Join the conversation – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in child protection

Join the conversation – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in child protection

18 July 2018
Join the conversation – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in child protection

This webinar outlined recent initiatives that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and self-determination in child protection.

This webinar explored promising initiatives that support the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and agencies in child protection matters. These included emerging models of Aboriginal guardianship for Aboriginal children in Victoria, family participation in Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled family wellbeing services, and new models of Aboriginal-led governance for service system oversight at state and regional levels.

A full recording of this webinar is available on our YouTube Channel.

The audio, transcript and presentation slides are also available.

Related resources

Feature image is by Ben Searcy, courtesy of Family Matters South Australia.


Muriel mentioned a number of encouraging programs/requirements in place or undergoing a trial to enable self-determination and child protection. Have any of these progressed far enough to assess how well they work? i.e is there enough evidence to argue that it is working yet?
Hi MB, please see Muriel's response to Tracey De Simone's question below, which covers similar issues.
Adam Dean
This is a question for Professor Bamblett. I think you mentioned efforts focused on gathering or strengthening the evidence base. How far advanced are these efforts, how necessary to you think this is, and how optimistic are you about positive outcomes from this?
Currently we are developing an outcomes framework we are also hoping to dedicate some resources over the coming months to develop a culturally appropriate menu of evidence as much of our current funding is to undertake cultural work with Aboriginal children, young people and families. Organisationally we are developing a new case management system which will provide greater detail on the child, their family and their story. The CSPs will be incorporated into this. This system will support how we collect client data and how it will inform our practice.
Muriel Bamblett
The webinar today was extremely informative. Is it possible to receive a copy of the slides?
Ian Kendrick
Muriel spoke of the importance of transferring responsibility to ACCO's if we want to see greater self-determination and a reduction of numbers of Aboriginal children in care. In NSW the policy is to transfer all Aboriginal children to ACCOs, but in terms of implementation, progress is slow. What factors have made implementation of this policy successful in Victoria ?
There is still a lot of work to be done in Victoria, so we have seen some great steps towards achieving targets however it is a complex and challenging process. We have set ambitious targets, 80% of all Aboriginal children on protection orders that can be contracted to be transferred to the responsibility of an ACCO by the end of this year, and 100% by 2020. The realisation of these targets is only possible with the shared accountability, responsibility and support from government, non-government sector and ACCOs, alongside adequate resourcing. This is why the Beyond Good Intentions statement is so important. There are many things that have contributed to the growth of providers within Victoria, two key contributors have been the appointment of an Aboriginal Children's Commissioner and a personal commitment by the Minister for Community Services. The Minister established the Aboriginal Children's forum where senior rep's from government across all regions, CSO's and CEO's of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations from across the state and set KPI's that are tightly monitored. Through these forums there has been a 70% increase in funding to deliver on major reforms.
Muriel Bamblett
Professor Bamblett mentioned that she if she had further time, she could elaborate on the practical application of the child placement principles in practice. I am really keen to hear about some of those examples, as we are about to embark upon this journey in Queensland and my job to is assist the department to show a court how they have used their active efforts to incorporate the placement principles. i would love to hear how other jurisdictions have achieved or tried to achieve this.
Tracey De Simone
Hi Tracey, Not sure if this is a help as if you're working in this field you are likely already aware that QATSCIPP do significant work in this area in QLD. Have you tried making contact with them regarding your query about local examples and advice, or tried Candice Butler from there, who presented in the webinar before Muriel? SNAICC also has resources related to your query, including their paper which you can find by googling: Understanding and applying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: A resource for legislation, policy and program development.
It is important to remember the intent of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP). “While the ACPP applies from the point that the child is placed in OOHC, it is an underlying intent of the ACPP that Aboriginal children should remain in the care of their families of origin wherever possible. The intention is for the system to give the child and their family as much support as possible, to allow them to live together safely.” There is also the recognition that, “The objectives of the [ACPP is] to ensure that, recognition is given to an Aboriginal child’s right to be raised in their own culture and, to the importance and value of family, extended family, kinship networks, culture and community in raising,— ‘growing up’—Aboriginal children.” It is important to demonstrate that you are both adhering to the intent of the principle as well as the hierarchy outlined in s 13 of the Child Youth and Family Act 2005 (Vic). To do this it is important to develop a set of guidelines and principles from a practice and policy perspective to support staff in the transition. Our Lakidjeka Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Services Program (ACSASS) works with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide culturally informed and appropriate advice at the point of placement for Aboriginal children and young people in out of home care. They seek and identify possible family placements as a matter of priority. Our Family Finding Program saw the reunification of a 5-sibling family last year, after years of not seeing each other. Our workers used genograms to help map out this particular family, and then used social media platforms to reach out and communicate with older siblings and family members. In the presentation I discussed our Nugel Program, as part of the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program, the ACPP has been used as part of our advocacy approach in the courts to highlight alternative family placements which has resulted in a different trajectory. Cultural Support Planning (CSPs) provides another opportunity for workers and their clients to map out family genograms. We know that we still have work to do to ensure that all children in out of home care on guardianship orders have CSPs. They are a critical step in ensuring our children are strong in their identity and culture. We have seen in our Return to Country program the reunification of family members, and in a couple of circumstances where the young person has returned to living with their family. In order to comply with the ACPP it is also important to have capacity to place Aboriginal children from interstate back with their family. Often our systems look only within the state where child comes to attention of child protection. Many of the children VACCA works with come from interstate having family finding services in each state and territory would assist also in complying with ACPP.
Muriel Bamblett
Tasmania have made changes to the principle of our legislation that now includes a statement about Aboriginal families, kinship groups, Aboriginal communities and organisations representing Aboriginal people have a major, self-determining role in promoting the wellbeing of Aboriginal children. Similar to the comment above, I would really like to hear more from Muriel on implementation success factors and the barriers to implementation.
Tracey Newman
I think that there are many challenges where there are no dedicated Aboriginal child and family welfare services nor peak agencies at the state and territory level. Government also needs to invest in Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
Muriel Bamblett
Yes I agree, thanks Muriel.
Tracey Newman
Thanks for your questions, everyone. We hope to publish responses from our presenters next week. A full recording of the webinar and related resources, including slides, audio and a transcript, will be published soon. Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive a notification when these resources are available:
Adam Dean
Can you please comment about what is being done about increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families as foster families and/or kin carers?
Hi Toni, The QATSICPP have recently completed a position paper on the importance of Aboriginal Kinship Carers. This paper highlights the importance of families being engaged in discussions regarding possible Kin carers during the initial Child Protection continuum. Furthermore, this paper highlights the importance of providing genuine support for our kin carers. I encourage you to read the position statement which can be found at:
Candice Butler
Thanks Candice, I will be interested to read this paper.
Tracey Newman
We have targeted foster care campaigns to engage the Victorian Aboriginal community ie. radio, community social and recreational events and digital campaigning. Networking and referrals are one of our main avenues for foster care recruitment. We continue to strengthen our relationships with Aboriginal community members. We are also working with Fostering Connections (Vic govt funded foster care recruitment initiative) to build a campaign to engage potential carers through their networks. Once a potential carer has shown interest we provide a supportive and engaging training program. Alongside our recruitment and support strategy is the evaluation and research of our current practice, to ensure that we are providing safe, stable and culturally safe homes for our children who cannot live with their parents at this point in time. In regards to kinship care recruitment we know that it takes time and effort to contact and connect with family members, particularly when they have had limited or lost contact with the young person in our care. We have found kinship carers through social media, and community events. With additional funding for Kinship Carers we are able to better support family with supports such as respite, holiday program activities etc. We know we need to substantially grow our pool of carers over the coming years to meet the needs of children in care.
Muriel Bamblett
How do you think self-determination and guardianship orders for children in OOHC work together?
For our children, self-determination is about building a strong sense of identity and belonging. We know that Aboriginal children are over-represented in out of home care and youth justice and too often one is a pre-requisite for the other. At VACCA we advocate that, connection to culture, community and country is vital to support the safety and identity of Aboriginal children, and we believe that ACCOs are best placed to connect Aboriginal children and their families back to culture where there has been a disconnection. In November last year we launched our Nugel (the Woiwurrung word for ‘belong’) program, as part of the Aboriginal in Aboriginal Care Program, this was over a decade in the making. As per s18 of the Children, Youth and Family Act 2005 (Vic), as the CEO of VACCA, I have been authorised to parental responsibility, and the functions and powers in respect of a small group of Aboriginal children (34). As discussed in my presentation, From the legislative reform of the Child, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (CYFA) it took considerable time to Self-determination and s18 of the Child Youth and Families Act, which relates to the transfer of children on protection orders to the Principal Officer of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.
Muriel Bamblett
Hi Janelle, In relation to self-determination and guardianship orders for children in OOHC, I see them working together. We can do this by ensuring that the voice and participation of children, families and communities are gathered for any significant decision making process. I think it’s just as important to ensure that the voices of children and families are gathered during case planning, cultural support planning and transition from OOHC as they are during the Investigation and Assessment process.
Candice Butler
Is the whole concept of self determination something that needs to be embedded in all professional training so that it is a required generalisation? And is self determination around building partnerships too?
Yes, the concept of self-determination needs to be embedded within organisations, so it impacts not only the children, young people and adults we work with but also our staff. Embedding self-determination and achieving these objectives will require individual community sector organisations to be committed to the process beginning from the Board down to individual staff and how they interact with clients. To a large extent the sector in Victoria has already responded to change when the DHHS Standards were introduced and we are now doing so again in the aftermath of the Royal Commission with the introduction of Child Safe Standards.  The same measures and strategies need to be brought to bear to realise self-determination for Aboriginal people. Structural changes to the partnerships we have with other ACCOs, mainstream CSOs and the department that support self-determination are also an essential part of this process. Below are some of the requirements to embed self-determination: • Requires a relationship built on trust and integrity: it is a sustained relationship between groups of people working towards shared goals. • Articulates Aboriginal people’s voice into the plan, into the vision, strategies, indicators and outcomes with shared accountability and buy in from the sector • Promoting and supporting Aboriginal organisations to deliver services to their communities • Explore partnerships with Indigenous organisations within a framework of self-determination and Indigenous control.  • Address power inequalities, with genuine efforts to share power, including through negotiated agreements • Enabling policy frameworks • Commitment Aboriginal Workforce Training is an essential component in communicating these changes to all staff, across the sector.
Muriel Bamblett
Hi Kat, Absolutely, self-determination is something that needs to be highlighted in all professional training. We need to ensure that all professions are aware of the importance of hearing the voices and genuine participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I believe that self-determination is definitely around building productive and genuine partnerships were all parties are equal.
Candice Butler
With an understanding of intergenerational trauma caused by past policy and practices, how can we best work with families subject to a CP order, where there is an Aboriginal parent using violence against a non-Indigenous parent, and their children? Where a non-Indigenous parent has full parental responsibility due to the risk posed by an offending parent who is Aboriginal, how can non-Indigenous parents best engage with ACCOs?
The first priority is the child’s safety. As per s14 (4) of the CYFA: “If a child has one Aboriginal parent and one non-Aboriginal parent, the child must be placed with the parent with whom it is in the best interests of the child to be placed provided that parent acts to keep the child safe.” Then it is about building in support and adhering to the ACPP to work with the parent who is violent and providing support services so that hopefully they can be reunited when it is safe to do so. Cultural Support Plans provide a vital tool to support Aboriginal children in OOHC, they provide cultural knowledge and support avenues for engaging at community events. To complete the CSP an ACCO will need to be involved, this is an opportunity for the non-Indigenous parent to discuss the best interests of their child and ensure they can learn about, and practice their culture and engage with their community. We encourage and support non-Aboriginal foster carers and parents to participate in all aspects of our Aboriginal community as the children get exposure to culture but also are able to socialise with other Aboriginal children and young people in safe and welcoming environments.
Muriel Bamblett
Candice - what changes will be made to the Family Led Decision trials to ensure Child Safety Officers are giving authority to the FLDM Convenors? This seemed to be a problem in the trials...
Hi Mark, I think we do really need to ensure that there is an addressing of the power imbalance first and foremost for the FLDM convenors to be able to undertake their roles. One of the key roles of the new Family Participation Program will be to undertake FLDM processes with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander families. Therefore, the Department need to ensure that referrals are being made to these programs as soon as the child has been identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. I am hopeful that the Department will ensure that there are clear policies and processes in relation to the FPP and when/how to refer a family to an FLDM. We need to ensure that the cultural authority during this process sits with the family and the service ensures that they are a voice for that family. The service needs to be adequately resourced and not have unrealistic timeframes to have a FLDM completed.
Candice Butler
The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry Taking Responsibility: A Roadmap for Queensland Child Protection (2013) the ‘Carmody Report’ was the catalyst for legislative reform in QLD with 115 out of 121 recommendations accepted and implemented and the remaining 6 accepted in principle. It appears to have had more success, in terms of outcomes than previous inquiries, what are some of the main or significant improvements?
Hi Linda, Some of the main/significant improvements have included but not limited to: • The establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Services; • The review of the Recognised Entity Program; • The Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017; • The principle of Self-Determination being included in the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017 • The full five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Principles into the Child Protection Reform Amendment Act 2017 • The trials of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Led Decision Making in Queensland • The new Framework for Practice within the Department of Child Safety. However, we still have a long way to go in the area of reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC.
Candice Butler
As a person that works in an NFP in the NSW child protection system, I am very interested to hear more about the Family Participation Program that Candice spoke about. How does it work? How do you ensure meaningful participation?
Hi Kylie, One of the key functions of the Family Participation Program will be the facilitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family-led Decision Making (ATSIFLDM). The process of ATSIFLDM will give authority to families to lead decision making in a culturally safe space. This in turn will allow families to develop a safety plan and solutions to child protection concerns. The convenor will be independent and situated within an ACCO. This new program will work closely alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Services so that families can be offered access to the support provided by a Family Wellbeing Service.
Candice Butler

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