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Aboriginal family and knowledge systems of caring for children are among the most significant aspects of Aboriginal culture and is critical to a child’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, cultural and spiritual development. The connections to family, community, Country and culture are central to a child’s lifelong wellbeing, identity and sense of belonging. Aboriginal culture is rich, strong and diverse despite the profound impacts of colonisation including the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families. The effects of intergenerational trauma, cultural disconnection and family disruption continue to be lived and experienced by Aboriginal people today emphasising the critical need for healing and empowering Aboriginal people through their own processes.
The Aboriginal family system is distinct and consists of strong extended family and community structures rather than just the parents or immediate family alone, these structures are especially important to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people. Aboriginal children are the responsibility of the entire family and community and often there are significant members who are relied upon to play vital roles in raising and educating children. Practitioners appreciate this broader conceptualisation of ‘family and acknowledge Aboriginal families' as a cohesive group including blood and multi-generation relatives (eg. parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins) but this also extends to significant people who are connected through marriage, kinship systems, community ties and cultural obligations. Practitioners understand the complex system of these relationships to enable effective family finding, empowering these broad networks for the care of their children.
Aboriginal young people identify relationships across their families and communities, including the important role of Elders, and connection to culture as central to their experience of safety. They emphasise the enduring nature of these connections, contributing to their feeling of safety in the present as well as supporting them into the future for lifelong wellbeing. It is essential that Aboriginal children remain immersed in culture and connected to their families.
Aboriginal case management is a critical element to supporting Aboriginal families and children in contact or at risk of contact with the child protection and out of home care system in NSW. Aboriginal families and communities know how to keep their children safe and to raise them strong in their own community and culture. Practitioners seek out solutions that acknowledge Aboriginal people’s cultural ways of life. It is understood that separation from family is also separation from critical cultural connections. Therefore, practitioners embed in their practice an understanding of the structures and concepts that exist in Aboriginal families and communities.
The Aboriginal Case Management Policy, and upcoming Rules and Practice Guidance, aim to strengthen the role of case management supporting Aboriginal families and children across the continuum of support from earlier intervention through to out of home care, recognising the multiple pathways that are adopted in order to achieve stability for Aboriginal children, and strengthening the potential in families.
Aboriginal case management is a collective response to the needs and vulnerabilities of Aboriginal families and children, taking a focused relationship-based approach and embedding clear decision-making that is inclusive of informal supports, as well as the responsibility of the formal service system to Aboriginal children and families.
The Aboriginal Case Management Policy, and upcoming Rules and Practice Guidance take a holistic approach to strengthening families and supporting children and young people, inclusive of the roles and responsibilities of key practitioners across multiple service systems. Importantly, the Policy and upcoming Rules and Practice Guidance, to be applied to government and non-government operated supports for Aboriginal families and children, has been designed based on the aspirations, expectations and perspectives of Aboriginal people. In doing so it aims to ensure the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal families and children in NSW.
13 Feb 2023
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future.
Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.