Watch our Game Changers interview with TV presenter Edwina Bartholomew and Uplifting Australia’s CEO Garry Thomson.
Uplifting Australia is a Not-For-Profit, Registered Charity. Their mission is to Improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of children and families across Australia. Already, 30,000 people within the community have already benefitted.
“Our children face more challenges to their resilience, social confidence and self-esteem than any generation before them,” says Not-For-Profit CEO Garry Thomson, who is a father of two.
“Approximately one in five people in Australia experience symptoms of mental illness each year, and one in four of our children by the age of 24, so we want to support children and families by providing them with the skills and strategies they need to face life’s challenges and thrive.”
So how can families benefit from Uplifting Australia? “Our Family Connect Program has been researched by the University of Melbourne’s Positive Psychology Department, evaluated and used by thousands of Australian families and is based on four simple competencies.”
Asked how you can support the charity Uplifting Australia, Garry Thomson said: “We already have the support of some wonderful Trusts, Foundations and Corporate sponsors but we need more supporters, more help – philanthropists who want to leave a legacy.
“We are gathering resources so we can take our proven program and make it accessible to all Australian families through digital assets. We want to put it on their phones and Ipads to empower them to take preventative action.”
Uplifting Australia concentrates on preventing poor mental health rather than curing it. Garry explains: “Our mental health is affected by both the internal world (family) and the external world (school, friends and experiences) we can’t control the external world but we can make sure our family is as supportive and positive as it can be. If the emotional wellbeing of the family unit is hurtful then children really struggle to cope with the outside world.
“One of our most successful programs is called ‘Family Connect’ which is based on the Four Competencies and involves the entire family so everyone helps the other members to learn. This program has been researched by the Centre of Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne.”
The Four Competencies are: Listening (quality of listening); Positive Messaging (are your messages encouraging or are you giving critical feedback because you want the family member to live up to your expectations); Emotional Literacy (being good at identifying and being able to talk about your feelings and validate one-another’s feelings); Accountability (realising how you impact everybody in the family and avoid being hurtful in the way you speak. Be ready to apologise and repair relationships).
“Parenting is stressful at times and we’re not always at our best,” says Garry. “Family Connect allows for this and helps us not only stay on track to good mental health but get back on track when we fall off.
Uplifiting Australia believes emotional wellbeing is as important as learning to read and write for kids.. or their physical health.
“There’s evidenced based research which links family interaction and an individual’s success or happiness later in life, so this is important for personal as well as social success,” says Garry.
“It’s pretty well accepted that you teach kids to read and write, or even swim – there’s even social pressure on parents to teach these skills, but not to monitor the quality of our emotional environment at home and that’s because we don’t value it as highly. Until we do, we won’t solve mental health problems.”
Uplifting Australia works mainly with regular families (so not ‘complex needs’ families) but also with schools and businesses. “Families are the breeding ground of our society, so we want to work at that grassroots level to improve kindness,” says Garry.