Family Relationships Quarterly No. 17

AFRC Newsletter No. 17 – September 2010

The Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network (ACATLGN)

by Shane Merritt, Amanda Harris and Elspeth Macdonald

The Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network (ACATLGN) aims to promote understanding of child and adolescenttrauma, loss and grief. It is supported by Australian Government funding under the COAG New Early Intervention Services for Parents, Children and Young People Measure, and is a national network based from the Australian National University. A key component of the network is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub, a web-based resource providing specific resources to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trauma, loss and grief.

This article outlines the origins and aims of the Hub, and describes the content and future directions of the resource.

The ACATLGN website1 contains information for practitioners/service providers, educators/trainers, researchers, child and family advocates, parents, other caregivers and interested members of the community. The content is informed by a panel of experts in the fields of child and adolescent trauma, loss and grief. The network has key priority areas, and "hubs" have been established. These include the following resource topic areas: "Disasters and mass adversities", "Early childhood and schools", and "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities". Details of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub follow.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub

In all scoping consultations, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub was seen as a key focus of the network. Stakeholders saw the need for a specific section of the main website to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trauma, loss and grief. A national reference group was set up, teleconferences were held, and many consultations yielded various creative ideas. The First Steps Yarning Paper was drafted, and this recorded some of the outcomes of our first round of yarning about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub. Conversations with 14 people (predominantly Aboriginal peoples) contributed to this document. The paper was further distributed for comment by Indigenous peoples involved in related areas. A roundtable meeting was held in Canberra in February 2009, with Aboriginal peoples attending from around Australia and providing input to the Hub directions.

To date, approximately one-quarter of our members identify their primary area of practice as being with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Two Indigenous consultants were employed to join the project team. Their roles included continued consultation with the reference group, and continued development of content and resources.

The aims of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hub of the ACATLGN include facilitating and enhancing networking and linkages between relevant stakeholders, providing ongoing advice and access to expertise about related issues, and assisting and guiding the development, review and collation of Indigenous-specific resources and information. Other aims are to continue to disseminate up-to-date information relevant to stakeholders involved in practice, policy, research, education and training. This work will continue for the life of the ACATLGN network.

Material on the website

Topic areas for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander section of the site were decided upon after general consultation and input from the Reference Group, but will continue to be refined and added to. Current topic/content areas on the Hub include social justice and human rights, loss and grief, resilience, cultural awareness, out-of home care, youth suicide, trans-generational trauma, and healing.

How do we ensure quality of content? One way is to "member check". Sometimes we forward a request to our reference group or colleagues to review a section of the site. We ask them for feedback, and also ask them to forward the content to others, to get additional feedback in a snowballing process. We want our site to be interactive, current and informed. Through networking with and consulting our reference group, we will strive to link this information with community stories and community experiences. We also strive to further embrace technology, and recent additions to the site include video lectures, audio and podcasts.

We have recently developed a series of interviews on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's trauma, loss and grief, with five members of the Footprints in Time Steering Committee.2

We have also incorporated a gallery - "Resilience through the arts". We provide a space online where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists will present their work on a rotational basis. Additionally, we are working on integrating audio files onto the website - "Resilience through music" - giving an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians to present their work on a rotational basis.

Contributions

  • Submissions for the gallery and music integration are being sought. If you would like to showcase your work, or talk with us about any other matter, please contact us through the website < http://www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au> 
  • Indigenous Children and Families <http://www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au/Indigenous-children-and-families>

Shane Merritt is an Aboriginal Consultant, Dr Elspeth Macdonald is Director, and Amanda Harris is the Website Content Coordinator, all at the Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network.

Endnotes

1 See The Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Grief Network <www.earlytraumagrief.anu.edu.au>

2 Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) is funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs <www.fahcsia.gov.au/about-fahcsia/publications-articles/research-publications/longitudinal-data-initiatives/footprints-in-time-the-longitudinal-study-of-indigenous-children-lsic>. It aims to improve the understanding of, and policy response to, the diverse circumstances faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families and communities.