The Presentation Sisters have worked in the field of education, in Victoria, for the last 133 years. With the work of Catholic schools now being undertaken by lay staff, the Sisters in Victoria took the opportunity to serve families in a new way. Observing the breakdown of family structures, it was decided that time together was a much-needed way to support family life, particularly those with special needs.
The sale of a former school enabled the Presentation Congregation to purchase a farm property with six house blocks. Six houses, play facilities and a multi-purpose centre were built and the Presentation Family Centre at Balnarring opened for the summer of 1989/90.
Since then, the Presentation Sisters’ project at Balnarring has provided respite accommodation for families and other people in difficult circumstances. Their situations include poverty, low income, family/domestic violence, ill health, both mental and physical, refugee status, terminal illness and homelessness.
The Centre provides a relaxing space for families needing respite and recreation so that they might renew body and soul. Apart from the school holiday periods when we conduct children’s programs to support families unable to afford a holiday, the houses are used throughout the year by individuals, groups and families. More than 175 social welfare agencies and schools have referred people to this service and well over 30,000 people have participated in the respite program.