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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3580

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:58): I rise today to speak about a great program funded by the Australian government, the Australian government Personal Helpers and Mentors program—PHaMs. Last month, I had the pleasure of catching up with John Bateup, the CEO of WISE Employment at the WISE Employment office in Cranbourne to announce that WISE Employment had received $1.4 million over three years under this program to assist people with mental illness lead fulfilling and complete lives. The most inspiring bit about this program was hearing about the positive impact it had on people's lives, in particular one participant, Megan Powell. Megan's story was quite powerful and she actually related it at this launch. I will give you an abridged version of it. In effect, her testimony is a testament to the effectiveness of the program. Her story starts on 16 January 2010 when her life with her partner, as she said, was a good one. Her partner would stay at home and look after the son who was going extremely well. She was allowed to work as a self-employed market research interviewer. For a little boy, what better life was there than staying home with dad or travelling around camping and fishing. Relaxing one evening, however, Megan had a knock at the door. It was a police officer. They had come to inform her that her partner had passed away while camping earlier that day. This news quite understandably shell-shocked Megan. She tried to move on but she could not. In the next 18 months, the thoughts and depression started to consume her and she basically began to struggle to do the simple things in life—not being able to get up to take her son to school, not being able to work. Megan was down on the world and angry, and she could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. She was now a single mum, unemployed and living in a housing commission home. For six months, Megan could see no point to life.

However, in January 2012, Megan came across the PHaMS program after it was referred to her by a friend. She originally approached PHaMS for help to establish a routine, but that program became much more significant in her life, particularly an individual called Chris Browning, who brought her into the program, where she was able to discuss her concerns. One of the terrible things when tragedies of this nature happen is that you are not able to describe in a group what you are experiencing and what you are feeling. This program enabled Megan to do that and to seek the treatment and the help she needed. That gave her the confidence to change careers and she enrolled in a Certificate IV in Community Services Work. She has had her challenges, there is absolutely no doubt about that; but I think Megan's story, the way her life is moving forward and the way she has overcome her struggles, is a great testament to the program, to Chris Browning and to all those people at the Cranbourne WISE. I want to praise the program and the great help it gives to people in their lives.