MEDIA RELEASE: Starlight and Masonic Charities help 'close the gap'


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11 Sep '20


Monday 14 September 2020

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Starlight Children's Foundation (Starlight) is proud to announce it has joined forces with Masonic Charities SA/NT to help bridge the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living in remote and regional communities of South Australia and Northern Territory through its Healthier Futures Initiative (HFI).

Starlight's HFI was established to help improve the wellbeing of Indigenous children living in rural and remote communities by focusing on detection and early treatment of chronic health conditions through entertainment and play.

Working in partnership with health professionals, Starlight's superhero, Captain Starlight helps ensure clinics are positive health care experiences for children and families by engaging them through music, art, dance and storytelling.

Masonic Charities has committed $900,000 to Starlight over the next three years. The funding from this new partnership will allow Starlight to roll out its vital HFI service in South Australia on a permanent basis, having completed a successful two-year pilot program.

Following the success of its well-established sister program in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, the new partnership with Masonic Charities will support over 30,000 seriously ill children and their families in South Australia and the Northern Territory over the next three years, including five-year-old Grace (pictured).

Beck Parker, Starlight’s Hospital Program Manager SA said: "Starlight is fundamental to the healthcare system - and we're thrilled to be able to extend this vital program to greater South Australian families experiencing serious illness."

"By engaging families through song, dance and storytelling, Starlight has helped improve health clinic attendance, promoting prevention and early intervention. In addition to keeping children engaged during their healthcare visits, Captain Starlight provides a sense of connection and familiarity for these families - a priceless act in helping to reduce their anxiety when seeking treatment in the clinic or hospital."

John Behenna, chairman of Masonic Charities, said the partnership with Starlight Children's Foundation was part of Freemasonry’s substantial contribution to "advancing the human condition".

"There is much good in the world and we are delighted to be part of it," Mr Behenna said.

"The Masonic Charities Board, as the vanguard of Freemason philanthropy, seeks an ambitious agenda in benevolence, in South Australia and the Northern Territory, of which this magnificent project is a part."

Neil Jensen, who sits on the Board of Directors for Masonic Charities as the Grand Master of the Freemasons of South Australia and the Northern Territory, said it was an honour to help promote and develop the continuing positive work of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Dr Jensen said helping children who were fearful of medical treatment to be more relaxed and comfortable aligned with the core values of Freemasonry.

"Freemasons invest in people," Dr Jensen said.

"It is said that those who bring happiness into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. This is very true of our fraternity, which has been addressing the needs of others for more than three centuries."

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children have some of the highest levels of preventable diseases in the world1. Research shows that health professionals and partners in remote communities rate the impact of Captain Starlight on children as significant2. Evidence-based outcomes of Starlight’s HFI on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children include increased attendance at clinics, early detection of chronic disease, easier management of clinics and positively changed attitudes and beliefs about health care3.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall, who also holds the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio, applauded the philanthropic work of Masonic Charities.

"This act of generosity from Masonic Charities is critical in supporting the Starlight Children's Foundation 'Healthier Futures Initiative', beyond the pilot phase, which has proven to be significant in Indigenous communities across the state," Mr Marshall said.

With approximately 126 trips projected until the end of 2022, the program will travel to regional South Australian communities including Kadina, Yalata, Ceduna, Port Lincoln, Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia, Pika Wiya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation, Coober Pedy and Maitland.

In addition to Starlight's South Australian project, new funding will also strengthen its existing HFI program in the Northern Territory, sustaining program outreach in 2020, and increasing community trips by 20% in 2021-22.

In celebration of the partnership and the reopening of Starlight's HFI program in regional and remote Aboriginal communities, Dr Jensen will present a cheque for $275,000 at Botanic Park on September 17, marking the first instalment of Masonic Charities’ $900,000 donation to Starlight.

Attending the celebration will be representatives from local health clinics, Masonic Charities, Starlight and His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia. 

– ENDS –

For more information, or to attend the media event:

Taylia Collis, Starlight PR | 0413 695 862

Michael Owen, Masonic Charities | 0400 042 214

1AIHW (2016) Australian Burden of Disease Study Impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2011,page viii

2Treadgold C, Dann J, Bowden A. Starlight's Healthier Futures Initiative: A partnership model supporting health care delivery to Indigenous children and adolescents. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2018;18(s1):90 

3Harrison N, Walker D. (2008) Evaluation of the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s activities in regional and remote communities of the Northern Territory. Darwin: Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (now Lowitja Institute)


About Starlight Children's Foundation

Starlight Children's Foundation brightens the lives of seriously ill and hospitalised children and young people by replacing pain, fear and stress with fun, joy and laughter. Since its establishment in 1988, Starlight has expanded to become the broadest reaching and most trusted children's charity in Australia. There is now a Starlight Express Room in every children’s hospital in the country and over 180 Captain Starlights nationwide. 

In 2019, Starlight granted 500 life-changing wishes with 100% of families recommending a wish experience to other families. Starlight also delivered over 610,000 positive Starlight experiences to seriously ill children, young people and their families.

About Masonic Charities 

Masonic Charities is the major philanthropic arm of Freemasonry in South Australia and the Northern Territory. It is a leading charity organisation that constantly turns its eyes to, and focusses on, the needs of others. Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.

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