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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

Satellite Foundation

Satellite Foundation (Satellite) is a not‑for‑profit organisation founded in Melbourne in 2009. Co‑founder Ms Rose Cuff said it was established in recognition that ‘approximately 250,000 children and young people in Victoria live with a parent or carer who has a mental illness’.

Satellite Foundation seeks to contribute to positive outcomes for children, young people, their families, and communities, where a parent has a mental illness or mental health challenges.

Satellite’s range of creative programs and activities aim to offer safe and welcoming spaces for connection and peer support, strengthening skills and sharing ideas.

Satellite seeks to provide young people with opportunities to share their experiences and create ongoing connections. Ms Cuff said:

These young people need experiences other than their caring role, and need to feel supported and connected in order for them to be optimistic for their future—to see a ‘solution‑enabled’ future for themselves.

Satellite provides a range of free programs to children and young people aged 8–25, and has increased its offering of online programs in response to COVID‑19. Satellite’s programs include the following:

  • Satellite Connect is a free online six‑week program for people aged 17–23 years. The program includes a range of workshops designed to support adolescents and young adults to recognise their strengths and realise their potential. There is a weekend retreat at the end of the program.
  • Satellite Connect Youth is an adapted version of Satellite Connect for adolescents aged 14–17 years.
  • At Home with Satellite provides a selection of activity‑based, self‑care packs and online workshops for children and young people aged 8–16 years. It includes opportunities for creative expression, storytelling and peer connection.
  • Satellite Camps provide three‑day overnight programs for young people aged 10–15 years. The aims of the camp include providing respite for children and young people, reducing isolation through peer support, promoting healthy coping strategies, and encouraging longer‑term interactions between participants.
  • Music, art and song writing workshops are three‑day, in‑person programs for young people aged 11–14 years that provide supported opportunities for creativity and collaboration in a fun and safe space.
  • Photography workshops are one or two‑day, in‑person programs for young people aged 10–16 years (approximately). The workshops provide a space for young people to explore different experiences, including mental health and wellbeing, and a chance to use creative practice to explore how they see the world.
  • It’s a Mad World is an online exhibition where people with lived experiences can share different perspectives on mental health, creating a space to talk and laugh freely.

Satellite operates on three principles—connect (recognising the importance of belonging and fostering a sense of community), support (providing supportive and safe environments), and empower (putting young people at the heart of its work).

A recent graduate of a Satellite Connect program described her experience:

I do not have the right words to accurately articulate how wonderful and amazing this program has been and how much this program has touched my life. I feel like I have made more progress in the past six weeks with Satellite Connect, than I have in eight years seeing psychologists on and off. I am so grateful for everything that the Satellite Foundation has blessed my life with.

Satellite has support from Emerging Minds, an organisation dedicated to advancing the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australian infants, children, adolescents and their families. Satellite also works closely with a number of community, mental health and arts‑based organisations, providing opportunities for research and collaboration. In June 2020, Satellite received funding from the Commonwealth Government to boost its supports for children and young people during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Source: Satellite Foundation, [accessed 18 October]; Witness Statement of Rose Cuff, 2 July 2019; Rose Cuff, Correspondence to RCVMHS, 2020; The Honourable Greg Hunt MP, Commonwealth Minister for Health, Media Release: COVID-19: Support for Children and Young People, 17 June 2020, [accessed 9 September 2020]; Emerging Minds, Who we are, [accessed 14 December 2020].