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Working for a better future and outcomes for our children

News

Queensland Government announced its commitment to invest in family-led decision making when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Changing Tracks: An Action Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families 2017- 2019. This comes after a trial was conducted in four sites across Queensland from April 2016 to end of June 2017 and is a testament to the quality work undertaken during the trials.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family-led Decision Making trials involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers from Ipswich (Kummara), Mt Isa (AIDRWA), Cairns (Wuchopperen Health Service) and Thursday Island (Port Kennedy Association) employing family-led decision making convenors to support families to keep children safe and connected to family, culture and community. Funding was provided by the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.

Some participating families were already involved in the child safety system, and other families were at risk of department involvement if family dynamics impacting on the children did not improve. Services focused on building up support networks and empowering families to voice their concerns and what they’d like to see change for their children’s futures.

To work with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander convenor, either outside of or along with the Department, gave families hope for change and self-directed steps to take to “get child safety out of our lives”.

One father was so engaged and motivated by the process he urged his family to be the first in the trials to complete all the actions they identified for themselves in their family plan. He also returned to the service at a later date asking for another copy of their plan when he felt the need to self-review. Child Safety Service Centre staff supported this process by empowering the service to lead family meetings and the process of engaging family, community and kin.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lead the process and were able to build trust and rapport with families, speak in language and explain child safety worries in ways family could understand, listen to families own concerns and worries, engage children and young people for their viewpoints, and reconnect family members where shame, distance, isolation or previous traumatic experiences had broken contact. Cultural strengths and children’s sense of belonging were at the heart of family meetings and decisions.

One convenor reflected on her role and her ability to provide culturally safe and sensitive support throughout the process of meeting families including the children, preparing them for a family meeting, and then holding a family-led decision making meeting: "They [families] are happy to do it [family led decision making] with us because we're murri's. I think that's the bottom line".

Convenors carried a caseload of up to 6 families at one time, with support lasting from three weeks to nine months or more. Each family is different, with some families needing several family meetings over a longer period of time while other families found that issues were sorted during the preparation phase and a family meeting was not necessary.

The key differences of this approach include:

  • Child safety is not present when family first learns of the worries which allows time for processing the information before moving into a meeting
  • Family plans are created in the family’s own words
  • Family members and support people choose for themselves what they can commit to and provide for the safety of children
  • Everyone focuses on building on what is working well for the family and the belief that the children can remain safe in family’s care.

SNAICC has supported the implementation of the trial through enabling peer sharing and support by convenors, as well as through training, site visits, practice support, collaborative discussions with department representatives, and engagement of an Expert Advisory Group for guidance and cultural advice throughout the trial.

The trials finished end of June and an external evaluation is underway. The evaluation is being conducted by Aboriginal consultancy Winangali, in partnership with international research company Ipsos. The evaluation will seek to understand what worked well for different families in different contexts in relation to this model and what can be improved to strengthen the family-led decision making model.

Evaluation findings will be used to inform planning and service delivery, and by the Department to make decisions about future design and funding of the model.
The findings and learnings will enhance practice reforms currently underway in Queensland in regard to family support and wellbeing services provided through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers.

The picture shows the convenors and trial partners celebrating successes and the positive news that the government intends to continue increasing their empowerment of families and community organisations in decision making.

The Department of Child Safety, Far North Queensland (FNQ) has commenced a project to reconnect Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people in out-of-home care with their maternal and paternal families, communities of origin and cultures.

‘Reconnection: Relationships with Family, Community & Culture’ commenced in late 2016 and focuses on the cohort of children who, due to historical Child Safety practices within the FNQ region, are most vulnerable to being disconnected from their families and communities, and who do not have healthy and meaningful relationships with their families and communities of origin. Reconnecting these children and young people with their family, community of origin and culture will support them to foster their identity and emotional, cultural and spiritual needs. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people in out of home care, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families involved in the child protection system and carers of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people are included in the target group for the initiative.

Supporting these Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people to develop strong, healthy relationships with family, community and cultures is a key aim of the project. These aims are strengthened through collaboration between Child Safety Service Centre (CSSC) staff and non-government service providers when identifying extended family who are able to support each child to achieve a sense of identity and belonging.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in CSSCs, Recognised Entities and Wuchopperen Health Service’s Culturally Appropriate Foster and Kinship Service are involved in the project, capitalising on their unique skills and local knowledge. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Safety Support Officers in each CSSC lead the ‘Reconnection’ work and assist Child Safety Officers to identify and support children and young people who are part of the initiative.

The project seeks to achieve true cultural identification of children and young people (Language/Clan/Tribal Group), potential community of origin placements, completion of meaningful Cultural Support Plans, respecting children and young people’s views and wishes to facilitate their healing journey, developing and nurturing relationships with significant family/community members, and engagement and true partnerships with community organisations/members.

Embedding culturally responsive Child Safety practice across the service delivery continuum in the FNQ region, including modelling to other sector partners across the service system is a strategic goal of ‘Reconnect’.

Kowanyama family reconnected

Dion article pic
Photo courtesy of Ray Lennox and Stuart Barty (CSSOs Cape South CSSC)

Acknowledgement – FNQ Child Safety Service Area Leadership Team and FNQ Child Safety Child and Family Cultural Advice Team 

On 9 August 2017, the Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence (Minister Fentiman) introduced the Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2017 into the Queensland Parliament. The Bill proposes important changes to Queensland’s child protection laws and progresses the priority reforms arising from the review. Key proposed changes aim to achieve:

  • permanency and stability for children, now and throughout their lives, including support when they leave care;
  • the safe care and connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their families, communities and cultures; and
  • a contemporary information sharing framework focused on children’s safety and wellbeing.

The Bill has been referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee for consideration. The committee is required to report back to Parliament by 28 September 2017.

Call for submissions
The committee seeks submissions on the Bill and invites you or your organisation to make a submission. We would appreciate you passing our call for submissions on to anyone you believe might be interested in the issue.
An information sheet which provides guidelines on making a submission can be found here - Guide to making a submission

Written submissions should be emailed to hcdsdfvpc@parliament.qld.gov.au or mailed to:
Research Director
Health, Communities, Disability Services, and Domestic and Violence Prevention Committee
Parliament House
George Street
Brisbane Qld 4000

Submissions should include:

  • the author’s name and signature
  • if the submission is made on behalf of an organisation, the level of approval (e.g. a local branch, executive committee or national organisation)
  • mailing address (and email if available), and
  • daytime telephone number.

Please ensure your submission includes the above information or it may not be considered by the Committee.

The closing date for submissions is Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 4.00pm.

Click to here to download the bill and the explanatory notes.

The Post-Conference Tour was held from the 16th to the 17th of June 2017.

One of the first stops that we made was at a town called Masi which was the hometown of the conference coordinator, Christina Hætta. The government wanted to build a dam that would result in the town being flooded with water. The Sami people fought against this happening and the second picture on the left depicts their fight. It demonstrated to me the importance of people power and standing up for our land.

In Kautokeino, we had the opportunity to visit the Sami University (pictured in the top left). The three main departments are: Department of Linguistics; Department of Social Sciences; and, Department of Duodji (traditional Sami handicraft) and Teacher Education. FYI: they are super keen to form partnerships with Australia!

One of my highlights was visiting the Sami Parliament of Norway (the large building in the middle). The Sami Parliament was first convened in 1989. They work under the Sami Act and are a representative body for the Sami people.

I had the opportunity to visit a traditional sea Sami village as well as the northern most part of Europe – Northcape.

So, can anyone guess what’s in the photo on the top right? It’s a seagull egg and dried Moose heart. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to taste either however I heard from my fellow tour buddies that the egg just tasted like a normal egg and the Moose heart was definitely different!

Overall, the Post-Conference Tour was a great way to hear more about the history of the Sami people and also to speak informally with the conference delegates.

Article by Candice Butler

The 4th International Indigenous Voices in Social Work Conference was held in Alta, Norway from the 11th of June to the 14th of June 2017. Nadia Currie (Operations Manager) and I were fortunate to have both our individual abstracts and a joint abstract accepted to present. Some of my highlights include but are definitely not limited to:

  • The first evening of the conference – an evening at the Alta museum. We were fortunate to go on a guided tour of the rock art. What a great way to begin the conference.
  • The first day of the conference was a real eye opener for me - to hear about the history of the Sami people and what they’ve overcome made me realise the similarities that we’ve all we as Indigenous people have experience across the globe (dispossession, racist policies) however we’re all not letting that get in the way of building a better future for our future generations.
  • Hearing about the establishment of the Sami University and the Sami Parliament – both of these places I got to visit during the post-conference tour.
  • Having the opportunity to present the QATSICPP Practice Standards and the Supervision Framework to an international audience was something that I’ll never forget. During the presentation, the audience made me feel relaxed and following the presentation, asked a number of questions.
  • Watching a film about a young Sami fisherwoman and the battles that she’s had to overcome more so with the older generations in becoming a female fisherwoman. Go Girl!!
  • Presenting alongside Nadia internationally was a blast. I feel as though the presentation went really well and that we both took something away from the day.
  • Dr Michael Yellow Bird - I was absolutely blown away by his keynote presentation titled “Neurodecolonization: Examining the connections between mindfulness practices and traditional Indigenous knowledge and contemplative practices”. If you have the opportunity to read any of his work please do. An area that I believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can relate is when he speaks about a traumatic event being able to be passed from generation to generation through our genes.
  • Nadia presenting the project that she and Lenny have worked tirelessly on for the past 12 months was great. You can really see the effort that went into this piece of work and Nadia’s excitement about sharing these findings to an international audience shone through.

Thank-you to the entire QATSICPP team,
Lenny and Sid - coming across to support Nadia and I
Dion and Josh - the good luck messages really meant a lot
Nadia - my presentation buddy for the encouragement to present,
Nat – firstly for allowing me the opportunity to attend and present the work that QATSICPP have been doing even before I began.

Overall, the networks that I have formed by being able to attend this conference has been amazing. Having the opportunity to present to an International audience the deadly work QATSICPP have done and will continue to do was something that I will cherish.

Candice Butler
Senior Practice Leader

Conference: 4th International Indigenous Social Work Conference 2017 – Alta, Norway
Employee: Nadia Currie
Position: Operations Manager

Background

On behalf of QATSICPP, I submitted two (2) abstracts to the 4th International Indigenous Social Work Conference 2017 (Conference) held in Alta, Norway. The two abstracts were:

  1. Redefining Aboriginal Community Control (individual presentation); and
  2. Knowledge Circles (collaborative presentation with Candice Butler).

Both presentations are underpinned by ongoing projects at QATSICPP, which focus on better outcomes for children and families – all the while acknowledging the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.

Context

The Conference was held over four (4) days with international speakers presenting on topics pertaining to social work and the impacts that [they] are currently facing, which ranged from government pressure and/or funding; systemic racism (inclusive of institutional racism); increasing numbers of Indigenous children in the system and new and innovative ways of practicing in the social work arena.

Learning(s)

  • QATSICPP is innovatively ahead of its international counterparts in proactively advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children;
  • The QATSICPP Resources are tools that can be embedded into an international context with practice being holistic and culturally safe and inclusive of different (geographically) communities;
  • Queensland [and Australia] has a dated system that [strongly] demonstrates an increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care; and
  • The sector (this can also refer to other sectors) needs to focus on providing solutions rather than the current system of blaming and only discussing the problems.

Highlight

‘From housing campaign to multicultural understanding: The development of professional social work in Sami areas in Norway’ Professor Jan Erik Henriksen, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Sapmi, Norway

Henriksen’s presentation highlighted the similarities in struggling throughout time with governments’ assimilation policies all the while maintaining cultural connection. Henriksen also spoke about establishing the Sami Parliament and effects that it has had on people in engagement and providing voice to the people.

A major disparity that Henriksen noted in his speech was how the Sami people were affected by World War 2 and the impact of Nazi dominance in the area. This period affected the Sami people with generational losses that in the same affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffered from the Frontier Wars until institutional removal.

Overall, Henriksen’s presentation was the highlight for me as it demonstrated (just like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) that through adversity, strong and capable people emerge to retain their culture and connection so benefit future generations.

60 SECONDS WITH DARLENE ROBERTS

FROM CENTRAL QUEENSLAND INDIGENOUS DEVELOPMENT LTD
ABORIGINAL & TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER
FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICE ROCKHAMPTON

Darlene Roberts
Central Queensland Indigenous Development Ltd Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Support Service (CQIDATSIFSS) Case Manager

Where your mob from: Kalkadoon and Iman

Name a Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person that has influenced your life or encouraged to be the person you are? My Mother has influenced me to be who I am today. She is a dedicated Strong woman who puts family first and has taught us to Respect our Elders as well as others and never to judge.

5 things I cannot live without? My Boyz, Family, Ocean/Beach, Sport & Culture.

What is your favourite flavoured ice cream? Don’t eat Ice Cream but maybe Mango Sorbet.

If you could have a drink with someone from history who would it be? And what drink would you have? My Grandmother as I never got the chance to meet her and maybe a Jack Daniels.

If you could be an animal what would you be? Dolphin, because they’re free in the Ocean.

What is your favourite season and why? Summer as I love swimming and going to the Beach and having BBQ’s with family.

What do you miss most about being a kid? Everything Living free with no responsibilities!

What hobby or activity that you don’t do now but think you might like to do when you retire? I love what I am doing now Community Work, and I would retire doing community work.

What goes through your mind when your boss asks to talk to you privately? What have I done Now!!

What song do you love to dance to? The Best Things In Life Are Free, R&B

Manager’s Comments
Darlene Roberts is a current case manager for the Family Support Service within an indigenous organisation in the Central Queensland Region (Rockhampton). Darlene case manages and facilitates the Indigenous Triple P program with women groups and mix groups. Darlene excels at working with parents to better manage and care for their children. Darlene has links within the community, is also a good link for the community and is a valuable member to the CQID ATSIFSS team.

It is with great pleasure to announce that the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Service Minister Shannon Fenitman has launched the long awaited "Our Way - A generational strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families 2017 - 2037" and the "Changing Tracks - An action plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families 2017 - 2019" documents.

Please see the link here.

Also, see the joint media statement from the Minister Fenitman and Minister Furner from the launch here.

  • Child Protection Environment

    53.7%

    of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were placed with a kinship or Indigenous carer.
  • Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak

    69,200

    There are 69,200 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children / young people in Queensland.