Youth counselling service appoints new Operations Manager

Jupiter’s Avril Saunders has been named the organisation’s Operations Manager.

THE start of 2024 has been the start of a new chapter for Jupiter – the counselling and wellbeing service supporting young people in Port Stephens.

Founded by Caring for Our in Port Stephens Youth (COPSY) in March 2019, the service operates in Salamander Bay, Tanilba Bay and Raymond Terrace, providing free counselling for local residents from the age of twelve to 25.

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The initiative has been well received and widely praised by the community, which has regularly demonstrated their support for Jupiter through fundraising.

Since their inception the team at Jupiter have created ‘Spaces to Talk’ in pursuit of their mission, which states, “We want to ensure the young people in our community do not feel alone when dealing with issues such as grief, loss, family breakups, friendship problems, school and study stress, addictions, risky behaviour, anger, bullying, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, body image concerns, mental health concerns, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.”

While this mission remains the same, there is a fresh vision to connect further with the youth of Port Stephens, thanks in part to the appointment of Jupiter’s new Operations Manager, Avril Saunders.

Avril, having worked as a youth counsellor for nearly five years, stepped into the role towards the end of 2023, following a season as one of the Jupiter team’s counsellors.

As someone whose own story involves difficult life circumstances and challenges in her youth, Avril has found a powerful sense of passion and purpose in the work she does for Jupiter.

“I wish I’d had something like this to support me when I was a young person,” she said.

“It would have helped me.”

This thought is driving Avril to expand the work of Jupiter in the coming year.

“We currently employ three counsellors for our three sites in Port Stephens, but we are hoping to plant a fourth in Medowie in the near future.”

At the same time as increasing the capacity to receive young people for counselling, Avril has been part of revising their strategies to make Jupiter more inviting to young people with social anxiety.

“Sometimes these young people would like help but find it overwhelming to seek it out.

“Making that easier for them means being able to support kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks.”

A new physical and mental health program has been developed as well, spearheaded by Tracy Mackander.

While the team is excited about the possibilities that lay ahead, they do face the challenge of securing the funds to continue offering their services.

“As a community run organisation we do find it difficult to raise and maintain funding for core programs.”

As Operations Manager, Avril now faces the task of finding new sponsors and patrons in local businesses and charitable organisations, as well as seeking government funding.

“If our team were not able to provide these services in this area, it means nearly two and a half hours on a bus for young people to travel to the nearest alternative.”

Regardless of these challenges, Avril reflects positively on her first months at Jupiter’s helm.

“It’s been wonderful, it’s been challenging.

“It’s such a rewarding place to work.”

By Lindsay HALL

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