Zac Barker’s vision for supporting youth in crisis is set to live on in a new not-for-profit organisation based locally, HISKA.

HISKA is a Gippsland-based not-for-profit organisation registered as a charity with the ACNC.
The organisation was founded by Bass Coast residents Kim and Matt Baillie in March 2019 following the suicide of their son, Zac Barker.
“After crashing in the wave of shock and grief, we decided to act on an idea Zac had in 2016 by establishing HISKA – Helping In Supporting Kids Australia,” said Matt.
He said there were two primary objectives of HISKA:
1. The development and delivery of programs to engage young people – some of whom may be struggling with various aspects of their lives.
2. Providing specialist face to face postvention support services to parents, family members and friends following the suicide/loss of a child or loved one.
HISKA was Zac’s idea and Kim and Matt want to honour his vision and his memory by bringing it to fruition.
“It makes us feel he’s here with us, guiding us. It also gives us a purpose and a reason to get out of bed every day,” said Kim.
They said Zac felt something more was needed to address the issues of rural youth engagement and conceived the idea of youth sheds.
“As someone struggling with his personal demons and an avid car enthusiast, his main idea was to open a youth shed where teens and young adults could come together and restore classic cars and undertake other projects under the supervision of supportive mentors. He felt this would be the best ‘therapy’ for him as well,” said Matt.
“He also wanted to launch a branded urban clothing range, with the profits going back into HISKA to fund the Youth Shed and other programs.”
“We’ve worked extremely hard to get HISKA off the ground. With the support of Jordan Crugnale (Member for Bass) and some wonderful people at Bass Coast Shire and local Youth Providers Group, we are now well on the way to making Zac’s dream a reality for kids in Bass Coast and South Gippsland,” said Kim.
Kim and Matt have added two further services to Zac’s original idea.
HISKA Buddies will provide a trained staff member or volunteer to provide a range of supports and practical assistance for people experiencing the shock and grief of losing a loved one to suicide.
HISKA Buddies practical support can include assistance with arranging appointments (e.g. counselling or medical), transport, shopping, meals, cleaning, laundering, pet care, sorting mail, interpreting information, assisting with making funeral arrangements and just someone to listen. The exact nature of a HISKA Buddy’s involvement will depend on the particular circumstances of each family member.
HISKA Rings is a free support service to parents/people who have lost a child or loved one. Rings is an important compliment to the HISKA Buddies service.
Hiska Rings provides the opportunity for people to come together with others who have suffered similar circumstances.
As the name suggests, HISKA Rings reflects both a circle of human connection and also the “listening circle” format of the groups. Participants will have the opportunity to speak freely, share their personal stories, express their feelings and listen to others.
“From the research we’ve read, this format is very effective for maintaining human connection in a safe, supportive environment and aids the healing process,” they said.

Start a conversation
Kim wants to “start the conversation” about suicide through telling her story from a mother’s perspective. She hopes other parents who have lost a child will relate and find solace in the knowledge that they are not alone.
Kim believes talking and listening is comforting and helps with some level of healing. She is passionate about breaking down the stigma of shame and guilt around suicide. Kim is open to attending appropriate local events as a speaker on this subject and together with Matt, intends to seek such opportunities to help others and spread the message.
“We (HISKA) are looking at other services including a rural schools’ program and special supports for the LGBTI community. We just need to establish where the gaps are and develop appropriate services to fill those needs,” said Kim.
“We will be announcing an official HISKA launch date and venue very soon, most likely early September. Jordan Crugnale has agreed to attend and say a few words.
“We are working hard with council and other providers to support HISKA opening the first Youth Shed in Wonthaggi. If we can get compliances and logistics in place and secure enough local support from businesses and individuals, we hope to be in a position to fund the project and open the youth shed before the summer holidays. We hope to be closely affiliated with YES Hub and local youth
service providers.
“HISKA Rings is ready to start. We will begin an awareness campaign following the HISKA launch.
“The Buddy program is more complex and will require a lot more work to get up and running. This service is much-needed and we are working hard to finalise the service model, compliances and logistics.”
To make contact with HISKA contact Matt Baillie, Director HISKA Ltd via email matt.baillie@hiska.org.au or you can go to the recently launched website at www.hiska.org.au
If this article has caused distress please call crisis support and suicide prevention support at Lifeline Australia 131114 or seek professional help.