The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women hosted a presentation and discussion on 28 March about the Evaluation Findings for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Led Decision Making trials that took place from April 2016 to June 2017.
- John Burton from SNAICC (national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and implementation partner for the trials)
- Noel Niddrie from Winangali and Kylie Brosnan and Sharon Barnes from Ipsos Australia (independent research partners that evaluated the trials)
- Natalie Lewis from QATSICPP (Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak).
John Burton from SNAICC began with a brief overview of the trials, which took place in four locations across Queensland (Ipswich, Mt Isa, Cairns and Torres Strait Islands) and at different points in the child protection continuum (early intervention, investigation and assessment, and ongoing child protection orders). Each trial site employed community convenors to prepare families for, and facilitate, family meetings to make decisions about the safety and wellbeing of their children.
SNAICC’s role as implementation partner was to:
- develop guidelines for the trials in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Association and in consultation with trial sites and QATSICPP
- provide training to trial staff on family led decision making principles and practices
- provide support for implementation at each of the trial sites, and
- report on progress throughout the trials as well as findings and recommendations at the end of the trials.
John Burton highlighted key recommendations that included adequate resourcing be provided to enable family led decision making, particularly in relation to preparation time with families, and that convenor’s be supported with community of practice opportunities as well as regular meetings with departmental staff to enable an exchange of ideas and values that was found to contribute to a shift in mindset, roles and relationships between community convenors and departmental staff.
Research findings compiled by Winangali Pty Ltd and Ipsos Australia echoed these findings, with Kylie Brosnan noting that“any approach used with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families must address trauma and the historical context to build the capacity and strengths of communities to feel able to make decisions about children’s wellbeing”.
The evaluators found that when the family led process was implemented as intended there was a shift in practice from community controlled organisations providing cultural advice to the department, to convenors enabling the genuine cultural authority and leadership of families and communities in regard to the safety of children.
Kylie emphasised that decision making in a culturally safe space required independence, choice, privacy (private family discussion) and time. When preparation and meetings were not rushed, emotional triggers could be diffused and healing from past removals or interventions occurred. She explained “cultural ways come forward when dictated processes subside”.
Noel Niddrie emphasized that time is not just an important element for families but it is also an essential element of the family led decision making process in order to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander convenors to conduct business on country in a way that meets cultural obligations.
Natalie Lewis pointed out a key factor that underpins the handover of decision making power from department to families, which is that “no one is more invested in the wellbeing of children than families themselves, and their communities. We need to trust that”.
The question and answer session that followed presentations focused on how the trials wrapped up and what happens next in moving toward the role of a new ‘independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entity’ for a child in family led decision making. A theme that emerged from the presentations to be taken forward into the family led process is that of Place, Power and People.
The roll out of family led decision making processes across the state are expected later this year through funding of the Family Participation Program provided by Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations.
Both the Implementation Report (from SNAICC) and the Evaluation Report (from Winangali and Ipsos Australia) are available on the SNAICC website. The department will use findings from both reports to inform future policy, evidence-based program design, and practice improvement in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Led Decision Making practice in Queensland.