Meander Valley Gazette

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Tree top adventure

FeatureJoanne Eisemann
9-year-old Jez enjoys exploring the treetops at Hollybank during a retreat at Wonderland.   Photo | supplied

9-year-old Jez enjoys exploring the treetops at Hollybank during a retreat at Wonderland.

Photo | supplied

March 2019

MOLE CREEK is home to a special service for young people with disabilities, ‘Wonderland Retreat’. The Retreat, which has been open now for just over 14 months, provides short-term supported accommodation for younger people (ages 8 to 35 years) with NDIS plans.

Wonderland Retreat provides two programs, one involving recreational weekend activities and leisure, and the other providing a focus on life skills training mid-week. Rob and Toni Mehigan, Psychologist and ex School Principal, and owner/managers of Wonderland, have coined the term ‘adventure retreat’ as young people participate in an active program which includes learning archery at Beers Farm in Red Hills, animal appreciation and grooming with llamas from Llama Farma at Christmas Hills, visiting Trowunna Wildlife Park, fish feeding at 41 Degrees South salmon farm,  grooming horses at Nellie’s in Chudleigh, feeding the chooks on the 2 acre property, petting the therapy cat Sophie as well as innovative physical therapy outings to Air 360, mini golf, Go Karts at Latrobe, Tazmazia and Westbury Mazes, Hollybanks Tree Tops Adventure and caving tours at Mole Creek as well as short walks around the Western Tiers, to name a few.

On the property, young people participate in discos, karaoke, arts and crafts, haircare, makeup, glamour photography, woodwork and horticulture supported by friendly and experienced care workers. “Relationship skills are honed through having fun together,” says Kathryn Campbell – Community Liaison Offcer at Wonderland. “Our largest focus is simply having fun. Learning, growing as a person and having the courage to try new things is a lot easier with peers, especially where activities are supported to ensure no one is left out,” she said. 

“While at the retreat young people also learn to cook pizzas and other meals and learn barista skills at the Pepperberry Café as well as being taught house cleaning and bedmaking skills and other life skills relevant to the participants’ NDIS goals. Parents love us!,” Kathryn commented. Wonderland Retreat is also there for families when there is no other available support. 

Recently, a mum had to go for surgery and her young son spent 9 days at Wonderland with carers who followed an individually designed program over his time. He was particularly interested in making a stool for his sister and a lamp. He was able to create these things from scratch using recycled materials from the Mole Creek tip shop.

One young girl living with Huntington’s, a condition which affects motor and brain function, had lost her confidence in relating to peers. She was able to bring Grandma to the retreat staying in one of the Guesthouse family rooms so she could provide the necessary extra family support for her granddaughter in getting used to the new environment and building her confidence again. “I’ve found my peeps mum,” said one young visitor.

Another young person had lost confidence after being bullied at school. They had previously enjoyed singing and dancing but had become withdrawn and anxious. Her teary mother stated “she’s back” after coming to Wonderland Retreat, as she had found new friends and was able to be herself in the accepting environment. 

Wonderland provides many families in the district and beyond, with a ‘second family’ in a rural environment to back them up in parenting their young person with a disability, which can be a tough job’. Visit www.wonderlandretreat.com.au.