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Posts from the ‘* Events and News’ Category

Don’t Miss the Missing People’s Conference

Every week, children and young people in care go missing – sometimes for only a few minutes or hours, sometimes for weeks, months or years.

Children, young people and families with whom you are working may also be experiencing the turmoil created when a member of their family is missing.

Make sure that you have registered to attend the Missing People: Issues and Implications Conference to be held at the Logan Campus of Griffith University on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th July 2012.

Two sessions incorporated within the Conference Program that have special importance and may be of great interest to you include:

  • A key note address by Dr Susan Robinson from Charles Sturt University about missing children, assumptions, investigative issues and outcomes, and
  • A Panel Discussion about children who go missing from care.

The Panel discussion will be facilitated by Professor Clare Tilbury (Griffith University) and the Panel Members will include Dr Julie Clarke (Griffith University), Lindsay Wegener (PeakCare Queensland), Detective Senior Sergeant Damien Powell (Missing Persons Unit, Queensland Police Service) and Belinda Mayfield (Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services).

Other themes for the conference include definitional and ethical issues, specific groups at risk, research and policy and service delivery frameworks.

The Conference will be held:

WHERE – Logan Campus, Griffith University

WHEN – Thursday 5th and Friday 6th July

COST –  One day $290, 2 days $450

Click here for further information

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TRAMP Update

Drumroll please!

Julie and Miff here at TRAMP HQ are excited to announce that tickets to The Disappearance Project at the Judith Wright Centre are on sale now!

The Helpmann Award-winning ensemble (This Kind of Ruckus) version 1.0 comes to the Judith Wright Centre this July with their extraordinary production The Disappearances Project.  Exploring the effects of long-term missing persons cases on family members and communities drawn from years of police investigations and research, The Disappearances Project looks at what happens to the “left-behind.’

Do they hope or do they grieve?  How do they navigate their everyday existence?  Version 1.0 quietly traces the edges of this void, shedding light on the emotional journeys of those left behind.

As many of you will know, Julie’s research was utilised in the crafting of this script and the production promises to be a unique and moving experience.

Here’s what the critics are saying:

“The Disappearances Project is a compelling piece of theatre, unorthodox enough to generate unwavering interest yet believable enough to be deeply relatable. In the final blackout, the fraction of a second’s hesitation before applause signified the audience’s lingering entrenchment before surfacing for breath. There’s no substitute for witnessing genuinely original live theatre; what a privilege!”

Courtney J Pascoe, aussietheatre.com

“This is far from a bleak production, despite its painful subject. I can’t recall an hour in the theatre going by more quickly, driven by the poetry of the text, the quality of the performances and the sounds and images in which they are framed”.

David Zampatti, The West Australian

Click here to purchase tickets from the Judith Wright Centre

Tickets range in price from $25 (student) to $35 (full price), for evening performances on 3rd, 5th and 6th July with a matinee performance on the 4th July.

Alternatively, our event coordinators at e-Kiddna are offering the purchase of tickets via their website.

We would love it if you’d join us for our VIP event which coincides with the official opening night of The Disappearances Project on Thursday 5th July.  Even if you’re not attending the Missing People Conference, you can still purchase a $55 VIP ticket to the conference social event which includes:

  • your ticket to The Disappearances Project
  • entry into the exclusive VIP event at the Judith Wright Centre Shopfront
  • drinks and light canapés, and
  • optional bus transfers to and from the Logan Campus, Griffith University and the Judith Wright Centre.

Click here to purchase your VIP ticket, or if you’d like to simply purchase a theatre ticket for the reduced group rate of $30

Julie and I would be thrilled to see you there.

More news to follow . . . . . . . . . . .

Miff Trevor

Theatre Raising Awareness of Missing People (T.R.A.M.P.)
Masters of Social Work (Q) student on field placement
Ph: 07 3382 1124 | Email: miff.trevor@griffithuni.edu.au
 www.facebook.com/TheatreRaisingAwarenessofMissingPeople
www.griffith.edu.au/health/school-human-services-social-work/partnerships-collaboration/tramp

We Joined in a Journey

A few short weeks ago (seems much longer ago than that), PeakCare in association with other peak bodies involved with the Combined Voices Campaign – the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Services Coalition, the CREATE Foundation and Queensland Council of Social Services – came up with an idea to commemorate National Sorry Day.

This idea involved placing a full-page open letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland in the Courier Mail.

I am not about to tell you the words that will feature within our open-letter – they will be there for you to read in this Saturday’s Courier Mail.  What I do want to talk with you about now is the journey we took in bringing our idea to fruition.

Some of the thinking underpinning our idea to publish an open-letter in the Courier Mail was as follows:

  • In preference to writing about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, we wanted to write a letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland – a letter containing a personalised and heartfelt message to them.
  • Whilst addressed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland, we wanted to make a public statement – one that would be accessible to, and potentially read by, all Queenslanders – Indigenous and non-Indigenous
  • We wanted this public statement to be read not only by our Member Agencies and people involved in the delivery of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families – we wanted it to be accessible to, and read by, Queenslanders from all walks of life so that they could also be informed about the significance of National Sorry Day
  • We are also hoping and confident that our open-letter will attract other mainstream and social media attention so that further attention can be brought to the findings of the Bringing Them Home Report.
  • As most signatories to the open-letter will be non-Indigenous organisations, we wanted the letter to clearly state that we do not presume to speak on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, nor do we pretend to fully comprehend the pain caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by forced child removal policies of the past or to understand the best paths for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take in their healing and recovery.  That is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves to determine.
  • As leaders of Queensland society however, we do claim the right and moral responsibility to speak out about the kinds of values, beliefs and attitudes we bring to our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to denounce racism in all its forms.
  • We have an obligation to stand by, and to be seen as standing by, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, colleagues and clients in addressing injustices of the past and the ongoing impact of these injustices on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities today.
  • That is what our letter is seeking to achieve.

A little over 3 weeks ago, we sent out our request to you, our Member Agencies and Supporters, to help us raise the funds needed to pay for the full-page open letter.  The letter itself is costing $19,500 but we decided to set a target of $30,000.

It is testament to your generosity and commitment that in such a short period of time, we have raised around $24,000 – a little short of our $30,000 goal but more than sufficient to pay for the full-page letter and leave us enough left over to invest in other future projects and activities of the Combined Voices Campaign.  As we are continuing to receive pledges, it may well be that we eventually end up reaching the $30,000 target.

We appreciate that for some organisations, the tight time frame was insufficient for you to obtain the necessary approvals from your Boards or Management Committees to make a pledge.  We apologise for this and will attempt to give you more notice in the future.  We were aware that the time frame was short, but thought it was nevertheless worth a shot at not letting the opportunity pass us by.

We also appreciate that for some organisations, more time was needed for them to internally discuss and debate whether or not they agreed with the notion of the open-letter and what the letter represents.  If the open-letter has prompted your organisation to enter into these kinds of discussions and debates, then we think that this is a good thing.  They are discussions that all organisations need to have and we wish you well as you pursue them further.

In formulating the wording of our open-letter, we consulted with the National Sorry Day Committee and the National Healing Foundation.

In drawing this post to a close, I would like to draw your attention to the following extract of an email received from the National Healing Foundation:

The Healing Foundation would like to express our thanks to the organisations of Queensland that have elevated this issue and have meaningfully made a contribution to our national debate, keeping the apology alive as we all strive to address the many issues that past government policies have resulted in for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have a long way to go in healing the many hurts inflicted, but this letter will let many people know that they are not alone in that journey and this is not to be underestimated in its impact.

We are proud to be associated with this project.

Perhaps the most meaningful feedback that we received came to us from a member of the Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group.  This feedback was magnificent in its simplicity.  It stated:

Just say to them – THANK YOU!

I am now passing on that thanks to you.  Thank you for your pledges and of your generous support of this project.  I am hoping that when you read the letter in Saturday’s edition of the Courier Mail that you will feel pleased with, and justifiably proud of the part that you have played, in delivering the very important messages contained within our open-letter to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

Artwork by Nyree Reynolds, sourced from Aboriginal Art Directory Online

Insurance Myths and Mysteries

PeakCare dares you to join us in a frightening journey into the unknown.  Our journey’s mission is to unravel the mysteries of insurance and clarify how it affects you, your organisation and clients.

Together and with the help of some expert advice, we will debunk the myths and discover the facts.  No stone will be left unturned nor small print defeat us, as we courageously tackle the beast named INSURANCE.

Can you be sure that your understandings about insurance are correct?  How confident are you that your organisation, your staff or clients are not being disadvantaged by having succumbed to a mis-placed belief in some of the myths?  Are you brave enough to join us in this quest and find out the facts?

As a first step in our journey, you are invited to submit any questions you have about insurance that you have never felt quite brave enough to ask before.  Alternatively, you may like to send us stories or scenarios that describe some of your own encounters or difficulties that you have experienced with insurance.

These questions and stories can be entered as comments to this post – anonymously if you prefer – or alternatively you can email your questions and stories to groberts@peakcare.org.au.  These questions and stories will then be added to the post by us.  If you prefer to not be identified as the author of a question or story, please let us know this within your email.

Your questions or stories may relate to insurance issues that are of concern to your organisation or to members of your staff, contractors or carers.

We are expecting that as questions and stories are entered into the post, they will generate more queries, questions and online conversation.

Periodically, we will obtain expert industry advice in formulating responses to your questions and stories.  Eventually, these will be compiled in a “Question and Answer” format and be made available online to all PeakCare Member Agencies and Supporters.

Debunking the myths

As previously noted, the aims of this exercise are to de-bunk the myths that often seem to feature in the understandings held by organisations and/ or individuals about insurance.  These myths can sometimes significantly disadvantage organisations, their staff, carers or clients.

As an example, what’s your opinion of the accuracy or otherwise of this statement:

“Any damage to property by a young person living in a residential service- either accidental or deliberate- must be reported to the Police Service in order for the service to claim on their insurance.”

Is this a myth or fact?  What are the possible implications of the understandings held by your organisation and staff about this issue in relation to their practice?  Perhaps you may like to enter some comments below in response to these questions.

Another example:

“The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services has a policy that states that any property damage caused by a child or young person living in either a residential service or foster care must be reported to the Police Service.  The Department’s position is that this is the only way in which children and young people can learn about the consequences of their behaviour and the Department will not accept any claims for ex-gratia payments if the property damage has not been reported to the Police.”

Myth or fact?  Is this entirely true, only partly true or completely false?  Enter some comments below that indicate your understandings about whether or not such a policy exists.

All questions great and small

No questions that you submit will be regarded as too big or too small.  All will be viewed as important and deserving of a response.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director – PeakCare Queensland

May Day… All May long

“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years.  To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”  Winston Churchill

Here we are again in May – Domestic Violence Month – 2012.  Here we are again with a whole month dedicated to domestic violence.  Why a whole month?  Do we really need to focus attention on this issue for that long?  I’d love to say that it is not necessary given that many other significant issues only require a day or a week to highlight the concerns.  However, given the realities of domestic abuse, we need this issue on our radar the whole year through.

Why?

Domestic violence is still one of the most pervasive issues in our society.  Abuse against women is rampant.  The impacts on women and children in our society cost us sociologically.  It also costs us to the tune of billions annually economically in paying individually and collectively for the short and long term impacts of such abuse against women and children.

Most significantly domestic violence kills. It is our silent epidemic.   Each year at least a quarter of murders in Queensland result from domestic violence.  This is a fairly consistent statistic throughout recent years.

Whilst we have all the research about patriarchy, complacency, victim blame and the like, it is still hard to make sense of why any human being would be either accepting of or complacent with regard to those who exert power over their partners. Particularly when the statistics so clearly demonstrate the likelihood of horrific outcomes such as long term trauma impacts for the victim, children and other family members or death.

Last May I wrote the blog post Permission to Perpetrate, which outlined the need for our society to pay attention to the acts of perpetrators and address biases by recognising that women do not invite abuse, but rather that perpetrators plan it, defend themselves against any backlash and gather pawns in their game to support their perpetration.  This year not much has changed.  Thus we again highlight that domestic violence is the choice and responsibility of the perpetrator.  Their actions not only hurt women who are their current or former intimate partners, wives and mothers of their children, it also harms their children and their families as a whole.

So why are we still so focused on the women who are abused?  Why are there so many myths about women who experience domestic violence such as: they don’t tell the truth, they nag and invite it?  We know through on-going research that women are more likely to stay silent about domestic violence than to speak out against their perpetrator so such myths act only as excuses for perpetrators.  Click here for some of the common myths and fact responses to these myths.

Some advances however have been made in Australia since PeakCare’s 2011 May blog post:

In Queensland the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 was reviewed and federally the Family Violence (and Other Measures) Bill 2011 was passed in December 2011.  This bill contains a number of amendments designed to strengthen the Act in relation to the protection of children in environments where family violence has been present.

PeakCare responded to the call for submissions for these legislative changes. When I placed these proposed legislative changes on my ‘google alerts’ to keep myself abreast of the issues, I was dumbfounded by the on-going commentaries that spoke of such proposed legislative amendments as sexist, feminist and an affront to men.  Most significantly the feedback suggested such legislation designed to address domestic violence and child abuse was undermining fathers in Australian society.

So, I started to read more closely in an endeavour to make sense of such relentless diatribes espousing this legislation as the work of ‘man haters’.  Men or fathers aren’t the target of the legislation, perpetrators of abuse are.   Little recognition was given to the fact this legislation was designed to protect children and adult victims of domestic violence regardless of gender.

Even if we were to see this legislation as protection for women and children, which it largely is due to the fact that they are the most common victims of domestic violence, why is protecting women and children from violence and abuse a process of undermining fatherhood or maleness in any way? In what way were the rights of loving fathers being undermined as major contributors to their children’s lives?

Why is there a sense that by affording equal rights and mutual respect to women and children, most notably the right to safety and well-being, men are somehow being vilified?  Their rights are somehow being trampled.  How?  As the White Ribbon Campaign, a campaign led by men internationally against violence towards women states:  The majority of men are not abusers but all men need to speak up and be united against violence perpetrated on women.

In closing, a quote from an icon of our time, a man who has a real grasp of horror:

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with … an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth: “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”  Stephen King

The elephant is not just in living rooms.  These elephants are part of our society and indicative of our silence in accepting and remaining silent about domestic violence.

A society intent on equality and mutual respect is not an affront to men or masculinity.  It is a society that respects all citizens regardless of gender, creed or any other difference.  It is one that endorses respectful behaviour and freedom from abuse for all.

Click here to visit the Queensland Government’s Act as 1 campaign webpage

Lorraine Dupree

Policy and Research Manager PeakCare Qld

Queensland Election 2012 Update:

Since PeakCare asked member agencies and other interested parties to send their commentaries on the Queensland child protection system, the areas of domestic violence and child sexual abuse have received significant attention.  The need to remain mindful of confidentiality in circumstances of domestic violence and child abuse reporting has also received comment.

The issues of domestic violence and child sexual abuse are amongst the most complex when navigating the child protection arena.  They are also the issues most likely to hit the ‘hot buttons’ across our communities.  For some members of our society accepting that people they love and trust can harm their partners and/or their children and then to stand up to such perpetrators who may be family members, close friends, colleagues or respected community members proves to be immensely difficult time and time again. As such, denial and victim blaming are common experiences for women and children facing these issues.

To holistically address the issues of violence and sexual abuse in Queensland, governments, organisations, communities and family members need to be cognisant of the prevalence of abuse and stand united against the silence perpetrators aim for.  All groups then need to come together to look at the most effective means of addressing these harmful issues in our society.

In calling on our members and key stakeholders to make comment on child protection in preparation for Queensland’s 2012 election, some key points raised and solutions offered are as follows:

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

It has been suggested that the silos regarding information sharing need to be broken down and more integrated communication systems such as evidenced by the Singapore model where each stakeholder has access to information be adopted.

School based programs on early intervention as prevention need to be adopted as core curricula and resourced adequately.  The earlier the intervention, the better the short and long term outcomes.  However, some evidence suggests that school aged teaching on abuse in intimate relationships needs to be followed up with workplace education as it can be difficult for school aged children to integrate the learning around intimate partners and children prior to having such lived experiences.  Therefore some prevention and early intervention models that denote success talk of engaging employers in their educative processes.

Queensland needs improved justice responses to men who use violence.  International literature and models trialled around the world point significantly to the need to hold perpetrators accountable both for their abuse and then for taking their rehabilitation seriously.  The criminalisation of domestic violence is also considered a significant step forward in having perpetrators understand the seriousness of their abusive conduct.  Queensland needs to consider this option.  Furthermore, integrated courts that respond to domestic violence and other coexisting factors such as child protection matters are an important step in a holistic systemic response.

An adequate number of accommodation responses for women and children escaping domestic violence are needed.  Various models of service need to be identified including refuges.

The confidentiality of these safe places needs to be upheld at all times by all parties involved in supporting women and children to live in safety.  Feedback thus far has commented on breaches of confidentiality by departmental officers that have led perpetrators to know the location of refuges and therefore victims.  Such breaches have led to women and children being relocated yet again and further upheaval for children in attending yet another new school.   Extreme caution needs to be exercised.  The capacity of perpetrators to ‘charm’ and ‘con’ is well documented.  Staff members in Department of Communities, Department of Housing and other government and Non-Government Organisations need to be given clear instruction to ensure women and children escaping domestic violence are able to relocate without fear of the workers supporting them being ‘tricked into’ disclosing their whereabouts by perpetrators endeavouring to locate them.

Similar feedback has been received about family violence and processes of disclosure.  Children who inform trusted adults about their abuse need to know the consequences of their disclosures and the likelihood that if the perpetrator is a parent they will be informed of the notification.  Even though notifications are confidential, concerns have been raised as to how easily some parents can track the disclosures back to a child.  Even in cases where the child withdraws the statement upon interview by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) they still remain vulnerable as, regardless of the child’s stated intent to proceed no further with the matter, parents are still notified by the QPS that a complaint has been received.  This has led to concerns that child abuse will go further ‘underground’ whilst children and their advocates elect to remain silent instead of speaking out due to fears for the short term safety ramifications for children when doing so.

Making notifications and managing a child’s risk post disclosures is an on-going minefield for professionals across education, health and human services settings.  This is an area that requires further attention and wide reaching discussion to establish safe protocols for children and young people as well as parties acting on their behalf.

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE:

The Queensland government must remain committed to the implementation of the National Child Protection Framework signed by COAG in 2009.

Organisations with a specific role in advocating for the interests of children who have been sexually abused are keen to ensure that the Queensland government implements strategies to achieve Outcome 6:

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is prevented and survivors receive adequate support.  Children are protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse through targeted prevention strategies, and survivors are supported by the community and through specific therapeutic and legal responses.

In upholding the principles of Outcome 6, the Queensland government in partnership with Non-Government Organisations needs to also ensure the requirements of the supporting outcomes pertaining to child sexual abuse in the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children are met:

  1. Raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and abuse, including online exploitation
  2. Enhance prevention strategies for child sexual assault
  3. Strengthen law enforcement and judicial processes in response to child sexual assault and exploitation
  4. Ensure survivors of child sexual assault have access to effective treatment and appropriate support

Again, the solutions offered include raising awareness of child sexual abuse and investing in wide reaching community education campaigns for all children and families.  Preventative strategies that have a strong evidence base of success need to be adequately funded to ensure sound outcomes.

The importance of hearing children and paying attention to their disclosures was also highlighted.  In order to be a State that operates with the best interests of children at the core of our system and processes, children need to be considered in all decisions that affect them.  This isn’t always easy to achieve and as such significant resources need to be available to ensure children are heard and then supported through their healing.

Concern about the current forensic nature of our child safety system has been raised as a significant factor impeding the capacity to protect Queensland children from sexual abuse. Given the widely documented difficulty in holding perpetrators to account for child sexual abuse, the current leaning of the child safety system to the burden of proof as opposed to professional assessments ascertaining the likelihood of sexual abuse having occurred and on-going risk has been highlighted as a major concern in protecting Queensland children. Qualified and well trained professionals are required to employ their skills in identifying and assessing risk factors and key indicators whilst also identifying the ‘nuances’ associated with perpetration that are more difficult to detect and prove forensically.

The importance of skilful assessment is an area about which PeakCare receives on-going feedback.  Concerns are expressed that staff undertaking assessments are often the most inexperienced and under-skilled members of the Department, when what is required is the expertise of the most skilled and experienced staff to make such complex calls.   Assessment processes require significant attention and on-going evaluation.

The need for improved communication and understanding of procedures between family support and child protection agencies, Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) and the family law courts also been highlighted.   Organisations working in child protection and domestic violence note that these systems often work in isolation of each other and employ processes that are complex to understand. Hence, protecting children from on-going sexual abuse, particularly when the offender is a parent, is difficult given the cost of the family law system and the complexity of navigating it when clients are often self-represented.  Workers from the Non-Government sector at times find the advocacy required when supporting clients through such systemic demands is beyond their scope of expertise.

A substantial increase in resourcing for law enforcement agencies to investigate child sexual offences, including online and historical offences has also been called for.  So too has been the need to ensure children and young people receive specialist therapeutic intervention at the earliest point possible.

Funding and resourcing for services that offer therapeutic intervention for children who have been sexually abused as well as support services for their family members is of vital importance.  It is widely understood that child sexual abuse is the silent epidemic of all societies globally and yet in Queensland, it remains an underfunded and largely un-resourced area.  Whilst adding funding and resources to this area of child protection, it is also essential that we ensure that therapists receive appropriate training in childhood sexual abuse and effective interventions.

Lorraine Dupree

Policy and Research Manager – PeakCare Qld

We Need to Lift Our Game.

As Queensland gears up for a State Election, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations are asking: “Can it get any worse for the safety and well-being of children and families?”

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care currently sits at 37% and is continually rising especially in that part of the system where neglect and poverty are the reasons behind out of home care placements.

Of particular concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations is the low level of compliance with the Child Placement Principle. As a result, many children are becoming disconnected from their families and their culture and risk losing their identity unique to being the latest generation in the oldest continuous known culture on the planet.

To make matters worse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are reporting that some contracts to purchase services of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations by the Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) have been rescinded. Representatives of community controlled organisations involved in the regular PeakCare blogs have pointed out that the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol has not been respected especially in the recent purchasing of services for the regional Hubs.

The government action plans aligned to Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan  are being undertaken while the non-government response to the report has yet to be rolled out across the regions. This is a major innovation which needs resources to build relationships in order to improve the system and strengthen services. No matter what innovative model the government decides to fund, it has the impact of increasing not decreasing the proportion of the child protection system that is focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

Currently some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are raising concerns that money has been removed from the budgets of their Foster and Kinship Care Programs. This is further eroding the capacity of the system to respond culturally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. It also further reduces Queensland’s capacity to fulfill its legislated obligation to comply with the Child Placement Principle.  Stringent compliance mechanisms and inflexible contracting arrangements serve to disadvantage these non government organisations working to provide quality services to Queensland’s most disadvantaged cohort of children and their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection services need security of funding.  Their expertise needs to be recognised and supported by government and non government colleagues.  Enhanced funding and resources are required to ensure that the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our care system can be genuinely addressed.  A combined approach is necessary to ensure appropriate resources, support and advocacy from the wider service system.

Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan is just a beginning and should be the focus for improved purchasing decisions by any incoming government. The Blueprint for implementation strategy should begin taking words from these plans and putting strong services on the ground.

We need to lift our game!

Carolyn Ovens

Reconciliation Action Plan Project Worker – PeakCare Queensland

Protecting Children or Systems?

“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.”  Kofi Annan

As Queensland gears up for a State Election PeakCare is asking pertinent questions about child protection and child and family well-being.  Key themes are emerging from the feedback offered by our members and stakeholders.  Not surprisingly compliance mechanisms have been raised as a major concern.

Compliance as a concept is not the concern; perceived over-prescribed compliance measures that take significant worker time and risk client needs being unmet is.  This echoes our commentary during our Munro campaign whereby we spoke of the similarities between child protection in Queensland and the issues highlighted by Professor Eileen Munro in her report on the British system.

What is surprising is the overwhelmingly consistent commentary about the child protection system being so systemically protective that we are inadvertently overlooking the protective needs of children.  Whilst rhetoric across the system speaks of ‘child centred approaches’ we are being told the reality often demonstrates a stark contrast to this stated intent. 

Many have argued that we are so busy complying: form filling, box ticking and meeting measurable process related outcomes that client needs become lower on the agenda than any practitioner would ever accept them to be.  Time with clients which includes: relationship building, hearing their stories, responding to their stories, assessing their needs and developing a plan to ensure holistic support are all time consuming albeit essential activities.  Such significant relational aspects of child protection practice seem to be suffering under such heavily weighted systemic demands. 

So are we client centred or system centred?  So far the feedback argues the latter.  That is not to say the system and professionals in the sector don’t aim for client centred practice, but the reality of ‘system’s demands’ means that such a desire often remains just that – a desire. These tensions are faced by practitioners on the front line of child protection be they government or NGO employees.

It is also important to note that the system exists to protect children and that is the clearly articulated intent.  Balancing the competing demands of child protection work has been an ongoing issue for governments internationally and nationally.

In Queensland, we need to ask ourselves based on significant commentary: Has compliance gone too far and is the system now the unintended key focus whilst children are taking a back seat?  This is a key question to ask and answer.  It also poses possibilities for working on bipartisan agreement around fundamental necessities of an effective child protection system to ensure that children (and not the system) remain the focus regardless of party politics.

In September 2011 our Executive Director Lindsay Wegener highlighted the following in his blog post It’s all about the sum of the parts, isn’t it?

Professor Eileen Munro stated that examination of the child protection system should note the contributions being made by local health services, education, police and the justice system to the creation and maintenance of an effective child protection system.  According to Professor Munro, if “rules” are to exist, those that should be focused upon are those that are developed to ensure that organisations are effectively working together.

So given over compliance is of significant concern, Lindsay asked what it would be like in Queensland if we replaced compliance of individual services with regular assessments of the contributions of all key parties including government departments, NGOs and other key services with the aim to achieve agreed upon outcomes for children, young people and their families within communities?

As we prepare for the 2012 Election, it is timely to ask this again.  What would this be like?  We’d love to hear your responses!

In the lead up to the March 2012 Election please stay tuned as next week we will summarise comments on significant matters pertaining to: domestic violence, child sexual abuse and privacy issues.  Please continue to share your comments and issues in the meantime by emailing election2012@peakcare.org.au.

Lorraine Dupree

Policy and Research Manager – PeakCare Qld

Foster Carers Speak Out About Transition From Care

Very pleasingly, Transition From Care Month 2011 was met with considerable media attention.  Through several radio interviews and newspaper articles, public attention was drawn to the issues faced by around 400 Queensland young people who leave care each year.

Even more pleasingly, foster carers elected to add their voice to our media campaign.  In response to a column entitled “Care can’t end when kids hit 18”  that was recently published in the Courier Mail, former foster carers responded by sending letters to the editor:  “Foster kids need support as adults” and “Kids set up to fail”.

My sincere thanks and appreciation are extended to the authors of these letters – Lenore Blaine and Shae Bell.  Your letters presented the relevant arguments in an incredibly clear and compelling manner.

My best wishes are also extended to the foster carer who rang me seeking advice about her own situation concerning a young woman in her care.  I hope that this situation is resolved satisfactorily for both of you.

Special mention must also be made of an email I received in response to the Courier Mail column that raised issues about the very special needs of teenage refugees as they transition to independence and adulthood.   The issues faced by these young people and the support that they require are certainly worthy of more focussed attention.

Transition from Care Month is ending, but the key issues of concern in relation to the adequacy of support being provided to young people as they transition from care remain.   It’s not too late for you to add your voice to those of Lenore Blain and Shae Bell and play your part in advocating for these young people.

Join them in sending letters to the editor of the Courier Mail, enter comments to this post and make sure that you have entered your responses into the Transition From Care Survey.

Click here to access the survey.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland

 

IMPORTANT UPDATE

Thank you to Rod and Lynette Chataway for their letter to the editor published in the Courier Mail:  “No cut-off age to parental input”.

Also thank you to Jacqui Reed from CREATE for her support of this important issue.

The Cost of Not Paying the Price …

In March this year I wrote a blog post regarding pay equity,  “The price we pay when we won’t pay the price”.  I’m revisiting it today because this is the National Day of Action for Pay Equity that I alluded to in my former post.  Whilst there have been a couple of significant changes, the issues of pay equity are still largely unresolved and need to remain high on our agenda.

The National Pay Equity case has been heard and in unison with the Queensland decision found that the low wages in our sector are largely the result of our predominately female workforce and are thus discriminatory.   The Australian Services Union (ASU) won this battle, but is yet to win the war.  Further submissions to Fair Work Australia are required in June in order to begin the process of remedying pay structures.  The ASU is set to fight yet another battle to thwart this inequity that currently means offering miserly pay rates to our community service staff committed and passionate about their work with vulnerable clients reliant on our services.

So here we are, still working hard for pay equity.  Or, more accurately here is our Union doing so on our behalf.  It must be noted that in Queensland, the case was won, pay rates subscribed and have been honoured by some employers and not by others (for reasons explained but not excused in my previous blog post).

Those of us in Queensland who have employers who have honoured our award wages are in an enviable position in comparison to our state and national colleagues for whom  pay equity is likely to take significantly more time (probably years).  We the collective have clear voices to advocate for all those who work in our sector.  As such we need to get serious about this issue and back our Unions (the QSU and the ASU) fighting for us and our organisations to gain fair wages and appropriate funding to ensure our capacity to deliver quality services to clients.

PeakCare as the peak body for child protection is passionately committed to pay equity and competitive employment conditions for staff in the sector;  partially because this is a fundamental human rights issue and partly because children and families supported by our workforce require quality services and benefit from professional staff valued and supported in their workplaces.

On behalf of PeakCare I’d like to give a massive shout out to the Queensland Services Union (QSU) who in a landmark decision won their Queensland pay equity case in 2008 and also to their National counterpart the ASU having recently won their first coup on their journey to the same outcome.  It is really important to note however that the QSU currently has three thousand  members from a workforce of approximately forty to fifty thousand workers in our Queensland sector who benefit from their advocacy, tireless efforts and subsequent pay equity wins.   This ratio of union members to workers is similar across the nation.

These figures are astounding. Some may say they are a disgrace.

It is high time that workers in our sector honed their advocacy skills to fight for pay equity and subsequent quality improvement in their services.  Given the most significant resource any organisation can offer their clients is their human resources we need to be sure staff on offer are of a high calibre.  The capacity to offer competitive pay rates and employment conditions will go a long way in ensuring this.

It is disheartening to see such low level involvement from our workers in our collective movement for pay equity and service improvement.  Is this an indication of our preparedness to accept such poor conditions and pay rates that we know impacts on our capacity to deliver quality services?

Given the runs on the board so far for our Union with such limited acknowledgement from the workers they are fighting for, imagine what can be achieved if all workers in our sector get behind pay equity and support the union movement supporting them.  Imagine the change possible for our sector if we all collectively sign on the dotted line to become members.  A tiny investment per week from every worker and industry professional in our sector could well lead to an outcome beyond our comprehension!

Why aren’t we more involved, participating and contributing for our collective gain and our capacity to more adequately assist clients by ensuring we have pay equity to attract and retain a skilled and supported workforce?

Why aren’t we acting collectively to ensure quality service delivery for the clients we advocate for on a daily basis?  We all know that the collective has significant power yet we fail to rise up together to stand against injustice and inequity.  There is no time like the present to change our ways.  We need to follow the lead of our Union and their significant achievements.

Part of my role at PeakCare is focused on human resources and organisational development.  I often obtain feedback that PeakCare needs to do more about pay issues, the three year service agreements and other similar contractual issues that impact on organisation’s capacity to retain staff.  Whilst we work hard in dealing with issues relevant to our members and the sector, we do not have the capacity, mandate or person power to tackle industrial or pay equity issues.  What we do have is the Queensland Services Union (QSU) that works tirelessly in fighting for pay equity and fair conditions for workers in our sector.

PeakCare will continue to support the huge efforts of our colleagues at the QSU and their national body the ASU.  Most significantly, we will also continue to encourage all employers and employees in our sector to gain support for their pay issues by signing up for our Union to have a voice, be counted and fight for the right to be a recognised, professional and renumerated workforce.

Congratulations to the many campaigners who joined today nationally with the Australian Services Union and in Queensland through the Queensland Services Union in lending your voice to fighting for pay equity.   An essential voice to ensuring professionalism and competitive employment options for our skilled workforce to enable quality work with clients. We need to expect and accept nothing less.

Lorraine Dupree