Exclusive: Former Karobran site to open as life skills centre

The South East’s prayers for a rehabilitation centre have been answered.

Joanna Life Skills Centre has just been established on the former Karobran site near Naracoorte. Karobran New Life Centre was previously the only non-private rehabilitation centre in the SE before closing two years ago, and there have been constant calls for a new facility in the region since then.

New owners Carol and Rob Coleman have been working tirelessly over the past weeks to prepare the centre for opening. They still have a long way to go before they would consider the centre completely ready, but feel it’s so important to start providing rehabilitation services in the region that they are taking residents immediately.

The centre aims to provide a safe place for vulnerable people, where people can focus on themselves and their own recovery while learning basic life skills that they can use when they transition back into the general community.

The centre already has two residents, whose immediate positive response to the rehabilitation environment has underlined to the Colemans the vital role their centre can provide in the recovery process as well as complement existing services.

Carol is an experienced mental health nurse who has worked extensively with complex clients for the past 10 years and has seen many cases of people affected by mental illness and drug and alcohol issues.

Both Carol and Rob have always felt the need to support those who need it most.

Carol previously owned and operated a boarding house for vulnerable people and experienced the positive effect the environment along with support has on a person’s overall health and well-being.

In recent years, Carol and Rob honed their ideas of what providing support to vulnerable people again might look like. After putting out some feelers for potential properties, they came upon the former Karobran property by accident.

“It was a ‘meant to be’ thing,” Carol said of finding out about the property. “The property was on the market, the location was absolutely fantastic, it’s far enough away from anywhere but also close enough, and there is all this here,” she added, gesturing to the sprawling layout of buildings and other infrastructure.

The relaxed rural environment of the centre is the perfect place for people who are struggling but committed to making positive changes to improve their lives and who are willing to participate in life skills training which promotes personal resilience, self-confidence, self-esteem and enables people to enjoy an increased level of functioning.

Carol emphasised that the centre is not a “detox facility”. “It’s a centre where vulnerable people can get their lives back on track”.

Rob added: “If people are actively into drugs and alcohol at the time of referral, they may need to be hospitalised for inpatient detox before coming to the centre.

“It’s more about people wanting change, getting out of the rut they’re in and making a break from that.

“We believe everything’s about rehabilitation in some way. This centre isn’t rehabilitation in the traditional drug and alcohol sense. Rehab in that way is generally, you’re sent there, whereas here, you’re making the decision to come yourself.

Foyer area at the hall at Joanna Life Skills Centre.

Foyer area at the hall at Joanna Life Skills Centre.

“If they don’t want to be here, they won’t be here long. If they don’t want to help themselves, then we can’t help them either.”

What the couple need now, apart from clients willing to embrace what they’re offering, is support from the community.

There has already been an outpouring of giving from many people, with donations of beds, furniture and other domestic items, as well as local businesses discounting large purchases to offset the set-up costs.

But the couple is also calling for community-minded people who have skills to offer to come forward and be part of the recovery process for the residents.

“We want to put together an advisory committee of local people – locals are the ones who are going through the heartache of watching family members suffer the effects of mental illness, drugs and alcohol problems,” Carol said,

“We’ve got a slogan of ‘Together we can’.

“Just because we’ve bought it, it’s not about us. It’s everybody’s place, we can all help to make the future bigger, better and as bright as the centre can be.”

The couple also want to set up programs including literacy and buddying/mentoring and would welcome any offers of help in those areas.

Rob said the couple had firm ideas about the direction they want to take the Joanna centre, which comprises 25 single and share rooms across multiple dwellings, as well as a hall, commercial kitchen, tennis court and other facilities.

But he added that “everything is a work in progress”.

Referrals to Joanna Life Skills Centre can be made by health professionals, support workers, family, friends or by self-referral.

Rob and Carol are open to receive referrals for service and applications from the community to join the program.

Contact Carol on 0400 633 485 or carol.canala@gmail.com.au, or Rob 0419 822 484 or Racoleman1@bigpond.com

The hall and tennis court at Joanna Life Skills Centre.

The hall and tennis court at Joanna Life Skills Centre.