Celebrating 25 Years of STAR
Excerpts from the memoirs of Kath McNeilly OAM, one of the eight honorary foundation members of STAR
STAR's 25th anniversary is a celebration of the legacy of those who took time to consider the needs of others. From humble beginnings in1996 as a transport service provider, STAR is now an award winning aged care and disability service provider, supporting over 8300 clients with the help of nearly 200 volunteers.
In 1995, Kath received a phone call from the Mayor of Redland Shire Council. She was invited to attend a meeting about setting up a special transport service to assist Redlands elderly who found it difficult to access public transport.
Kath went to the meeting and in the months to follow, became a key contributor for the establishment of Special Transport Assistance Redlands- S.T.A.R.
On 6th of September 1996, STAR launched the community transport with a recurrent funding of $51,000 from Home and Community Care Program (HACC). “We employed Annette Cook as the first coordinator for day to day operations.”
In its first year of operations, STAR serviced 106 registered users with the support from 18 volunteer drivers.
Kath volunteered on STAR’s committee for over two years but had to resign due to medical reasons. “A house is only as strong as the base on which it stands and your contribution and to the building of a solid base for this most worthwhile project is both acknowledged and appreciated,” wrote Gerald Moore, STAR Chairperson in reply to Kath’s letter of resignation.
STAR has since grown into a registered aged care and disability support service provider operating not only in Redlands but also in Logan, Ipswich, Gold Coast, Darling Downs and surrounding areas. Over 8300 clients are supported annually by STAR. A small army of nearly 200 volunteers support STAR with their time and skills for the welfare of our community members.
“I get a buzz every time I hear about STAR or see one of the STAR cars on the road. It makes me feel so proud.”
Seventy-seven-year-old Ray has lived by himself since his wife’s recent passing. “She is sadly missed but one must keep carrying on.”
Ray has kept isolation at bay by immersing himself in a range of activities. “I like to keep busy. My interests keep me going.”
Ray’s Home Care Package through STAR supports him in continuing to do activities of his choice- whether its gardening or video gaming!
Wayne- STAR companion Support worker- visits Ray three times a week. “We get along very well. On a nice day we got to Wellington Point, cook up a barbeque and enjoy a lunch. We’re planning on going fishing in next few weeks. We also like to compete against each other in a game of bowling on my Nintendo Wii. I win mostly!"
I enjoy my own company but it certainly helps to have good company.
It is my pleasure to congratulate STAR on this wonderful milestone of providing excellent service to ageing citizens and people with disability.
As a wheelchair-fast client with cerebral palsy I have used STAR services for four years since living in the Redlands. My primary use is with STAR Transport and I have found staff and volunteers to be friendly, courteous and reliable. The wheelchair accessible buses have taken me to a variety of venues, each contributing to my sense of independence and empowerment.
I wish STAR my very best as they continue to be a pioneer in innovative and customer focused service.
Joan and Rodney Ellwood were enjoying their retirement in an acreage property. “Gardening has been my passion. When I could not manage my gardens on my own, I rang STAR.”
“They were so supportive.” Joan and Rodney have moved to an independent retirement living unit recently. “We want to live independently for as long as possible.”
“When I fractured my knee and was recovering at home, going up and down even one step was difficult. STAR has helped us move around freely in our new house by installing handrails for us. We have one in the shower and one in the hallway.”
“Simple things like changing the light bulbs or hanging photos on the wall- these are the things that are difficult for us but still so important in making our house a home.”
Joan and Rodney Ellwood
" I am not an inconvenience."
These five words summarise the inspirational story of Kym green who had an accident which paralyzed her from waist down. “ After five months of intense rehabilitation I walked out of the hospital.”
Kym started her journey with STAR initially by using the transport service to get around. " I was relying on STAR or the taxi services. " Everyone I interacted with STAR is so friendly and down to earth. " When I found out STAR also offers NDIS services, I was relieved." They treat me like I’ve known them for ages.
“ With my support workers I’ve learnt to get back to nearly normal life. I could go to the shopping centres, get my groceries and do life chores again.”
“ My big goal was to get my license back to drive. I was too scared at first.”
“ With my support worker, I practiced at car parks then slowly adventuring further to different places. I am not hesitant to drive any more. ”
" I had to remind myself that I don’t have to get out of people's way. I am allowed to be in public."
Kym's days are now filled with coffee catch up with friends, taking on activities that challenge her and nature walks. " I have taken up sewing. I have a new machine. My STAR support worker and I are figuring it out together."
"STAR has supported me in getting my confidence back. I feel confident to set myself new goals and work towards them."
For Dan, a STAR volunteer- volunteering is a way of life.
As a young boy, Dan used to visit the returning soldiers at hospitals with his father who was a volunteer with St Vinnies. “I suppose it started then.” Said Dan about his lifelong love for volunteering. “Both my parents helped out with whatever they could.”
Before Dan retired, he was employed in the finance sector. In his spare time, he was an Angel Flight volunteer, transporting very ill children and their families to hospitals around Brisbane. “I still remember the smiles on the children’s faces. They were sick but still so joyful.”
A few years ago I noticed vehicles on the road with CODI written on them. One day I found myself at a local event and spoke to a person who worked at CODI. Next thing I know I was driving CODI vehicles myself. CODI has since become STAR.”
“I just enjoy people’s company. Love listening to their stories. Some people have very interesting stories.”
“One of our clients is 97. We enjoy telling each other outlandish stories. He wins every time!”
“Since turning 80 I had to stop driving for STAR. But I still help out when I can. I go to STAR lunch clubs and the senior’s day trips. I help people in and out of the bus- whatever they need. We all have a good yarn.”
“I will continue to help as long as I can. When I get to the stage when I need help, I would like someone to give me a hand.”
Dan, STAR volunteer
"Ive always been a person that helps others. When I got to the stage when I needed assistance, I am glad I had STAR to call upon. Having STAR helps me feel that I am not imposing on others.
Having access to services like transport, gives me the freedom to be a part of the community. STAR helps me get to all my appointments on time. I really like the fact that all the drivers are so pleasant. I have mobility issues. They help me in and out of vehicles. They are so patient.
STAR companion volunteer Gloria visits me once a fortnight too. We get along so well.
I am keen photographer. Gloria and I planning to go to Cleveland point next week so I can take some good photos. I am looking forward to it. I am fortunate to have good neighbours and friends. But I don’t want them to be my carers. I want them to visit me as a friends.
"My name is Tamar Flannery.
I am 38 years old and I have cerebral palsy.
I have been a NDIS participant with STAR Community services since 2018. In March this year, I obtained a new piece of equipment which is a hoist and walker combined. My STAR support workers facilitate the equipment to assist me with daily tasks and walking.
I have been working towards my goal to walk and I have come along in leaps and bounds in the last five months."
Samara feels at home at a semi-rural property in Karalee, caring for horses- her favourite animals. She is a participant of STAR’s Horsing Around program - a unique program designed for people with intellectual disability. “I am so proud of Samara and all her achievements. We have seen wonderful growth in her self-esteem, independence and confidence, to the point that Samara was able to move into shared independent living earlier last year."
Sue de Garis, Samara's mother.
Prior to retiring, Tom Hughes used to visit his mother at a nursing home in Wynnum. Tom noticed some residents never had any visitors, so Tom started spending time with some of them just chatting and listening to their stories.
Tom realised loneliness is a big problem facing the elderly. “I decided then that once I retire I would become a volunteer.”
Tom Hughes- STAR companionship volunteer
The STAR lunch club has helped me meet a wonderful group of people who have now become my close friends. We chat and laugh. We talk about everything from gardening to sports. If it is someone’s birthday we go out and celebrate. I’ve never missed my lunch club outing without good reason.
Having STAR in our community means we can call upon them when we need them.
Mike and Sue Broadbent, STAR Easy Shopper bus volunteers, bring joy and friendship to elderly clients through their weekly social shopping trips. "The Easy Shopper is so much more than just a shopping trip. It is a social field trip! We chat, drive around the local area, pick up the shoppers from their home, get the shopping sorted – and relax with a coffee and chat.”
“ We love that the clients truly appreciate us. Their happiness gives us a sense of fulfilment."
Mike and Sue Broadbent
Ringing STAR brought me my independence back. I could go out without relying on anyone.
Everyone at STAR I have come in contact with has been lovely and very accommodating.
I know that I will always be listened to. It feels good to be heard.
Peter- an NDIS participant, started his journey with STAR when he was accessing the Beelarong community farm and used transport to attend appointments.
“STAR has given me the ability to see something that interests me and pursue that interest, rather than worrying about how I’m going to get there and who will take me.”
Around 13 years ago, Eileen found herself living on her own and not being able to drive.
“ I felt very restricted. It was an isolating time.”
“Since the day I rang STAR, they have taken me to all my appointments." Elaine started regularly visiting her sister at a nursing home. " Every Saturday at 10am STAR would take me to visit her. I loved our weekly chats. She lived till 93. Those memories are so precious.”
I've been very fortunate to have had the company of my husband for 46 years. When he passed way, I struggled with living on my own.
I first joined STAR when I needed someone to drive me to my specialist appointments. It put my mind at ease to know I can ring STAR.
Through all the services that STAR offers me, whether it is repairs around the house or help me with my technology, STAR has helped me to not only maintain my independence but also enjoy a good quality of life.
For many seniors, retirement is the time to relax and unwind. But for Robyn it was time for her to return to her lifelong passion of law. In 2017, Robyn discovered a Legal Studies course at the local library, which she enthusiastically enrolled in. Unfortunately, Robyn could no longer read normal print without electronic magnifiers or talking computer programmes. As a part of STAR’s Companionship Program, a voluntary reader-writer accompanied Robyn to her weekly classes.
“With this assistance I could keep up with my fellow members, participate in discussions and confidently find new friendships. Thanks to the support from STAR, I live independently and confidently."
Rudy joined STAR as a volunteer driver 6 years ago.
“I was looking to do something useful with my days. I saw STAR vehicles and gave them a ring.”
Rudy shares his time between caring for his wife and caring for the elderly in his local community. “I’m meeting people, having a good yarn and going to different places I wouldn’t have thought of going. I enjoy everything about my role.”
Rudy Van Lint
A few years ago I felt very lonely. Since becoming part of the STAR, I have made some beautiful friendships.
I would like to thank all of the volunteers who give their time to look after us, from our drivers to Lunch club volunteers, and those who pick up the phones. Your work makes a huge difference. Without you I would still be at home, twiddling my fingers.
Ninety-one-year-old Yvonne Garner felt increasingly exasperated that she could no longer do the things she was able to in her younger years.
Lack of quality company was also adding to a feeling of isolation. “It’s hard to meet new people when you get old.”
Yvonne now enjoys STAR’s weekly lunch clubs with seniors in her local area. "I really look forward to my outings. We always have a good laugh. ”
I was looking for a safe, social outing for my husband. STAR’s Lunch club are the perfect opportunity to do so. I feel it is important for Tony's wellbeing to have regular social interactions.
Being a support person 24/7 can be trying. I feel like STAR helps me take that weight off my shoulders- Margaret Hayes, Tony's wife.
STAR recognises that as a community organisation, it is in a unique position to create an inclusive workplace where people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to work in a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment.
We advocate communities that support a culture where everyone feels valued and heard, regardless of their beliefs, ages and abilities. In 2019, STAR won a national award for championing inclusive workplace practices.
Since STAR started its operations, thousands of committed volunteers have generously given their time and skills to support our clients.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life enriching our workplace with their knowledge, stories and experiences.
In 2013, formalising the significant role of volunteers in our community, STAR launched Volunteering Redlands (VR).
Today over 1300 people are registered with VR plus 55 member community organisations. Through VR we are able to provide a platform for willing individuals to find a role that fits their skills and motivations.
With the aim of bringing a little joy to our clients, STAR’s Secret Santa appeal was launched in 2019. Since then it has become an annual tradition for the entire community.
Leading up to Christmas, STAR requests individuals and businesses to donate gifts for an elderly person who would be spending Christmas alone.
In 2019 over 650 gifts and 2,900 food items were donated by the generous Secret Santas. In the following year the donations grew to 1,043 gifts and over 3,780 food items.
As basic as sending an email to say hello to our loved ones may be for many of us, not being technology savvy can have a tremendous impact on people's ability to stay connected, especially for those who don't possess the very basic digital skills.
Since STAR Tech began in December 2019, 475 seniors have chosen STAR Tech to get online and it's clear that the program is a critical part of the pathway for digital inclusion.
For many STAR Tech clients, participating in the program has brought a significant shift in their attitude towards technology.