AbSec conference blog:
Day 2, Thursday 23 November
Learning from our northern friends
The first day of our conference segment exclusively for Aboriginal sector workers began with an outstanding keynote address from Canadian guests Jocelyn Formsma and Caleb Turner. Both hail from the Moose Cree First Nation in northern Ontario.
Jocelyn, a lawyer and advocate for Indigenous peoples’ and children’s rights, gave an informative overview of the international rights frameworks and regulatory bodies that Indigenous peoples can call upon to help assert their rights domestically. She also spoke about effective youth engagement, emphasising that if young people are a large part of the population, their voices should be as prominent as their numbers.
Caleb lifted off from this point, discussing his work as a youth mentor and program leader in his remote Indigenous community. Caleb organises a successful program giving First Nations children an opportunity to visit Country and live a traditional lifestyle. His words conveyed his strong belief that reconnecting to land is essential to the wellbeing of all Indigenous peoples.
A diverse range of workshops
Next we broke into a series of workshops. Cheryl Barnes from Wentworth Community Housing spoke about the links between out-of-home care and homelessness, and how we can prevent Aboriginal young people from becoming homeless after leaving care.
Nadia Currie from QATSICPP discussed the definition of Aboriginal community control and her organisation’s efforts to standardise this definition across Australia. Such standardisation and recognition could lead the way to earmarked funding for our Aboriginal community organisations for delivering services for our people.
Briallen Dillon, Allison Prior and Stella Cue represented the Office of the Children’s Guardian in a discussion of the Carers Register, why it exists and how accreditation is determined. She answered questions to clarify the accreditation process and how more Aboriginal people can become accredited to meet the growing need for carers within our communities.
The NSW Advocate for Children and Young People (ACYP), Andrew Johnson, gave an overview of his office’s recent consultations with Aboriginal young people across the state. Highlighted issues included youth detention and the difficulty of gaining a driver’s licence. The consultations also revealed that while most adults know about services available to Aboriginal people in their local community, young people didn’t tend to be aware of these. The ACYP aims to consult 4,000 Aboriginal young people in total; 500 people have been consulted so far, including in visits to youth detention centres.
Child safety and industry development
After lunch we heard from Janet Schorer, who is four months into her role as NSW Children’s Guardian. She spoke about her office’s resources to promote child safety, and outlined her intent to engage proactively with Aboriginal organisations across NSW over the next year.
Following this was a discussion of the Aboriginal Child and Family Industry Development Strategy, a document currently being co-designed by AbSec and the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). Tim Ireland presented AbSec’s perspective on the strategy, while Eleri Morgan-Thomas outlined the FACS perspective.
The Industry Development Strategy seeks to establish a state-wide safety net of holistic community services, provided by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations for Aboriginal children and families. The FACS Executive Board has endorsed the strategy and today FACS reiterated their support of the initiative, committing to resource the next stage of the strategy’s development: a thorough community consultation.
Disability support, education and early intervention
We closed out the afternoon with another workshop session, divided into four groups. Trisha Ladogna from the Department of Education and Communities discussed the poorer educational outcomes of children and young people in out-of-home care, and the Department’s aims to improve their support and quality of teaching for these students.
Ruth Callaghan and Kim Davies from Northcott outlined their partnership with Redfern Jarjums College on a wide-ranging community development program to improve outcomes for the college’s students. In the process, they have identified that many children at the college are eligible for support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and are helping to improve their families’ knowledge of and access to the scheme.
Meanwhile, Brendon Bear and Ann Murphy from My Choice Matters presented an introduction to the NDIS, explaining how this emerging system works and how Aboriginal people with disability as well as their carers can get the most out of it.
There was a lot of interest in FACS’ workshop on targeted earlier intervention, presented by Anthony Shannon and Ricky Wighton. Anthony discussed the new Aboriginal Targeted Earlier Intervention Strategy, its core aims to provide more effective support to families focused on crisis prevention rather than crisis response, and the ongoing process of implementation.
With that, we closed sessions for the day. We are looking forward to the third and final day of our conference tomorrow, when we will hear about leadership challenges in non-government organisations, the power of art therapy, how Aboriginal young people interact with the health and justice systems, and more.