as they might put others offside. It also improved my confidence to speak publicly.
  6. Gaining more confidence and ideas in running groups
  7. Sustainability was a key area for me and I left with good information and ideas
  8. It is most motivating to me to see other facilitators doing good job.
  9. It gives me more of an insight of how to run a sustainable group
  10. I feel better able to accept the challenges faced as a facilitator and will use the information gained by sharing of knowledge and experiences to attract more people our group.
  11. Knowledge gained at the forum will improve my ability to fulfil my role in our group and encourage others to succeed
  12. I feel like I had a great respite opportunity by attending the facilitation training and feel confirmed in teaching self-care as the foundation of what I bring to carers.
  13. Confidence in supports and valuable sharing and networking opportunities, including potential guest speaker at a 2016 meeting to confront specific accommodation issues.
  14. You always pick up new tips and ideas
  15. To link into the facilitator Tele-meetings in 2016
  16. I gained some great ideas by talking to others. I am looking forward to being able to have someone come to talk to my group on the NDIS
  17. The highlight would have to be helping the carers to look after themselves, to have some "me” time as that leads to being a better carer.
  18. As my group will commence in 2016 - it was a valuable opportunity for networking and getting all my questions answered.
  19. It gave me more ideas what I can offer my group to be able to maintain as a group.
  20. At the Forum I was given time to consider my role as a facilitator, felt encouraged and supported
  21. At our next meeting (in December) my colleague and I will give feedback to our members.
  22. Opportunities to meet likeminded people & getting new ideas
  23. So many new things to implement within our group
  24. Share the knowledge learned with group's members
  25. Gave us lots of ideas to try and make our group more successful!
  26. I can actually pass on some positive feedback concerning the NDIS as many older carers have been a bit concerning about the NDIS
  27. Some interesting ideas
  28. Learning new strategies and ideas from other facilitators
  29. I have learnt a lot and new things to do with our group




Q5 Are there any topics or issues that you would like to be addressed in the future?

  1. Effective Promotion of the group
  2. I'm sure this question will be made more apparent in the future as we trail what we have seen and read. The future always holds those challenging questions that will be met.
  3. Maybe someone from fair trading or tax office re obligations
  4. I think more tips on strategies to keep members interested in attending meetings and identify the kind of support you could extend to them. Make each member understand that COMMITMENT is important in order to keep the group running.
  5. How to run groups successfully. Would be good to see more participation by CSG that target older people with illness.
  6. I would like to know how the government is interested in awarding unpaid carer support group facilitators.
  7. More group talks on the groups themselves
  8. I feel it could be more greatly emphasised that the quality of care we give to ourselves is essential if we want to care for others.
  9. For older carers and families - preparing for life after loss - not just the legal and guardian issues but awareness of the social and psychological impact of loss and grief and how to prepare people in close and dependent relationships to ease the future journey through this difficult time.
  10. More on funding options
  11. As the NDIS looms in our area, I am always looking to updates on this.
  12. More explanation of what funding is available to groups & how to apply for it. More information on the role of Regional Assistance Organisations.
  13. Well the N.D.I.S there is so miss understanding out there people just can’t get their heads around it training so that people get it right for their loved ones.
  14. Positive, good practical help is appreciated, Friday morning session with Matthew was excellent
  15. Can't think of anything at the moment but shall give it some thought. Matthew, you and your team are to be congratulated on the Forum. Thankyou.
  16. NDIS
  17. More updates about NDIS and more personal stories about how NDIAs have helped them and their loved ones.
  18. Maybe more ideas how to attract or get funding for our group to succeed to our goals
  19. Practical skills for facilitators such as running a meetings, effective facilitation
  20. More on NDIS how to plan for future as this comes up a lot in our meetings.




  • Posterboards on Display