11 February 2014

Bringing hope to Amberley’s Defence Force families

Posted in School life

“When I walked through Amberley District State School 18 months ago, I got a feeling it was where I was meant to be,” says school chaplain Denelle Rosenberg.

Amberley is one of Queensland’s oldest state schools, dating back more than 150 years, but what makes it particularly unique is its large population of Defence Force children.

“Because I am a former Defence spouse, and I’m a mother to 9-year-old and 14-year-old boys, mums at school know I can understand a little of their situation,” Denelle says.

Defence families can experience unique challenges. “A family can go through many stages when a parent is deployed. There’s the initial separation, when the family learns to function on a new kind of normal for a few months. Then a parent might come home for two weeks leave, and suddenly the routine changes. It can be difficult for the whole family to experience these regular shifts in family dynamics,” Denelle says.

“It’s great to have a school community that understands that sort of family lifestyle, and I enjoy being part of the support network for these families.”

School Principal Simon Boyce says the school chaplaincy position has added an extra dimension of care to the school community.

“Denelle works as part of a support team that includes our Indigenous Support Aide and Defence School Transition Aide (DSTA),” says Mr Boyce. “Together, they support families in times of hardship and transition from one school to another.”

“The Aides are very established in their roles, so I get alongside them as an extra set of hands,” Denelle explains. “I might help them do a range of things, including supporting the existing programs run by the DSTAs, as well as the Culture Club, which highlights Indigenous games and activities.”

The school changed considerably after relocating from Amberley’s RAAF Base to Yamanto in 2010. “Our community is very diverse now, and Defence children make up about 22% of the school’s population this year. We now have a large number of non-Defence families, Indigenous and special needs children,” Denelle says.

Students talk to Chappy Denelle about a whole range of things. “It can be anything, from grief support for students who have lost grandparents, parents, or have a chronic illness in their family, to kids struggling with friendship groups in the playground.

“My job is about building relationships, and getting on their level so I can understand what they are experiencing and help them to overcome it,” Denelle says.

Being the school’s first ever chaplain means Denelle’s role has been created to specifically fit the school’s current needs. “I have a great rapport with everyone across the school. Because of my background as a special education teacher aide, our special education staff sometimes ask me to spend time with a particular student or family. Just recently the Head of Special Education included me on the education plan for an Indigenous boy as part of his social interaction goals.

“The teacher asked me to go into his classroom regularly and offer to help him with things he was finding difficult. He can’t do what everyone else does, so he gets frustrated and runs away. When I introduced myself to his mum, she said I was all he talked about at home — his ‘chappy’.

“I love my job because I get to help bring hope to the younger generation. In a world that appears to put on a persona of hopelessness, I love being a light of hope in our community and school.”

Thanks to your continuing support, chaplains like Denelle can support school communities throughout Queensland. Thank you!


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