HISKA is a Non-Profit Organisation founded by Kim and Matt Baillie. The concept of the organisation is the brainchild of their son Zac Barker, who tragically took his own life in January 2019, at the age of 21.
HISKA is governed by a Board of three - Kim and Matt plus Ross McCorkell who worked with Matt in business for many years and is a close family friend. Our Marketing Manager, Leonie Harcourt is also related to Zac. Also supporting the Board are senior managers Tracie McIntosh (Governance, Grants & Funding) and Deborah Dawson (HISKA Sisters).
The HISKA Story
In 2016, Zac was in the grip of severe anxiety and addictions. In September that year he spent four weeks in a rehab facility, something he found unamiable. Upon returning home, Zac came up with the idea of an organisation that would offer engagement and mentoring of young people invoking a strength based approach rather than imposing remedial strategies based on assessments, diagnosis, problems and deficits in a clinical setting.
Zac wanted somewhere to go in order to get some personal peace, a positive distraction from thoughts and troubles, with no pressure or expectations concerning the level of participation or outcomes. When Zac first introduced his Youth Sheds model he said, “We [my generation] need ways to get a break from our heads”. His desire was simple, “Don’t try to ‘fix’ me, just give me something to do so I can stop overthinking”. Helping In Supporting Kids Australia became both his goal, and the name of his venture.
Zac designed the initial organisational concept and the logo which remains exactly as he drew it. His design is quite clever. The ship wheel style compass represents a guiding sense of direction (morals, knowledge and wisdom) that young people need in order to navigate their way into adulthood. It conveys that all young people have the potential to self-determine their direction in life (beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and choices). The South compass needle rests on the “S” (Supporting). Zac wanted to young people to recognise that when life is heading South, HISKA offers support. The K (for “Kids”) is reversed and in red. This represents young people who feel they don’t fit in or believe they are gong the wrong way in life.
Zac was more intuitive than he realised and his concept for HISKA is simple, practical and inclusive. Unfortunately, he is not here to see his ideas taking root and growing in the minds and hearts of so many who support and/or benefit from the organisation he inspired.
HISKA aims to become embedded as one of the primary organisations in Victoria operating a simple and strength based approach at the grass roots level. Our organisation is working hard to develop effective projects and activities that encourage and inspire youth engagement.
Kim and Matt were devastated and traumatised by Zac's loss. In the days and weeks following, their world was shattered and they were devoid of all cognition. It was difficult to do the most basic tasks, even having a shower was a major effort. Somehow they gradually managed to find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, motivated by making HISKA a reality to honour Zac's legacy and support young people and their families living in rural communities.
Kim, Matt and Ross expanded on Zac’s original ideas for youth engagement with HISKA Youth Sheds, adding additional supports for parents and family members needing understanding, guidance and practical help coping with a child or loved one struggling with issues that impact parents and families.
We are also developing a postvention program to provide support and practical assistance to parents, families and close friends trying to cope with life following loss of a loved one.
You may wish to get involved by volunteering for one of the many rewarding roles we offer. Please enquire at the email address on the Contact Us page.
Hiska is here to support people of all ages. Please help Hiska deliver desperately needed services to kids, young adults and families by donating to our organisation.
HISKA MISSION STATEMENT
“Bringing rural communities together to empower and inspire young people to achieve self-development and deliver projects that support families and build solid foundations for lasting resilience and wellness.”
You can hear our radio interview on 3MFM here.
About Kim (Zac's mum)
Kim spent over twenty years as a Registered Nurse and has developed a very unique way of connecting with people. For decades, her friendly and intuitive nature has attracted many people in need of an understanding and supportive ear to listen to their stories. Kim has complemented her nursing skills by completing a number of qualifications in a range of therapies, including Bowen.
Kim has endured a tragedy that no parent ever expects happen. To her credit, she has worked very hard to navigate the emotional devastation that resulted from her son’s passing. Kim engaged the support of a counsellor and an intuitive healer, the latter who’s methods worked extremely well in helping her cope. Kim will never get over what has occurred, however she is determined to move forward with her life and dedicate herself to helping young people, parents and families in similar circumstances. Kim is passionate about honouring her son’s legacy and vision by ensuring HISKA provides effective assistance not only to kids, but to all people in rural communities needing support for a range of issues, especially suicide.
Kim is keen to speak out about suicide and her personal mission is to tell her story of a mother’s heartbreak, talk about Zac’s life and how she coped following his death. She hopes her story will help other parents and family members find strength while working through the many stages involved with losing their loved one.
Matt is Zac’s step-father and has been involved in his life since he was eight years old. Matt struggled following Zac’s suicide. While he sought to find a way to work through his own shock and grief, he also needed to stay strong to support Kim. After seeing a number of counsellors, he finally found one that was of great help.
Matt dreamed of being an airline pilot and learned to fly before he left high school. This didn’t eventuate and he went on to study Environmental Management. Matt joined Melbourne Water as a Park Ranger at the age of 24, and it was here he discovered a talent for connecting with people and groups as he led park tours.
His career took a new direction when a member of Melbourne Water’s communications department interviewed him for a story about his flying in the monthly staff newspaper. Matt was so impressed he switched his course to Business Marketing and Communications. He successfully applied to join the communications department at Melbourne Water and later their marketing department, learning skills in writing, editing, graphic design, publishing, marketing and business operations.
Matt left Melbourne water to become a sales manager in the publishing/book industry, ending up at Scholastic, where he worked with Ross McCorkell. Matt and Ross made a great team then and still do today, along with Kim, as co-founders of Hiska.
Matt has taken on the huge role as CEO of HISKA and is working long hours to establish the organisation as a well known and respected community service provider. He studies research papers from all over the world and networks with people from government organisations and community providers to gain insights into effective approaches to suicide prevention, youth engagement, mental illnesses and coping with loss.
Over the past ten years, Matt has also studied and practiced natural therapies, Enhanced Awareness, Buddhism, Aromatherapy and aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He understands the deep connection between emotional trauma and how this relates to the health of the physical body, behaviours and life choices. Matt applies his knowledge and experience to develop and deliver effective HISKA projects. Matt is passionate about providing engagement and support to young people and their families living in rural communities all over Australia.
Ross grew up in regional Victoria and knows the challenges of fitting in. Ross was adopted as an infant and wasn’t always accepted because of this and his sexuality. He was lucky however to grow up in a loving supporting family.
Ross spent 20 years as both a primary school teacher and educational consultant until taking a package in the Kennett era. He then moved into publishing for approximately 20 years and was the State Manager at Scholastic until his retirement in 2014.
Ross enjoyed working in education and helping students and teachers meet the challenges of everyday life. He led by example, always finding the best in himself and encouraging others to be the best person they can be too.
In publishing Ross managed a sales team and worked hard to achieve the best for each team member and for the customers they serviced. Matching product and service to each customer’s needs.
Ross was honoured to be asked to be a founding Director of HISKA as his association goes back a long period of time with both Matt and Kim. Ross worked closely with Matt in business and through this came to know Kim.
Ross believes HISKA has so much to offer rural communities in dealing with the challenges associated with suicide that has an ongoing ripple effect through families, friends and subsequently a community. Ross looks forward to helping HISKA grow and help address the feelings of isolation, loneliness and lack of support for rural and regional communities throughout Australia in relation to dealing with suicide and its associated affects.