When Mission Australia’s Charles Chamber Court in inner city Sydney introduced the CCC Idol competition three years ago, few people realised how big an effect it would have.

Based on the popular reality television show, Australian Idol,  the activity was designed to re-engage the facility’s 60 socially and financially disadvantaged residents.

More than half of Charles Chamber’s residents have been diagnosed with a mental illness and many were homeless before they entered residential care.

And as well as uncovering some hidden singing talent, the home’s director of care, Jill Bicknell says the Idol competition has been instrumental in ‘bringing residents to life’.

“We had one resident in particular who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia who never spoke. He was very monosyllabic and didn’t initiate any conversations,” she recalls.

“But he was the runner up in the first year we did the competition and since then he has really opened up and is communicating with other residents and staff all the time. It has been a complete change.”

The Idol competition is just one part of the facility’s creative activities and mental health support program that saw it win one of the inaugural Positive Living in Aged Care Project Awards last year.

Funded by NSW Health managed by both industry associations ACS NSW & ACT and ACAA-NSW, the positive living project promotes the mental health and wellbeing of residents.

The awards, which are available to all Commonwealth-funded nursing homes and hostels in NSW, are designed to identify and showcase innovative strategies which have measurable outcomes.

There are three award categories and the winner in each category receives a $10,000 prize, while runners up receive $5,000. 

Applications for the 2009 awards are now open and submissions featuring creative and effective mental health strategies will be accepted until 30 June.

The application package with more information can be obtained from the ACS NSW & ACT website or the ACAA-NSW website.

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