The McGowan Government has announced Mirrabooka as the metropolitan location for the Western Australian trial of Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making (AFLDM), as well as $10.3 million in additional funding to extend the Aboriginal In-Home Support Service (AISS).
Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson have also recognised National Sorry Day, which is observed on May 26 each year on the eve of Reconciliation Week. It acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.
Outlining the State Government’s next steps in its work to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, Ms McGurk said the announcements aimed to strengthen Aboriginal self-determination and support at-risk families.
For families that are at risk of child protection intervention or with children already in the out-of-home care system, AFLDM is a model that provides a culturally safe space for family and extended family to have input into decisions regarding their children.
Under the pilot, which will also be implemented in the Mid-West-Gascoyne region, independent Aboriginal convenors who are external to the Department of Communities will support improved collaboration with families to help keep their children safe and connected to their community.
The trial will work with three cohorts:
- Aboriginal families engaged in pre-birth planning, with the goal of preventing infants from coming into care;
- Aboriginal families engaged in Intensive Family Support, with the goal of preventing children from coming into care; and
- Aboriginal families where one or more of the children in the family group are in care, with the aim of working towards safely returning them to family (reunification).
With different forms of AFLDM already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, the Western Australian trial is key to ensuring that the best model for WA is adopted. The State Government has invested $715,000 to establish its implementation.
The pilot complements a range of other initiatives to improve the safety of children, including the AISS program and efforts to expand and build the capacity of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in Western Australia.
The $10.3 million for the AISS comprises funding for the service’s operation and will support its expansion into regional areas through a co-design process.
The AISS, which is delivered by Wungening Aboriginal Corporation, works with families to build their capacity to support their children, respond to stressful situations, deal with behavioural issues and overcome trauma.
It provides intensive in-home practical support to Aboriginal families to address safety issues, keep children safely at home and reunify children safely with their parents.
The program operates under the State Government’s Earlier Intervention and Family Support (EIFS) Strategy and contributes to the implementation and achievement of a number of government priorities, including the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and Target 120 program.
Since the EIFS Strategy was implemented, the Department of Communities has recorded the lowest growth rate of children in care in more than 20 years and the lowest growth rate of Aboriginal children entering out-of-home care since 2004.
As stated by Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
“The AFLDM pilot to be implemented in Mirrabooka is significant because it aims to give Aboriginal people greater ownership of issues around family and child safety, and reinforces our efforts to address the high number of Aboriginal children in the child protection system.
“The program will empower Aboriginal families in the Mirrabooka area to have a direct voice in informing decisions that help to keep children safe or work towards effective reunifications.
“Similarly, the extension of the Aboriginal In-Home Support Service will help to reinforce Aboriginal ownership of outcomes for children who have contact with the child protection system.
“As we acknowledge past hurts and the strength of Stolen Generation survivors on National Sorry Day, it’s important to remember that we can all play a part in supporting the ongoing healing process.”
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson:
“Reconciliation is more than a word – it takes action.
“The McGowan Government is committed to Aboriginal-led approaches that empower families as well as prioritise their safety.
“These measures will go a long way to strengthening Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations’ involvement in support services across our State and building their capacity to deliver culturally appropriate solutions to issues affecting their community.”
As stated by Mirrabooka MLA Meredith Hammat:
“I’m proud to be part of a McGowan Government that is working to support and improve collaboration with Aboriginal families involved in the child protection system.
“The AFLDM pilot will bring Aboriginal families and extended family members in the Mirrabooka area together with an independent convenor in a culturally safe environment to work towards the best possible outcome for their children.”
As stated by Wungening Aboriginal Corporation CEO Daniel Morrison:
“On behalf of Wungening Aboriginal Corporation and our partners Ebenezer Aboriginal Corporation, Moorditj Koort and Moorditch Gurlongga, we are delighted to see the WA Government commit to a further two years of the AISS.
“We are confident, based on the independent evaluation of the program, that it has been a success and will continue to be of great support to our community over the next two-year period.”