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Life skills on show for Centre Director

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There’s no doubt Goodstart Traralgon’s Nathan Brown knows a thing or two about dealing with challenging behaviours.

The Centre Director spent three years working in a child protection residential unit in Victoria before joining the team at Goodstart.

“I worked with some of the youngest and worst offenders in Australia. Our clients couldn’t be housed for one reason or another, usually because of violence issues, and were all aged between eight and 15 years old,” Mr Brown said.

“They were one step away from being moved in to a correctional centre so a lot of it was pretty confronting.”

Mr Brown’s early years could not have been further from what he experienced in the centre, growing up on farm with a stable family, of mum, dad and three siblings.

“I had a really traditional childhood and those kids didn’t,” he said. “They didn’t have any boundaries, they often didn’t have anyone who cared so it was a big learning curve for me.”

With a staff turnover of about six to nine months, Mr Brown set out to build relationships with his young charges, determined to make a bit of a difference. He says his most fulfilling moment was when he managed to unite two brothers and see them move into a foster home together.

“That was a great moment for me,” he said. “To see them together again was a positive in an environment where you don’t see things like that very often.”

Mr Brown’s interest in working with young people developed in his early life when his mother running a family day care. He helped out after school and really enjoyed the work, and managed a vacation care service when he finished school.

He eventually moved in to event management, working with high-profile clients but found he was spending too many of his weekends and evenings working.

“The pay was great but I didn’t feel really passionate about that work. I wanted to go back to childcare and I decided Goodstart would be a good fit.”

In his earlier years in childcare, he had confronted a bias towards men working with children but pressed on, knowing how important it was to provide young children with positive male role models.

“There has been a huge shift in the number of men working in the industry, and an increase in acceptance of that by the community, but there’s still a long way to go,” Mr Brown said.

He joined Goodstart Traralgon and recently moved into the centre director role.

“I really love it. There is no other job where it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your own life, that you won’t see something that makes you smile or laugh. It’s just the little things here that help – the nice experiences you have during the day make a difference,” he said.

It’s a lovely environment. It’s a special job – where else can you build these amazing relationships with families and become a bit of a surrogate family? Everything is for the children and the families, that’s why Goodstart means so much to me.”

He has big plans for his future career at Goodstart, including introducing a therapy dog in the form of a Bernese mountain dog. “I want to train the dog to be a certified therapy dog where children can have him walk them down to their room, read a book to the dog, and spend time with him.

“Again, it’s just another way to make children feel like there is always someone watching out for them, and that they always have some support.”
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