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A night to remember

Westcare General Manager Peter Mulholland, Colonel Graeme Rigley, and Lieuts Colin and Phoung Reynolds, at the Westcare 'Going Places, Creating Memories' movie night.
Westcare General Manager Peter Mulholland, Colonel Graeme Rigley, and Lieuts Colin and Phoung Reynolds, at the Westcare 'Going Places, Creating Memories' movie night. Photo by Laura Lynch

The premiere of Westcare’s 2016 ‘Going Places Creating Memories’ movie was held on 16 November at the Sun Theatre in Yarraville (Vic.).

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The celebrities of the evening were members of the annual holiday expedition, which this year took 20 youth and 16 carers and Westcare staff on a 10-day adventure ‘in country’ and to exotic climes, including Darwin, Litchfield, Kakadu and Beswick Falls.

After the guests of honour – Westcare’s children and youth – arrived in their splendour in stretch Hummers, the assembled filmgoers mingled prior to the premiere.

Nick Norman said ‘this was fun, with kids being kids’.

Westcare CEO Peter Mulholland said, of the life experience provided through the holiday, that ‘we do what can be done, and for these kids it’s the trip of a lifetime’.

Carer Don Lee said the trip to the Top End ‘was go, go, go, but there was also plenty of time to relax… it was unusual and exciting. The Northern Territory can be desolate and yet suddenly you are in a magnificent oasis. This was a very professionally organised trip; it was so good to see the kids experiencing something positive, as these children have had very difficult lives.’

Peter Annesley, the trip’s co-founder, related that the life-changing expeditions have been happening since 2001 with that first trip to Ceduna in South Australia. ‘These trips have a lifelong impact,’ he says, ‘and these kids get to empty a bucketful of crap memories and replace them with a bucketful of happy memories.’ 

This year, Katie Hooper, CEO of the Foster Care Association of Victoria (FCAV), was a fellow voyager along with kids, carers and staff. ‘I’ve been aware of Westcare’s Creating Memories trips in my role,’ Ms Hooper told e-connect, ‘and it was a beautiful experience to to come along and participate this year.

‘The highlights for me were swimming and the bush tucker – we ate like kings! Being in country was very significant and educational; we met so many beautiful people. It was an honour, in my role, to go along with a bunch of young people, their carers and Salvation Army staff… you guys are awesome. I had much to learn, especially regarding the importance of children learning about their Indigenous heritage.’

Approximately 150 people then prepared for the premiere with a welcome to country. Indigenous elder Ron Murray played the didgeridoo and then invited all present to ‘close your eyes and think of something special’ – he then shared tales of the totem of the red-tailed black cockatoo.

After the film, one young man publicly spoke of memories he gained from the trip ‘that will not be forgotten’. He’s been with Westcare for eight years, he said, and has had brilliant support as he fought cancer and went through chemotherapy.  ‘Without Westcare, without their help, the six months of treatment would have felt a lot longer,’ he said. 

The trip gave him learning experiences in teamwork and problem solving, and opportunities to cherish people.  ‘Never take life for granted,’ says the young man, ‘because a lot of people have it a lot worse than you.’