The Guiding Principles
The Guiding Principles for strengthening participation of Aboriginal community in child protection decision making
The Guiding Principles for strengthening participation of Aboriginal community in child protection decision making were developed by Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR NSW) with the NSW Ombudsman and Family and Community Services (FACS) Hunter New England District. The Guiding Principles were launched by then Minister, Brad Hazzard on 9 November 2015 in Tamworth.
The key principles are to:
- ensure Aboriginal community participation in decision making about the care and protection of Aboriginal children
- support Aboriginal families and reducing the number of removals of Aboriginal children from their immediate and extended families
- improve the access of Aboriginal people to local services and supports
- develop pathways for family restoration for Aboriginal children currently in out-of-home care (OOHC).
The Guiding Principles identify the need for a state-wide advisory group to watch over their implementation and use. The Guiding Principles Yarning Circle (GPYC) is used for this purpose.
The Guiding Principles provide the basis for starting Local Advisory Groups (LAGs) in places where local Aboriginal communities are asking for them. LAGs provide an opportunity in which Aboriginal communities have their say on child protection and out-of-home care service design, practice and delivery. They also help to ensure:
- compliance with the Aboriginal placement principles
- appropriate Aboriginal cultural plans are in place
- families are referred into early intervention services to prevent entries into care
- sourcing of suitable relative and kinship carers.
For more information please contact:
Manager Aboriginal Outcomes, Child & Family Directorate
The Guiding Principles Yarning Circle (GPYC)
Under the Guiding Principles the state-wide advisory group will:
- oversee the implementation of the Guiding Principles
- provide an implementation plan for submission to the Family and Community Services (FACS) Executive Board to consider
- ensure that the Guiding Principles operate within the boundaries of relevant legislation and may comment on the effectiveness of legislation in achieving the best interests of Aboriginal children and improve processes to ensure effectiveness
- determine methods of effective monitoring and evaluation of the Guiding Principles
- produce an annual statement to report on their activities and outcomes
- maintain confidentiality regarding matters discussed at meetings
- provide advice and information to the relevant FACS District Director to inform the work of Local Area Government (LAGs).
The Guiding Principles Yarning Circle (GPYC) was formed as the state-wide advisory group under the guiding principles.
Membership include representatives from:
- Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR) NSW
- The Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW) (AbSec)
- the NSW Ombudsman
- Aboriginal Legal Service
- Winanga-Li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre
- FACS Executive and project staff.
Meetings were held monthly in 2016 and bi-monthly in 2017. GPYC meetings are held across the state and have included Coonabarabran, Moree, Dubbo, Ballina, Kempsey and Sydney.
The previous Minster, Brad Hazzard, current Minister Pru Goward, and current FACS Secretary, Michael Coutts-Trotter have attended GPYC meetings.
Outcomes and initiatives from the GPYC include:
- monitoring implementation of the Guiding Principles including development of a Dashboard to present data on Aboriginal children and young people
- promoting the Guiding Principles across the state
- raising the FACS delegation for key decisions related to Aboriginal children and young people
- further communication around the role of advocates and support people, and FACS complaints process, including accountability for resolving issues and complaints
- support of the local community to establish LAGs by holding LAG Development Workshops.
For further information, please see communiques from each of the meetings.
Local Advisory Groups (LAGs)
Under the Guiding Principles the Local Advisory Group's (LAG) develop an individual framework for engaging and involving local Aboriginal people to identify avenues of decision making in the care and protection of Aboriginal children, including but not limited to:
- Monitoring the implementation of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principles, FACS Aboriginal Cultural Inclusion Plan and practices within FACS that may have a negative impact on engaging Aboriginal families and communities.
- Monitoring and reviewing the implementation of cultural care planning.
- Identifying and assessing the effectiveness of current and/or culturally appropriate service models and Early Intervention (EI) options to support families to prevent entry into the child protection or out-of-home care systems.
- Identifying and assessing the effectiveness of current and/or culturally appropriate service models and options for families already in the child protection system.
- Considering innovative approaches to address community concerns regarding prevention, EI and out-of-home care in the local Aboriginal community.
- Building the capacity of the local Aboriginal community to care for local children where emergency removal is required, such as increasing the number of kinship carers.
- Developing a process for community representatives to raise concerns with FACS and receive feedback regarding individual cases.
- Ensure appropriate community, non-government and government representation.
LAGs can include membership from but not limited to the local community, FACS, Local NSW Health, NSW Police, local schools.
LAGs also Provide reports to the GPYC and relevant FACS District Director about its activities and make relevant information available to the local Aboriginal community.
Supporting the Development of LAGs in Aboriginal communities
Across the state several supports have been provided to communities who are seeking to establish a LAG in their communities:
- Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR) NSW members have travelled to various communities to promote the Guiding Principles, to discuss establishing LAGs and to learn from communities who have made progress in developing a LAG. During these visits, GMAR NSW has meet with local communities and FACS district executives across the state.
- Several communities were invited to be a part of a two-day LAG Development Workshop. Here, representatives were able to meet and hear from areas that had already started a LAG process. Representatives were also able to access resources to support them to establish a LAG in their local communities. More workshops are scheduled to support more communities interested in establishing a LAG throughout 2017.
- Post workshop support is being provided by FACS project staff, for those communities working towards establishing a LAG.
Additional communities will be prioritised for meetings and support to establish a LAGs.
The LAG Development Workshop
The workshop provides attendees an opportunity to plan for establishing a working group, identify members, and prepare for the first LAG meeting.
To support discussion and planning from attendees, Yarning Circles were held:
- Yarning Circle - Who should be involved?
- Yarning Circle - What do we want to do?
- Yarning Circle - Action list
Further workshops are set to be held for additional communities working to establish a LAG.
Resources to support the establishment of LAGs
To support the successful establishment of LAGs, further optional resources have been developed: