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News and Announcements

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01 June 2022
Smartgroup Foundation: supporting children with canine-assisted learning 

The Smartgroup Foundation was established in 2019 to have a positive impact on the community. Each year, Smartgroup Corporation provides a grant to the foundation, which then directs funds to a variety of Australian-based charities. 

One such charity that The Smartgroup Foundation has partnered with is MacKillop Family Services and its program Paw Pals. 

“It’s just phenomenal to see how far she has come.” 

Grace*, a Victorian girl in her early teens, was doing it tough. So much so that she was placed in a residential care home. 

When she was there, she continued to act aggressively, attacking staff and looking for ways to self-harm. At school, she was easily distracted, disruptive and again, violent and aggressive – and they asked her to leave. 

But thanks to the help of Paw Pals, they were able to turn things around. 

Mackillop Family Services and Paw Pals

Mackillop has been providing family care services for more than 20 years. Officially founded in 1997, Mackillop traces its roots back even further, to the good works done by the Sisters of Mercy, Christian Brothers and Sisters of St Joseph in the 1800s. 

Today, Mackillop provides education services to 450 Victorian children in need - children who have disengaged from their education and are unable to keep up. They’re usually dealing with social and emotional issues, and often come from a background of family violence or neglect (or both). 

Paw Pals is the initiative that MacKillop started in 2019 to further help children with their education, by bringing in trained therapy dogs to work with the kids. 

The dogs (and their handlers), are able to help students: 

  • Improve their confidence in social settings and work on their emotional intelligence
  • Engage better with their learning
  • Increase their skills in managing their behaviour 
  • Have worthwhile learning experiences and greater chances for success 

Smartgroup Foundation thrilled to help this great cause

The Smartgroup Foundation is proud to have provided support to such a worthy cause. With the help of the foundation and other donors, Paw Pals has been able to reach hundreds of children since it was launched. 

Paw Pals has provided support to students both in mainstream schools and at MacKillop’s specialist schools. And with money raised, more therapy dogs have been trained to be able to help more children. 

The dogs are not just used in the classroom, either. They’ve also helped kids out in other potentially stressful situations, like paediatrician visits and educational need assessments. 

Making a real difference to a young girl's life

Grace has learned a lot from her therapy dog, Indie. 

Her Paw Pals sessions would begin with calming activities that have helped teach her how better to compose herself when she’s feeling overwhelmed…to stop and think to herself. Indie has also acted as Grace’s practice partner in learning how to behave properly towards others. 

After some hard and rewarding work, Grace was able to return to school when her principal saw the great strides she had taken. And Indie’s still with her every step of the way, providing care and support. 

As Sarah Castle, Paw Pals coordinator, said so proudly: “It’s just phenomenal to see how far she has come”. 

The Smartgroup Foundation

The Smartgroup Foundation is striving to give to those in need. We’re committed to contributing positively to the communities where we live and operate. 

We couldn’t be prouder of the amazing work that MacKillop and Paw Pals are doing, and will continue to do. 

To read more about The Smartgroup Foundation, please click here.