For the love of animals
There’s a little farm in Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula where an inspirational lady named Michelle, and her donkeys are doing amazing things as they find hidden talents in the many people who come to visit.
Michelle has trained her miniature donkeys since they were babies and they now form a large part of the Animal Assisted Activities that are run on the farm.
People come to the farm from all walks of life. They participate in various programs that are offered. Michelle and the donkeys work with them to help with the treatment of mental health issues such as:
- depression and anxiety
- behaviour management / self esteem
- autism spectrum disorders
- stress management / anger management
- social skills development
- emotion recognition and regulation
On my visit to the farm I met the lovely Sebastian, also known as Sasi due to his sassy nature. Sebastian is the head donkey, he’s in charge of his friends Angela, Bentley and Georgina.
I never realised how amazing donkeys were until I met these little guys. They have the ability to sense how you’re feeling and somehow know if you need a hug or some form of comfort. They are intelligent and caring and very special and beautiful creatures.
Michelle is a very special person too. We had a cuppa and a chat and she told me about the training courses she runs where participants will learn many skills including how to talk to the animals.
The courses are offered to people who are at a point in their lives where they are able to study and potentially make a career out of working with animals. Not everyone is at that point, and that’s ok, because there are plenty of programs that people can get involved in.
Programs and Courses offered include:
- Animal Communication Diploma
- Animal Assisted Intervention Programme Delivery. Dog Communication Certificate Course
- Artistic Expression
- Floral Art for Beginners
- Flower and Veggie Growing
- Learn How to Read, Write and Understand English
- Safe Place. Spending time in a Nature Space.
- Respite stays.
On a tour of the 2.6-hectare property we came across some amazing things that are happening on the farm. There’s an outdoor art space with many works created by Michelle and her participants. The veggie patch is providing fresh produce, a new Japanese Zen garden is in the making, and there’s a space for floral art and flower arranging.
The lake and little island across the bridge creates a lovely place to sit and ponder, and then there is the special quiet place at the rear of the property which is a peaceful place to take in the beauty of the world, relax, destress and practice mindfulness while watching the donkeys play.
The programs on the farm are NDIS registered, which means people with NDIS funding are able to participate and benefit from this place dedicated to social and emotional well-being.
Michelle believes that people with disability are disadvantaged by the attitudes of others and would love to see a change in normalising disability. At Donkey Love, Michelle finds in a ‘hidden talent’ in everyone, she focuses on their ability rather than a disability.
Michelle has seen many positive changes in people who have experienced the programs and have learned to interact with the animals and nature. People come to the farm for many different reasons, but everyone can benefit from what is on offer.
SASI Guest Parent Blogger
Images courtesy of Nicola Symons (the white donkey is Sebastian, known as SASI)