Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose children are in contact with the youth justice system will now have a stronger voice in decisions made about their children.
Minister for Youth Di Farmer said more than $1.2 million had been allocated to a trial of family-led decision-making, which gives families a central role in Youth Justice case planning for their children.
“This is about working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, drawing on the strength of family and cultural support to help prevent children from re-offending,” she said.
“There’s good evidence from other jurisdictions, for example New Zealand, that shows that when families are supported by compassionate and skilled people from within their cultural community, offending rates go down.”
Family-led decision-making is a method of conferencing with a young person and their family, Youth Justice staff, and staff from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations to make decisions about how to support them not to reoffend.
“It’s important that these meetings are convened by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations, in line with the principle of self-determination for Indigenous people, families, and communities,” she said.
“The meetings are carried out in a way that is respectful of culture, and can include cultural practices which are significant to the family involved.
“There might be other people involved like health or education professionals, it depends on what the young person needs. But the aim of the meeting is to listen to the family, and come to mutual agreement about what the young person needs to move forward.”
Ms Farmer said the Youth Justice trial comes after success using the model with families involved with Child Safety.
“One case where we’ve seen family-led decision making leading to positive outcomes was with an Aboriginal family whose five children had been living with their grandmother in a kinship care arrangement for some time,” she said.
“There had been a lot of Child Safety intervention with this family, and there was conflict between the parents and the grandmother.
“That meant the children weren’t having much contact with their parents, and the family also weren’t comfortable engaging with Child Safety directly.
“A family group meeting convenor, who also was an Aboriginal woman, helped to arrange a family meeting to work through what the family needed, including hearing from each of the children about what they needed.”
The meeting took place in the grandmother’s home, with a Child Safety Officer present, and discussions were carried out in ways that had traditional significance including a yarning mat and hand-painting.
Ms Farmer said by the end of the meeting, the family had come to an agreement about what their family needed and how Child Safety could support them.
“The family said they’d felt heard and supported by Child Safety, and the grandmother especially said that connecting with a Child Safety Officer who was also Aboriginal made her feel safe and empowered,” she said.
“The best outcome was that the children enjoyed some warm and loving interaction with their parents, who hadn’t engaged with them consistently in some time.”
Ms Farmer said the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak Ltd would train and support Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander practitioners in family-led decision making techniques.
“The trial will build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations to lead decision making and case planning, in collaboration with the Department of Youth Justice, working directly with young people and their family.
“We are absolutely committed to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in Queensland’s youth justice system.
“The only way to do this is to work in genuine partnership with local communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations.”