Indigenous Parenting Support Service (IPSS) at Relationships Australia SA

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles



Practice focus

The emphasis on community and client consultation in identifying family and community needs allows the IPSS to refine the delivery of the program and to deliver culturally appropriate services that are effective in delivering outcomes for Aboriginal families.

The focus on helping Aboriginal families to establish supportive networks and relationships among their communities is another feature of the program.

Delivered by

Relationships Australia SA: A not-for-profit non-Government organisation.

The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by a Team Leader at the IPSS.

Service type

The IPSS provides intensive family support for families with children who are at risk of abuse/neglect. Support is delivered through one-to-one (1:1) support, small groups and/or educational sessions that address factors that may contribute to child abuse/neglect such as drug and alcohol abuse and financial management.

The overarching aim of the service is to build strong and supportive community networks for Aboriginal children and families.

The service is delivered exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents/families with children under 12 years, with a focus on those with children 0-2 years.


The IPSS operates out of Salisbury, SA and is available to families and children who live in or access services in the Southern Elizabeth area. The service is also delivered in remote areas in and around the Aboriginal townships of Amata and Mimili.


The IPSS focuses on supporting families with children who are at risk of abuse/neglect. Relationships Australia SA sought to be involved in the program as it delivers a number of other child-focused programs and saw the need for a service that focused specifically on supporting Indigenous families. The IPSS aims to enhance the wellbeing of Indigenous children by supporting families and their children to manage and protect themselves in crisis situations that may occur in their family groups. The approach is to build parenting skills to stengthen the capacity of Indigenous families and communities to keep their children safe.

Services include:

  • a Friday playgroup at Kaurna Plains Children's Centre;
  • a weekly drop-in program for mums and new babies, focusing on feeding and settling new babies, and accessing formal and informal networks;
  • the "New Tracks" program for mothers experiencing post-natal depression. An onsite creche provide mothers with valuable time out to yarn with a range of support people and to learn self-care strategies; and,
  • a "Dad and kid's" BBQ and games night.

It is anticipated that:

  • families will feel and exhibit more confidence in effectively and appropriately managing the care and wellbeing of their children;
    • children will be more actively engaged with child care, preschool and school; and,
  • factors inhibiting effective parenting will have been addressed and families supported to be more engaged in the community.

The service is Commonwealth funded through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA). Initially there was a twelve month contract that was followed by the existing three year contract (July 2011 to June 2014). There are two streams of funding: one is for the delivery of the program in Mimili and Amata which covers eight to ten fly-in/fly-out visits per community every twelve months. The other is a program in the township of Elizabeth and its surrounding area where educational sessions and intensive 1:1 family support are delivered.


MOST promising aspect

The program's 1:1 intensive work with families shows promise in delivering outcomes for Aboriginal families. Families enjoy working with the same person and are more likely to disclose their issues and to discuss the range of options that are available to them.

Other promising aspects

Relationships are critical to working with people in complex family/home situations. Clients need to know their workers, to be able to trust them and to know that support will be maintained. This knowledge has resulted in IPSS focusing on having the same worker dealing with the same family as much as possible.

Evidence base and opportunities

The IPSS consults extensively with Aboriginal community members about their needs and about the ongoing refinement of the service and how the service is delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. This helps to build trust among Aboriginal communities while ensuring that the program can deliver culturally appropriate services. Building relationships and establishing trust are key ingredients in providing effective services and culturally specific approaches are known to work well in delivering positive outcomes for Aboriginal families.

The provision of one to one (1:1) intensive family support is another recognised method of providing effective support. Coupled with a range of soft entry approaches, such as the IPSS' weekly drop-in program for young mothers and the provision of an on-site creche, the service is able to direct families to more formal services while helping families to establish healthy relationships and networks within their communities. The efforts of the IPSS in engaging fathers also serves to strengthen understandings about how to protect their children, and the "Dad's and kids" events provide further opportunities for fathers to share their concerns and knowledge among their networks in the community.

An opportunity exists to further understand how the IPSS can achieve outcomes for families and communities in the longer-term. While ongoing feedback from participants helps to refine the IPSS' delivery approaches, a more formal evaluation approach would help to identify the real impact of the service in the community, while contributing to the evidence-base around what works to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

As part of the IPSS employment strategy there is an emphasis on employing Aboriginal workers. The service ensures that there is a minimum of one Aboriginal staff member and further efforts are being made to employ more Aboriginal workers. All staff from Relationships Australia SA undertake cultural fitness training and at the start of each year, the IPSS team undertake two days of professional development that includes the collaboration of Aboriginal Elders under supervision from a senior Aboriginal manager.

Aboriginal Elders from the communities are consulted about the delivery of the program and their input and guidance is sought on a continual basis. As a result, culturally relevant educational sessions have been developed and implemented based on their concerns, such as the safety and needs of young children. The type of support that is provided through the IPSS is determined by the needs of the client/family through consultation and input from those clients. The service also consults and collaborates with other Aboriginal organisations, particularly where they provide support to mutual clients. This limits the duplication of information and importantly, it ensures that clients are supported in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.


Evaluation status

The service has not been evaluated, lthough an internal evaluation is underway. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies or individuals are not expected to participate in the design or conduct of the evaluation other than through the data provided by Aboriginal clients.


Demonstrated outcomes

Outcomes are primarily indicated through ongoing client feedback. Through this process it was noted by some clients that the consistency of IPSS' case management approach (having the same worker dealing with the same family where possible) was critical in delivering positive outcomes for families. For example, a worker was able to build enough trust with one family to the level where the family felt more confident in the strategies suggested to deal with their child who was frequently being suspended from school. Over time, the family was able to develop more effective behaviour management of the child and the family's reaction to the child's inappropriate behaviour was moderated and more considered. This resulted in the child behaving in a more appropriate manner and as a result, began to enjoy school and attend more often.

Clients also reported a positive change in their shopping habits so that less sugary food is in the children's diets. Furthermore, some clients suggested that a more appropriate use of Centrepay payments had occured after financial education sessions were delivered in their community.

Other evidence

Anecdotal evidence shows that participants have been discussing IPSS sessions at other venues with interested community members.

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