As IMPACT Community Services’ Intensive Family Support Manager, Mel Clarke is sometimes a troubled family’s last line of defence before their circumstances spiral out of control.

And for that reason, she is passionate about providing meaningful support to families and is committed to working with them to achieve sustainable change.

“IFS can play a vital role in supporting families to make necessary and fundamental changes for their benefit, if they are ready,” Mel said.

“We are often their last resort before child protection or other agencies get involved.

“We are sometimes their last chance to make a change before things escalate and change for the worse.”

Mel is a valuable member of IMPACT’s family support service and has had the perfect background for it.

She started working in the human services sector 19 years ago and has worked in various government and community-based organisations in Logan, Brisbane and the Wide Bay region.

Her frontline experience extends to residential care, youth crime prevention, community development, working with families, child protection, domestic and family violence and mental health outreach.

Mel has coordinated programs, led community initiatives and has experienced leading teams in multiple settings. 

“In IFS we are all about building a relationship so we can empower family members to step up,” she said.

“Many of our clients are self-referrals, but we also get referrals from the Regional Intake Service, from people lodging their concerns about possible child endangerment or mistreatment.

“Many of them are below the threshold for child protection to step in and that’s when we can help.”

Mel’s motivation for excelling at her job is simple: she wants her team to be able to make a difference.

“It’s about people’s future, their lives, their children,” she said. “We want families to be the best they can be. Life’s hard. And we’re asking these people to change their parenting behaviour or how they run their home.

“And sometimes they’re also dealing with domestic violence or mental health issues. And sometimes they’ve been abused by the system, so even trusting someone is hard.

“We have to make sure we’ve built that trust with them, so that those necessary changes can happen.

“We have to be genuine, because we have to have those difficult conversations.”

Mel also understands that a big part of doing her job properly is liaising with a large number of services and maintaining good relationships with all the stakeholders so IFS can work collaboratively to offer support for the right changes to happen, if clients are ready.

She feels she has found the perfect home at IMPACT for her passions.

“I love their values, which align with my own. Steve Beer (General Manager Health and Support) and Tanya O’Shea (Managing Director) support us to be innovative, to push the practice boundaries,” Mel said.

“We have a lot of flexibility, which makes us successful. I feel no need to micromanage my staff; they’re given plenty of space to breathe and do their job.”

Although there are a greater number of women at IMPACT than the national figures, Mel knows that there are more women in the community outreach sector, so we are more likely to have more women at IMPACT.

She said within IMPACT there was a huge diversity of women and that was what the organisation benefitted from.

“Many of these women (and men) have taught themselves from the ground up, and they are very talented,” she said.

“And there are lots of long-term employees who have been here a long time and that is a result of Tanya’s organisational culture, which supports those employees, who just love working here.”

And Mel counts herself among that number, who love what they do, and love where they do it.

This profile is part of our Women of IMPACT series. Each day during Queensland Women’s Week we share the story of one of our amazing female team members whose work helps make such a big difference in the lives of so many in the Bundaberg and Burnett regions.