Suzie Blacklock a senior Elder of the Gamilaraay (Kamiilaroi) nation from Tingha has led a team of women to develop a range of culturally appropriate methods to help keep Aboriginal children in the care of Aboriginal families.
The Winangay Resources Inc team is chaired by Suzie and includes Karen Menzies, Paula Hayden and Gillian Bonser and they have come up with a new collaborative approach to assessing kinship carers for children in care.
The project began three years ago because of concerns Aboriginal children were being taken away from their culture if authorities felt they were not living in a safe environment.
“The tools will help to reduce the number of children that are being taken away from our communities and families,” Suzie said.
“We want our kids to be safe but we don’t want them taken away.
“Our Elders, communities and families are still crying over all the Aboriginal children that have been lost from their communities and culture. If we can find safe kin and families for Aboriginal children in care then these kids will keep connections, identity and culture!”
Suzie and her team have just returned from Cairns where they were speaking about Winangay at the SNAICC (Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care) conference.
As Paula Hayden said during the presentation: “We knew we needed to do something, we just had to act!”
The presentation was well received and provided a great example of reconciliation in action.
“We need to all stand together if we want to make a difference,” Gillian Bonser said, “together we can stand against injustice and turn the tide to bring real change.”
The new Winangay resources were mentioned in the recent Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry Report.
The report’s recommen-dations commented on the value of using culturally appropriate approaches like the Winangay tools to simplify the assessment process for workers and carers.
While the original tools were developed for Aboriginal workers, new versions have subsequently been developed for other workers too.
The Winangay group is also investigating broader applicat-ions, contexts and adaptions of the tools and the new approach for use in family support, restoration and parenting contexts.
The work of the team has been recognised by the Sidney Myer Foundation who have recently provided funding to evaluate the effectiveness of the resources.
This research will be undertaken by the Australian Centre for Child Protection under the direction of Professor Fiona Arney in partnership with the Institute of Child Protection Studies.
A number of government and non-government organisations will participate in the research.
It will be the first child protection tool of its type to undergo this type of evidence based research in Australia and will build on the evidence obtained in original Winangay pilot.
Suzie and Professor Fiona Arney were delighted to ann-ounce, at the SNAICC conference in Cairns, a new partnership between Winangay and the Australian Centre for Child Protection.
Winangay looks forward to a long and productive partnership with the centre continuing to develop tools that will lead to stronger and better outcomes for children and families.