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Aboriginal child wellbeing encompasses the social, emotional and cultural functioning of a child that promotes healthy development, resilience in developing and maintaining relationships and connections to culture. Caseworkers work towards ensuring the lifelong well-being of Aboriginal children so that they can thrive with family and be raised strong in spirit and identity.
Aboriginal family wellbeing approaches respect the unique differences of Aboriginal families, strengthens and empowers families to prevent the need for intrusive intervention, and promotes wellbeing and stability of the whole family. It incorporates an understanding of the impact of trauma on the whole family, including intergenerational trauma and the broader service systems that respond to the needs of Aboriginal people who have experienced trauma.
In applying the Aboriginal Child Placement Principles, caseworkers:
These principles are interdependent and interconnected. Casework practice reflects all of the above principles.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms consist of a formal structure established by local Aboriginal communities through their own processes to represent the interests of their community. They are directly accountable to Aboriginal communities. These mechanisms provide oversight of decisions and actions affecting Aboriginal children, their families, and communities, and may encompass but are not limited to:
An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO):
An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation advocating on behalf of Aboriginal stakeholders, including relevant local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, and including the development of policy and systems to best meet the needs of Aboriginal communities. Within the NSW child and family sector, AbSec (the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat) is the recognised Aboriginal Peak Body. Within the legal sector, Aboriginal Legal Services NSWACT is the recognised Aboriginal Peak Body.
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. Aboriginal families are cohesive through the binding of multi-generational relatives (for example 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 engage with each family and their unique perspective and context, enabling effective family finding and empowering these broad networks for the care of their children.
The Care Act (section 12) provides legislative guidance to ensuring participation of Aboriginal families and communities in decision making and actions affecting them; including being consulted in the care and protection of their children. Consistent with the principle of self-determination (section 11), these systems are designed and administered by Aboriginal communities through their own decision making structures. Caseworkers engage these processes early in the continuum of support and choose a method that is suitable to the family noting that the core elements of Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making include:
The facilitator is responsible for creating a culturally safe environment which is based on transparency, inclusiveness, honesty and respectful communication. The Aboriginal Community Facilitator offers knowledge of Aboriginal communities and families, is trusted within the community and is culturally informed to ensure that a holistic response is provided to address family problems. The Aboriginal Community Facilitator supports family members to engage with the process, and advocates on behalf of Aboriginal families and communities to ensure that appropriate processes are followed and the rights of Aboriginal children, families and communities are respected.
The Aboriginal Community Facilitator is an independent person and partners with the family members to prepare them for their role in the decision making process. The family is the primary decision-maker, identifying their goals and priorities and their plan of action to achieve them. This requires that families are properly informed about the nature of any concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their children. These processes can also help to identify and map family/kin, create advocates for the family, and form partnerships with communities.
Families are given the opportunity to establish their own family plans, without statutory intervention and other non-family members present. Family members are given time to work through the information and to formulate their own responses and plans. This also applies in matters that require a permanency outcome. This enables the family to apply their own knowledge and expertise that are consistent with their cultural decision making practices, to take their time and take active steps. In establishing a plan of action, caseworkers support the family to strengthen their informal support networks and engage with formal support services to help achieve their goals in a sustainable way. Proactive efforts to overcome barriers to service access are undertaken, supporting families to achieve their goals and keep children safe.
Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making is not a one-off process, but reflects a commitment to create a network of care for Aboriginal children and their families, drawing on both informal and formal supports. Caseworkers reconvene meetings to review the implementation of case plans, consider new information or recent developments and identify any new actions to be included or resources required. Pro-active efforts are made to ensure that families are adequately supported to achieve the identified goals, strength family functioning and keeping children safe.
An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation is one that is accredited by the Office of the Children’s Guardian to provide out-of-home care services to children and young people in NSW.
Caseworkers recognise that all actions concerning the best interests of an Aboriginal child are paramount to ensuring their safety, where necessary. In doing so, caseworkers consider the cultural rights of the child and their need to exercise such rights collectively with members of their family and community. Consideration is given to the holistic rights of an Aboriginal child, including their rights to safety, their rights to live with family, their rights to access health, education and housing in order to reach their full potential. These rights can only be determined in partnership with Aboriginal families and communities, including them in all decisions about the care and protection of their children.
The Care Act (section 11-14) provides legislative guidance to ensuring the participation of Aboriginal children, families and communities in decisions and actions that may affect them and requires greater involvement and control of Aboriginal communities in the welfare and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and families.
Culturally responsive case management is an inclusive approach that is respectful and understands the unique cultural perspectives and experiences of Aboriginal families and communities. It values self-determination and the individual dignity and rights of Aboriginal people.
Caseworkers have an understanding of how their own values and expectations may impact on their decisions and how they work with Aboriginal children, their families and communities, including how they involve Aboriginal people in Aboriginal family led decision making processes. Caseworkers critically reflect on how they have included and represented Aboriginal culture into assessment and planning.
Culturally embedded supports and services are those designed and delivered by Aboriginal people and organisations and aligned to the values and perspectives of Aboriginal communities. Culturally embedded approaches ensure that Aboriginal cultural perspectives are intrinsic to all elements of service delivery, as opposed to being an additional element applied to a non-Aboriginal program.
Endorsement by Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms aims to:
Endorsement by Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms includes:
Oversight by Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms aims to:
Oversight by Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms includes:
Participatory approaches are those that respect individuals and families as active agents in their own lives and seeks to engage with them to drive responses to identified challenges. Participatory approaches are inclusive, as opposed to exclusive in their engagement of individuals and families.
A suite of tools used by DCJ to guide decision making about Safety Assessment, Risk Assessment, Risk Re-assessment, Restoration Assessment and Screening and Response Priority.
Unless otherwise stated in this document, all references to a ‘day’ is a reference to a calendar day (not a business day).
The pro-active efforts standard requires caseworkers to take meaningful steps to actively support families to address identified risks that are threatening the separation of a child from their family. The guidelines provide some of the actions that caseworkers demonstrate and document when applying the pro-active standard. It is the service system’s responsibility to assist families to overcome barriers affecting their access to services.
A recognised Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation is one that has been identified by AbSec as a suitable organisation to support and oversee cultural planning and implementation for Aboriginal children and young people in statutory care. It meets the definition of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (see above), however may not be delivering out-of-home care or other child welfare services (for example, a Local Aboriginal Land Council).
Strengths-based, family-centred approaches are those that value Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and recognises the protective role of culture for ensuring the safety and well-being of Aboriginal children and young people. Caseworkers draw upon the unique strengths of the whole family and engage the family as a partner through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making processes.
There is a greater chance of vulnerable Aboriginal children, families and communities having witnessed and experienced high levels of stress and trauma. Caseworkers are mindful of the indicators and impacts of trauma, appreciating the context of Aboriginal families and communities including inter-generational trauma and understanding that a parent or child’s presentation or behaviour may be an expression of trauma.
Culture is the lens through which we understand and attribute meaning to our experiences and environment, or select our responses. There may be some areas of cultural difference, for example, caseworkers may be able to see particular behaviours in a particular cultural tradition. Connection to culture and community is an important part of development in itself and has been identified as a protective factor for children and young people.
Principles of trauma-informed practice emphasise the need to help both children and parents feel safe. This limits further experiences of trauma, and provides the space required to facilitate change. Relationships are critical to helping Aboriginal children and families feel safe, and are supported by an understanding of how trauma affects their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as an understanding of their beliefs and values (culturally competent practice). Trauma-informed practice empowers families to take control of, and responsibility for, their own healing and recovery, including for the care and protection of their children, facilitating changes that are more likely to be sustainable
02 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.