People and Services: Coming home to Embark

Nina with dog

What is it like to participate in one of Flourish Australia’s many and varied day services? 

By Warren Heggarty

When Panorama visited Embark Cottage in Blacktown one day, the most noticeable thing was how WELCOMING the place is. We were only there a few minutes before being invited to join in a game of Bocce and their regular Tuesday barbecue!

Teaching and Learning

Peter from TAFE is at the house taking a class of Community Services students who come to Embark Cottage every week as part of their studies. The students gain valuable experience by actually having their class room in effect moved into the field in this way! 

Cooking and Eating

Food is important. Today, Lloyd has donned the apron for a barbecue lunch outside. Readers who follow Flourish Australia’s social media might have seen an item about an interesting chicken and rice recipe from Nigeria which TAFE student Anna introduced to everybody at Embark. 

Working and Volunteering

Narelle Passlow and Melanie Dragusanu are the two Flourish Australia staff members on duty today and it is marvellous how they manage to keep up with everything going on around them! This would not be possible without assistance from the members and volunteers who chip in with the running of the Cottage.

Cleaning and Nightscaping

For example, Victor Verheul and Ian Bailey are the cleaning team…or should I say “The Clean Team”, who take great pride in their roles at Embark cottage. Victor took the opportunity to show us his favourite art pieces hanging on the walls of what was once a suburban lounge room. Four of the members were working on “Nightscape” drawings on pieces of black paper at the time.

embark art.jpg

ABOVE: Renovations at Embark mean that  the offices have been moved upstairs making it easier for people to access groups which are mostly conducted downstairs. Here we find four ladies working away at their “Nightscapes” in progress in the Arts room at Embark Cottage. PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY INSET: A collage by Embark members after Yayoy Kusama PHOTO NARELLE PASSLOW

Indoors and outdoors

There IS an actual lounge room as well, with plenty of lounge chairs. This is the venue for general meetings each month,  but there is a lot of emphasis on the great outdoors as well. The back yard has a number of garden plots and a rock pool with quite a few colourful Koi Carp. 

Lots and Lots of Dots

Narelle told us about a recent creative morning doing Art with community arts coordinator Jane Miller. 

“The drawings and collage are a group artwork created that morning by the artists at Embark Cottage. It was all inspired by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama is a prolific artist who is 90 years old and still creating art.

As a child Kusama had hallucinations, often with bright dots. She moved to New York and was at the forefront of Pop Art in the 50s and 60s. Becoming unwell again, she returned to Japan where she found herself a hospital that was interested in art therapy. With this support, she continues to create art each day.”


ABOVE: Narelle Passlow and Terry Clendon discussing the benefits of sunshine in the back yard. PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY

Singing and Dancing 

Terry Clendon has been a member for many years and he is also a regular visitor to other Flourish Australia services. Several years ago, he did a major feature article for Panorama in which he spoke about the use of technology in interstellar space travel. 

Recently, Terry has been concentrating on things a little more down to Earth, though. He prepared a video presentation for the TAFE students which looked at how mental health issues are presented in popular songs. 

“For example, the Bee Gees song I STARTED A JOKE,” says Terry. “You could say it is about how depression develops and grows. But there is another song I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE RAIN HAS GONE which describes a depression lifting.”

Narelle says, “A lack of sunshine is known to make some people unwell, so of course sunshine can be good for depression.”

Terry has also done this presentation for local senior citizens. 

“I have heard that with postnatal depression, they did a trial with mothers and their babies in a circle singing and found that it works better than the medication.”

Narelle says, “Singing and dancing is good for everyone.”

“Yes, music is very powerful and can help with mental illness,“ agreed Terry.

Tae Kwon Do & Bocce

And so is Tae Kwon Do, according to Lloyd. Lloyd is a volunteer at Embark these days, though he used to be a peer worker. Today he is the chef for the barbecue. “We got the Tae Kwon Do idea from (Flourish Australia’s) Buck House. We love it.” If martial arts don’t bowl you over, Embark has a Bocce group too! 

Delta Dog

Also at Embark today is Carol and Billy from Delta Dogs. Billy is a trained therapy dog who works in places such as nursing homes and hospitals. Billy has a reassuring facial expression that can calm even people who are a bit nervous around animals. And for people who love animals, Billy is the epitome of lovableness. We also suspect that Billy enjoys being the centre of attention! We really need to clone Billy so that EVERYONE can have their own Billy. We managed to get a cute snap of Billy being held by Embark member Katie (main photo on page 46). 

Rapping and Rolling

Katie’s sister Nina Kay is also a member at Embark. Panorama readers have met Nina before: she appeared in Panorama in 2014 after winning the Karaoke competition at Flourish Australia’s Picnic Day. She absolutely blew everyone away with her rendition of an Evanescence song, then came back and did it all again the next year. 

Nina has a very powerful voice. But Karaoke isn’t all she does! Nina (under her stage name Beautifyer) is in a group called EPIK TREO. We will have an exclusive interview with Epik Treo in your next issue. In the meantime, why not go to SoundCloud and search for EPIK TREO (careful of the spelling) to listen for free? They have a number of songs available that we strongly recommend. 

Nina is also hoping to start a Certificate IV in Peer Work. Listening in, one of the TAFE students being hosted at Embark, RL, encouraged Nina to go for it. 

“Music is very therapeutic,” says Nina. “I think Embark should start its own group…” But we will have to leave that for another story.

TLC Garden Day

One great thing about Embark is that it has a big back yard, as demonstrated below during its recent TLC Garden Day. It’s a great place for barbecues, or just hanging out. 

All this leads to the obvious question: is there anything they DON’T do at Embark Cottage? Further investigation will be needed…


ABOVE: Blacktown is famous for its big back yards, which require a certain amount of maintenance. PHOTO BY WARREN HEGGARTY


Flourish Australia’s Embark Cottage 

38 Peter Street BLACKTOWN NSW 2148

1300 779 270

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