Transitioning from homelessness to re-engaging with the community

Re-Engaging in Community (REC) is an innovative community program designed and led by United Way WA (UWWA). The program functions to support people who have previously experienced homelessness by helping them integrate back into the community through a buddy system.

This volunteer support program pairs participants, who have been homeless and are now living in their own home but are not confident to engage in their new community, with a volunteer buddy. The ambition of Re-Engaging in Community is to ensure that the participants have the right support system as they seek to regain their confidence and re-engage in the community.

Re-Engaging in Community operates with the volunteer buddy accompanying the participant on activities that encourage re-engagement in society, breaking down social and practical barriers and reigniting old passions. These activities can range from getting the bus together, to working out where you might join in some art classes. The choices of activities are vast.

The significance of the Re-Engaging in Community program is that it offers a human connection via the buddy system. Interaction with individuals and society is essential to a happy and successful life, which enhances healthy living by improving mental and physical wellbeing; a United Way WA pillar.

United Way WA is leading from the front, to help the at-risk participants of the community, working with partners RUAH and 50 Lives 50 Homes, all with the support of Lotterywest.

United Way WA has also been fast to adapt to the changing conditions imposed by COVID-19. We recognise that during these challenging times, the real and present danger of loneliness and isolation has increased. With restrictions to physical contact, United Way WA is continuing to work hard to still deliver this essential program through other means.

We continue to work hard to ensure that the program continues to support people to develop a feeling of belonging, build confidence, build connection through physical distancing, make plans for the future, discuss activities they would like to try in the future and talk about past interests. To find out more or take part you can find more information here


Community Garden Open for Summer

Our new Community Garden, 54 Connect!

This community garden is designed as a communal space where we can all sit, read, chat and harvest thoughtfully or plant for others. It is always open to the public and we encourage our neighbours and community to stop by and enjoy the garden whenever they can.

We officially opened this new community space on Tuesday 20th August 2019 with a beautiful garden party celebrating with friends, volunteers, supporters and neighbours. This project was a wonderful example of what we can achieve when we #LiveUnited, as we all worked side by side in breaking ground, planting, mulching and growing.

People sitting, reading, chattting and harvest thoughts in the community garden.
Community garden
Tim looking at the community garden plants
54 Connect Community Garden Launch party

“It’s been a very nurturing and encouraging project to be part of. While lots of work projects can throw up issues and challenges, this has stood as something that has been productive, fun, creative and cohesive.”

As an organisation dedicated to empowering all Western Australians to live a happy, healthy life, we couldn’t be more proud to bring this wonderful space to life. Community Gardens have an amazing list of benefits from helping relieve stress and encouraging wellness, to providing social opportunities to build a sense of belonging to encouraging environmentally sustainable local food production. Our hope is to bring all of these benefits and more to the residents and friends of our little corner of Perth.

Kath and others launching the party
54 Connect Community Garden Perth

Five women smiling and dining at the 54 Connect Community Garden

“Together we can develop beautiful spaces where we can connect or simply sit quietly.”

2 girls wearing the fund granters tshirts at 54 Connect Community Garden Perth

Our Community Garden is proudly funded by a generous grant from the Department of Communities and supported by our friends Andy Harold, Greg Taylor, Alcoa, Bankwest, Shalom House and Moonure.

Photos in this article courtesy of Lewis Hallam.


Rikki is a fundraising, marketing and community engagement guru.

Snapshot: Early Childhood Literacy in WA

The ability to read and write English is an essential skill we all need. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to communicate, to express our opinions or to get far in life. To see a noticeable improvement in adult literacy skills, we have to look at where it all begins: at infancy.

When a child grows to three years old, their brain undergoes neural development by making connections between neurons (1). By reading to children at a young age, it makes a difference on how they perform at school which determines their success as an adult (2).

To measure early childhood literacy skills, there is a census called the Australian Early Development Census. A collection of data from primary school teachers every three years is used for the census. This data is split up into five different domains (3). When checking children’s language skills, the main domains measured would be language and cognitive skills (school-based) and communication skills and general knowledge. This data shows the change of the number and percentage of children at each development level for both domains in Western Australia from 2012 to 2018 (4).

Language and cognitive skills in WA graph

Communication skills in WA children graphc

With noticeable improvements across both domains, it is clear to see that our state is focused on improving the lives and education of young children to set them up for adulthood. But there is still a long way to go before every child in Western Australia receives the education and family support they deserve so that they can succeed. For these numbers to reduce further, we need to act and support early childhood literacy programs for children from disadvantaged areas with a lack of a supportive family background.

With programs such as Paint the Town REaD, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Read Play Grow, United Way WA is doing all it can to promote early childhood literacy in communities, to allow all children to read and to encourage a safe and positive home environment for vulnerable families so that children can learn skills to get them school ready. For our communities to be secure and prosperous, we must ensure that the children of today are educated for the future of tomorrow.

Read more about United Way WA’s work in early childhood literacy here, or find out more about our upcoming Education Seminar here.


Savani Daluwatta

Savani is an emerging marketing and communications trainee and current intern on the United Way WA team.

My First Interview

In the past, I did not know what was mentor or mentorship. That concept seemed strange to me, I did not think I need a mentor. Until one day, I was looking for an internship to get some experience outside university. Unfortunately, all the internship I applied rejected me, I did not even get to the interview round. I realized I needed a professional CV and cover letter and learned some skills to enhance my personal brand.

Online courses or books are too general, I wanted something specific and straight forward. All of the sudden, I found out that I just need a person who had experience about this. I shared my feeling to my first English teacher in Australia, she told me I need a mentor. She explained, mentor, in general, is a person who had more experience than you in an area and willing to share, help you with sincere and trust. Having a good mentor is invaluable for anyone who is working to achieve a goal. Mentors will help mentee to develop and progress in profession.

I was over the moon when listening to her advice. I asked her what should I do to find a mentor. She told me: “ It is not that hard, first, I will help you figure out what is wrong with your CV and cover letter.” After that day, I applied another internship, surprisingly, the company accepted my documents and planned an interview date for me. I understood, my English teacher is also my mentor.

That day, the day when I received the message about the interview, I was surprised with a bit nervous. I haven’t had any experience with face to face interview abroad. In that time, all the interview scenes in my mind is from the Hollywood movies, especially they told me interview period is around 45 minutes.

“I thought there would be three interviewers sit in the long table and I will be three meters in front them. The atmosphere will be serious and stressful, interviewers will ask me to introduce myself, after that give me a case, ask me to analyze it.”

However, it was totally different from what I thought. When I arrived United Way WA interview destination, the thing appeared in my eyes was a discussion room with two chairs and one sofa, no three interviewers, no long table and no case study, but still 45 minutes. During the interview, I don’t feel the 45 minutes is that scary and long as my imagination, most of time is that interviewer try to understand me, try to find my potential ability.

In the interview, firstly, interviewer talked about general information such as United Way WA overview, history and strategies. Secondly, they started to ask me questions, I realized every question, have the logical reason behind, and in order. The logical questions let whole interview time don’t have much stress and nervous. The interview remained profession for whole period. In particular, the interviewer asks me three types of questions, I will split it into three types: past, present and future.


They asked me about my experience, something like any experience about volunteering, any skill experience design (photographing, filming and graphic design) and writing content. All the past part questions help the interviewer know whether I have any relevant experience and also help them to identify “what do I know “and “what can I do”.


This group of questions is about what are you studying in it and what is your thinking. For example, “what is your favorite unit?”, “what do you think of our website?”, “what attracted you to apply for this role?” and organization target audience on Facebook etc. In the present part questions, the interviewer wants to know about my thinking and skills, or whether I suit the company’s culture or not.


In this part, most of the questions are related to the job, like “how do you feel about work independent?”, “work under the pressure” and “what hoping to get out of this internship?”. In this part, through the questions, they also let me know the challenge of the job, to see I really understand my role and ready to work under pressure or not.

Marcel Chen with Tim Allen first interview mentor
Mentor and mentee

All above, is my experience of the first interview, for my understanding, all the questions are relevant to “How well do you really understand yourself”. Besides, the interview questions are not much, but very organized and let interviewer have a general look about me in 45 minutes. This is a wonderful experience for me, and now, I got the internship, I work with a lot of people who had more experience than me, they are also willing to lead me to have to right mindset. They are my mentors.

Without a mentor, people might be lost track in life or just want to stay in the same position, do not want to improve or get higher job prospect. In different period, I will need different mentor, and each mentor will help to fulfil an aspect of life, help to improve or get progress on profession.

United Way WA currently has several mentoring opportunities which are designed to create amazing, life-changing opportunities for both the mentors and mentees involved.

Find out more about our volunteer mentoring opportunities and how you can make a real difference here.



Marcel Chen

Marcel is an ambitious marketing high-flyer and current intern on the United Way WA team.

The Importance of Early Literacy


“15% of five-year-olds are at risk of not developing the literacy skills they need to succeed later in life.” (1)

Early childhood literacy can have lasting impacts on a person’s financial stability, healthy living and their confidence within community. Without it children may not have the ability to communicate and build connections around them. We need these things to live a happy life and to feel empowered.

What is literacy?
Literacy has been defined as the “ability to read, write, communicate and comprehend” and is taught to children during their early years through communication, speech, reading and rhyme. (2) Unfortunately, not all children have equal access to quality education or programs that teach early childhood literacy. This disadvantage has a huge impact on their futures.

Why is literacy important?
Multiple studies have shown the importance of early literacy skills and their impact on a child’s ability to become a part of community and to live productive and healthy lives. Ultimately, it becomes an investment in the future of our children and the future of our society.

“Poor literacy skills have been associated with lower self-esteem, poorer educational and social outcomes and higher rates of unemployment, welfare dependence and teenage pregnancy.”(3)

Increased attention to early literacy can prevent the following future issues:

1) Their educational futures
Children that do not develop adequate literacy skills by the age of 5 are significantly more disadvantaged at school and socially than their peers, as 90% of brain development happens by that age. (4)

Difficulties with literacy is disproportionately higher for children from disadvantaged homes, as they have limited access to early childhood education. This often leads to them not being able to catch up and results in lower academic success. (3)

Also, falling behind can significantly impact a child’s confidence and leave them feeling unmotivated and disheartened to continue future studies. There has even been research that has shown how this can lead to children being four times more likely to drop out of high school. (5)

A 2 year old boy looking at a book called ' The Family book'
Early childhood literacy

2) Their employment
Limited early literacy also increases the likelihood of unemployment due to their performance at school.
The low graduation rate among these children impacts the opportunities available for them to continue studying. Also, it affects their ability to obtain successful employment as they may not have the experience required for certain positions or may have difficulty filling out job applications. (6)

Without employment, other issues like experiencing homelessness and problems surrounding nutrition can impact a child’s future. This shows how low early literacy rates can have lasting consequences for children that are not given appropriate access to quality education. (5)

3) Their health
In addition to the low employment opportunities, children who have limited early literacy skills experience lower health outcomes. This is typically a result of their decreased job security, which impacts their ability to access health insurance or cover healthcare costs. (2) The issues surrounding employment can result in limited access to certain foods and medicine that everyone needs to live a healthy life.

Also, research has confirmed that the literacy capabilities of a child act as a predictor of future wellbeing. (7) With children who have better early literacy skills living longer due to increased access to health services, according to Dr. Brett Hart.

Parents with two children reading two books in their hand
Early childhood literacy

4) Impact on community
Early literacy impacts how involved a child is in their community and how well they integrate into society in their adult years. This was revealed by the link between high levels of literacy and an increased self-esteem and motivation to learn. This significantly impacts their willingness to participate in community and exhibit socially acceptable behaviour. (2)

These positive impacts are important in creating empowerment, living a happy life and becoming active members of community. Confidence and feeling included has been shown to prevent mental health issues and the likelihood of becoming incarcerated as an adult.

The importance of early childhood literacy is clear in every aspect of life and that is why it is one of our primary pillars. If you’re interested in finding out more about childhood literacy issues in WA, please join us at the Three Pillars Education Seminar on the 29th of August. Get your tickets here!



Ena Gojkovic

Ena is a rising marketing creative and current intern on the United Way WA team.

Fundraisers abseil down skyscraper

On Friday the 12th April, seven brave fundraisers stepped off one of Perth’s highest buildings to support our vital community work. Every year, the QV1 Urban Descent sees hundreds of heroes abseil down the 40-storey building, fundraising to support their chosen charities. This year we were lucky enough to be supported by an amazing team of people; Andrea Jones, Brigg Ranford, Cat Kirk, Geoff Ahern, Jonathan Shapiera, Shayne Howson and Steven Jeffery.

Together they have raised just over an amazing $10,400 to support our community impact initiatives!


Cat was the first person to sign up for our QV1 Abseil fundraiser earlier in the year setting a fantastic example for the team by constantly smashing her fundraising goals. Both at the pre-event training and on the day she showed nothing but confidence, truly earning her cat-woman nickname!

Catwoman abseiling for QV1 Urban Descent
Catwoman abseiling for QV1 Urban Descent

Next to join the team was 62-year-old Jonathan who passionately advocated for the homeless throughout his fundraising by sharing his own story of living on the streets. After a few unexpected life events, Jonathan and his then teenaged son ended up living out of their car for nearly three years.

“I signed up for the abseil fundraiser because I want to show how close we can all become to being homeless and raise the profile of homelessness. I particularly want to create awareness about the problems that arise once you’re lucky enough to get off the streets and receive housing support. There needs to be a continued level of support and that’s what I’m advocating for. I’m taking the plunge with the hope of raising funds which will be used to further support people via mentoring, engagement and employment pathway programs.”

Jonathan Shapeira abseiling for homelessness
Jonathan Shapeira abseiling for homelessness

Whilst interviewing Jonathan for event media coverage, friend of UWWA Andrea was inspired by his journey and the determination he had to support others who had been in the same circumstances.

“I’m pushing myself outside of my comfort zone by taking the plunge down the QV1 40-storey building. It’s going to be pretty tough getting over that edge as I’m petrified of heights, but I’m doing it for an amazing cause – raising monies for the homeless. My mum was homeless for over two months when she was a young girl and it’s something she remembers vividly. Today no one should be out on the streets with nowhere to go.”

Andrea Jones abseiling for homelessness
Andrea Jones abseiling for homelessness

Adventurer Shayne was quick to sign up after realising he was available on the event date. Coming from a background of outdoor sports and owning an adventure camp, Shayne was by far our most experienced team member and while the thought of abseiling down a skyscraper didn’t phase him, he was passionate about making a difference for Western Australian children.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved reading. It was the best and quickest portal to other worlds and as a child, you can imagine how exciting that was. My most memorable book as a child was ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ as it had exciting stories of other worlds, quirky characters, adventure and near misses. The thing that really hooked me was the fight with the goblins that were attacking, the winning and the crew getting back the tree. Then, I turned the page and there it was…a double page colour illustration of the fight with the goblins. Every character working together for the common cause of saving the tree and winning.

I can’t imagine not having the ability to read for learning or pleasure. So I’m fundraising to help underprivileged and disadvantaged kids with their literacy skills and allow them to experience the excitement, adventure, the wonder and imagination that you find when you pick up a book and start to read.”

Shayne Howson abseiling for early literacy
Shayne Howson abseiling for early literacy

Our very own Community Impact Manager Justine, also managed to convince her husband and his friends to take up the cause!

Three men abseil to fundraise
Fundraising for charities

Despite feeling terrified at the thought of being 40 stories in the air, Justine’s husband Brigg signed up to help disadvantaged WA families.

“I love a challenge no matter how much it scares me so I’m all in, ready or not. My wife Justine has worked for United Way WA for over 10 years and I have volunteered in different capacities in that time. I have seen how dedicated Justine is to improving outcomes for children in disadvantaged areas through her work. This is something I can do to further support her and the work of United Way WA generally. I like that they’re a small charity doing big things. Plus she talked me into it!

Brigg Ranford ready to abseil for charity
Brigg Ranford ready to abseil for charity

Family friend and Engineer by day, Steven chose to join Brigg and take on this tall challenge despite no previous abseiling experience. On the training day at a local quarry, Steven was initially a little apprehensive about stepping down the rocky cliff face, but once he was over the edge, he’s innate nature skills kicked in and he hopped down to the bottom without a fuss. Repeating that confidence on event day, Steven had a clear run down to the bottom before going straight back up to the top to strap in for the first zip-line of the day!

Fundraising by Geoff
Fundraising by Geoff

Rounding out the trio and our fundraising team was neighbour Geoff.
“When Justine’s husband Brigg said he was going to do it I said I’d give him a hand – I meant I’d push him over the edge, but this is a nicer alternative apparently! I remember seeing it being done years ago and said I’d love to do that – my wife is terrified of heights and she said I’d be doing it on my own – at least this way I know there will be a team of people with me!”

Geoff Ahern abseiling for QV1 Urban Descent
Geoff Ahern abseiling for QV1 Urban Descent

United Way WA thanks all the generous donors and spectators who supported our fundraisers on the day, as well as the team at Urban Descent who brought to life another amazing, adrenaline-fuelled event.

A special thank you to Andrea, Brigg, Cat, Geoff, Jonathan, Shayne and Steven for taking on this heart-pumping adventure to fundraise for our community impact work.



Rikki is a fundraising, marketing and community engagement guru and current member of the United Way WA team.

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