$20m boost for Aboriginal in-home care

Cecilia AllenSound Telegraph

An organisation supporting the health and wellness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Kwinana and Rockingham has welcomed a $20 million tender aiming to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.

Earlier this month, the State Government announced a consortium of four Noongar Aboriginal-controlled organisations had won a contract to provide Aboriginal earlyintervention in-home support services.

The Wungening Aboriginal Corporation will be the lead agency, with Moorditj Koort, based in Kwinana, Ebenezer Home and Coolabaroo Community Services also providing specialist services.

The Aboriginal in-home support services will include guiding and mentoring parents on managing day-to-day tasks at home, meeting children’s needs and keeping the family safe together, and developing routines so parents regularly get their children to school.

The program will also address alcohol and drug issues, the impacts of intergenerational trauma, homelessness and will improve the family’s connection with their community and culture.

Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre chief executive Jonathon Ford said the program would work by supporting families’ access to alcohol and other drug programs, primary healthcare services and family, parent and housing support services.

“The holistic model is to support families and provide them with access to services they need during hard times,” he said.

“The unique thing about this contract is after long-term lobbying, the State Government has acknowledged that any solution has to be Aboriginal-run and led in partnership with the Government and other mainstream providers.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics population projection data for June 30, 2016, the national rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care was almost 10 times the rate for non-indigenous children.

Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said the State Government worked closely with the Aboriginal community to develop the service.

“We strongly believe in having Aboriginal organisations lead this work — they are the experts,” she said.

“We can no longer keep making decisions on behalf of Aboriginal people; we will work alongside them. This model is designed to drive significant change in vulnerable families and if we are able to achieve that in turn, we would reduce the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.”

Mr Ford said keeping children with their families was culturally and economically most effective.

“While a lot of people suggest removing a child from their home is best... they lose their identity, their culture, connection to country and their connection to their family,” he said.

“If you remove a child from their family, then the State Government commits a tremendous amount of money over the lifetime of that child to support that child. If we can invest a little bit of money at the preventative end we can save a lot of money long term.

“These children are the future leaders of our community, ensuring they’re maintaining their culture, growing up in a safe environment and making sure they have every opportunity to become productive members of society is going to benefit not just the Aboriginal community but the whole community."

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