FOR 14 years, Kristy Kemp has been working towards her dream – establishing an animal-assisted therapy farm near Bendigo for children with autism, in residential care or in other vulnerable situations to develop life skills.
She saw the positive effect a dog had on her son with Aspergers, and wanted to share this with others.
So, on a block of land in Myers Flat, Ms Kemp has established Flash Farm – a type of hobby farm with dozens of animals including miniature cattle, sheep, three horses, chickens, two alpacas, a micro donkey, miniature pig and more.
Ms Kemp, a trained social worker, said this type of therapeutic environment was unique to Bendigo.
“When I was working at Anglicare, we were spending thousands and thousands of dollars to send kids out to Shepparton and other places to get this kind of therapy,” she said.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have this in Bendigo?
“I noticed that when we took the kids outside, that was when we had the best time.
“You can only achieve so much through counselling in a classroom environment.”
Many of the animals came from rescue shelters, including a horse with one eye, and all have become accustomed to humans.
Flash Farm is accepting enrolments for the first time in Term 2, with the program allowing children aged 11 to 17 to visit once a week where they can choose their own animal to interact with, learn how to cook using a planned sensory garden, and develop other life skills.
It is divided into two programs. Life Ready, which teaches social skills, cooking and personal hygiene, and Student Wellbeing which focuses more on animal husbandry and gardening.
Everything generated on the farm goes back into the farm.
On Saturday, Flash Farm will hold a helping hands day to get the farm ready for the school term on Monday. There will be plenty of painting to be done on the site’s portable classroom and tidying up for other areas of the farm.
Ms Kemp said she understood that the cost of enrolling in the program was quite high because of insurance, but sponsors and donations could help to make it more affordable for families.
She said the philosophy of the farm was simple.
“The children will be able to see how the animals – big or small – all gather together to eat, and all treat each other equally,” Ms Kemp said.
“We want children to know that in this world, it doesn’t matter if you’re big, small, black, white - everyone should be treated the same.
“These animals have a story to tell, just like the kids do.”
The Flash Farm helping hands day runs today from 9am to 3pm.