Issue Eight Keep Them Safe Website Manage your subscription

Alternative Dispute Resolution launch

Minister for Community Services Linda Burney and the Hon. Justice James WoodOn Friday 18 June, Minister for Community Services Linda Burney joined NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos, President of the Children’s Court Judge Mark Marien, and the Honourable Justice James Wood at the Parramatta Children’s Court for the launch of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

ADR was one of the key recommendations that came out of Justice Wood’s Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW.

ADR is a collection of measures that aim to empower children and their families in decision-making processes and reduce adversarial outcomes in child protection cases that go through the court system. Initially, these ADR measures will include:

  • A Family Group Conferencing Pilot, conducted by Community Services and run by an independent facilitator, which will enable families, extended relatives and community elders to come together and plan for children if there are child protection concerns before a case is even considered for court.
  • The Legal Aid External Child Protection Pilot for care matters in the Bidura Children’s Court as an alternative to the Dispute Resolution Conferences. This pilot will offer external mediation through a skilled, neutral mediator facilitating a discussion over child protection issues between Community Services, parents or guardians, lawyers and other interested parties.
  • Dispute Resolution Conferences for matters that end up in the Children’s Court, which will be conducted by specially trained Children’s Registrars. They will provide parties with an opportunity to agree on the action that should be taken in the best interests of the child and allow for the direct participation of the child’s family, as well as others in the decision-making process who are concerned for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child.
  • The appointment of five additional Children’s Registrar’s across NSW, located at Wagga, Lismore, Broadmeadow, and Parramatta, who will also provide a service to surrounding locations.

The NSW Government believes ADR has the potential to improve the NSW child protection system by assisting children and their families in decision-making, fostering collaborative relationships, and negotiating suitable outcomes accepted by all parties involved in the process. ADR also has the potential to help resolve child protection disputes faster.

Minister Burney said in adopting these measures, the NSW Government is seeking to implement best practice approaches in child protection and there had been much planning and preparation to get to this stage.

“The pilots were chosen as a result of recommendations by an expert working party, established by the Department of Justice and Attorney General. The working party included members of the judiciary, representatives from Community Services, Legal Aid and academics,” Minister Burney said.

TAFE/CCWT Keep Them Safe Phase 2 training

The Phase 2 round of training for Keep Them Safe targeting the early childhood sector and non-government organisations is now complete. The TAFE Keep Them Safe team travelled to 74 locations across NSW, delivering 100 early childhood sessions to nearly 2200 participants. TAFE took this training right into the heart of the early childhood sector, in most cases delivering the sessions within childhood centres. The feedback from these sessions has been very positive.

The TAFE Keep Them Safe project team has now delivered 135 sessions to 1991 participants from the non-government sector in 52 locations. The use of the interactive keypads (voting buttons) was a key feature of this training and was very well received by participants. TAFE was able to extend the delivery times for these sessions towards the latter part of the program in response to participant feedback. The additional 30 minutes allowed for greater discussion around the case studies and for answering questions. TAFE has also developed the CHCCHILD401A resource materials, available on the DPC website, for RTOs to access to enable delivery of this unit of competency.

The Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies (ACWA/CCWT) has successfully rolled out 80 Keep Them Safe training sessions across NSW to 1600 workers in the non-government sector, with 850 staff having to be placed on a waitlist due to overwhelming demand. Overall, 2450 registrations were received. Every effort was made to promote the TAFE NSW training sessions to those unable to gain a place in the ACWA/CCWT workshops. Feedback is still being collated; however, trainers report that the material was well received with many facilitators engaging with robust discussions on the reforms. All participants were asked to give feedback on their additional training needs in the area of child protection. An evaluation of the training, including recommendations for additional training, will be made available shortly.

AbSec progressing Keep Them Safe initiatives

AbSec, together with Community Services, has undertaken a joint partnership to roll out two new projects from the Government’s Keep Them Safe five-year plan. These projects are designed to support Aboriginal families and reduce the number of Aboriginal children coming in contact with the child protection system. These two projects are detailed below.

Protecting Aboriginal Children Together (PACT)

The Keep Them Safe Action Plan outlines a shared approach to child wellbeing, which will see government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) work in a more coordinated way to protect vulnerable children.

Over the next four years, AbSec and Community Services will work together to pilot a consultation model with Aboriginal NGOs to determine the most appropriate ways of keeping Aboriginal children and young people safe, in-line with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child and Young Person Placement Principles, Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
Consultations have progressed with Aboriginal peak organisations, non-Aboriginal child welfare organisations and Community Services staff about the components of the model to implement and the criteria for selecting the pilot site(s) in the development of a Lakidjeka-style model of support for Aboriginal children, young people and families in NSW, provisionally titled Protecting Aboriginal Children Together (PACT).

Intensive Family Based Services (IFBS)

The Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales recommended that the NSW government should increase the number and range of family preservation services provided by NGOs. This included Intensive Family Based Services (IFBS) to Aboriginal families.

The Hon. James Wood, AO QC, recommended that the new services be given to the NGOs to provide a culturally appropriate service to Aboriginal families, children and communities, as well as to support building the capacity of NGOs to deliver better services that are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal families and communities.

The project objectives are to establish four new IFBS services in identified high-needs areas across NSW, which will be rolled out progressively from years two to five of the Action Plan, and to work in partnership with Community Services. Consultations with the relevant Aboriginal communities will be held once the potential sites have been identified. Currently AbSec and Community Services are working on a shortlist of locations.

Family Referral Services update

Family Referral Services logo, endorsed by the Minister for Community ServicesThe three organisations piloting FRS commenced their operations on Monday 3 May. All three FRS sites are actively promoting their services at the local level by making contact with and meeting key stakeholders in their catchment area.

The three FRS sites have been very active in engaging with their local communities and have already established partnerships with various stakeholders at the local level. Discussions are underway to improve services and establish better communication pathways at all three sites. In particular, the Dubbo service, which has an exclusive focus on supporting Aboriginal families, has been well received by the communities in its catchment area. The relationships and referral networks that the Dubbo FRS Aboriginal staff members have brought to the role have greatly assisted in quickly engaging the local Aboriginal communities. At all three sites, measures have been put in place to monitor referrals and help prevent demand for services exceeding service capacity.

To help with promoting these services, NSW Health has developed an FRS logo and other promotional materials (posters, stationery, presentation folders, letterheads, and business cards) in consultation with the three pilots. These materials have been endorsed by Minister for Community Services Linda Burney. A factsheet has been developed by each FRS promoting the specifics of their service. A FRS website will be developed once print resources and the style guide have been finalised.

Minister Burney will launch all three Family Referral Services at the Mt Druitt site on 14 July at 11am.

Contact numbers and hours of operation

Dubbo FRS
General public: 1300 339 016
Service providers: (02) 6885 8888
Open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday

Mt Druitt FRS
All callers: 1300 403 373
Open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

Newcastle FRS
All callers: 1300 006 480
Open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

Training for general practitioners

As part of Phase 2 training, NSW Health in conjunction with the Education Centre Against Violence, is collaborating with GP NSW to assist in the development and delivery of an information package for general practitioners (GPs) outlining their new statutory responsibilities. The information sessions will also address GP engagement in the new system of child protection in NSW. It is anticipated that information sessions will initially be provided in the seven Divisions of General Practice where Family Referral Services (FRS) are being piloted. Once FRS are rolled out in other locations across NSW, further sessions will be delivered through the Divisions of General Practice.

A “practice visiting” model of support and information sharing for general practice on Keep Them Safe is also planned in Divisions that will not receive the initial Keep Them Safe information sessions. This could include the development and dissemination of Keep Them Safe resources to practice support officers in the Divisions, for discussion at practice visits.

Further information on these training sessions for GPs will be made available once GP NSW has confirmed details and addressed the relevant legislative issues.

Stop the Violence: End the Silence

On 8 June 2010, the NSW Government released the Stop the Violence: End the Silence NSW Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan, which aims to support victims of domestic violence, including women and their children. The Domestic Violence Action Plan is complemented and supported by Keep Them Safe as a measure for ensuring the protection of children and young people involved in domestic and family violence situations.

The five-year Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan is underpinned by five strategic directions: prevention and early intervention; protection, safety and justice; provision of services and support; building capacity; and data collection and research. It is supported by a $50 million investment from NSW Government and aims to deliver fundamental change in the way that victims of domestic violence are supported.

The Action Plan will deliver specialist support workers in police stations who will be able to provide women with immediate support to protect their families from perpetrators of violence and help them to break the cycle of violence.

The Domestic Violence Action Plan will also provide:

  • $2.2 million to support five existing Domestic Violence Proactive Support Services (DVPASS) in Sutherland, the Inner West, Wollongong, Redfern and Canterbury regions
  • $1.5 million to expand DVPASS to five new high-risk locations across NSW, including Coffs Harbour, Rockdale/Kogarah, the Eastern Suburbs, Parramatta, and Armidale
  • $2.4 million to expand the Domestic Violence Duty Solicitor Scheme to 15 additional court regions, with an emphasis on rural and regional areas
  • $1.3 million to expand the Rural Women’s Outreach program, providing Legal Aid services and support to women in isolated farming communities and predominantly Aboriginal areas of remote NSW
  • $9.5 million in Commonwealth funding to support the Orana Far West Safe House project model, providing safe accommodation and support services for women and their children escaping violence in the Far West, particularly Aboriginal communities.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said the domestic violence support services would provide immediate intervention and advice for victims.

“Having a specialist support worker co-located with police means victims have access to comprehensive legal and social support from the very beginning.

“We have expanded co-workers to a total of 10 regions across NSW, which will mean greater access to help for victims of this abhorrent crime in the places it’s most needed.”

Keep Them Safe Regional Project Managers

Aunty Kate Davis, Rod Plant, Gail WallaceA two day face-to-face meeting of the Regional Project Managers (RPMs) was held in Sydney during late June. There was a strong focus on staff engagement with Aboriginal communities and organisations as the workers talked about how they are developing relationships with agencies in their local areas. AbSec, the NSW Centre for Aboriginal Health (NSW Health), and Gail Wallace with Aunty Kate (pictured with Rod Plant) from the Care Circles service in Nowra came along to share their knowledge.

As mentioned in Issue Six of the Keep Them Safe newsletter, RPMs have been appointed in nine regions across NSW. RPMs will work with justice and human services agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) to support regional delivery of the Keep Them Safe Action Plan. Over the next few issues, we will be introducing the RPMs to you.

Donna Argus – Western Region, Riverina

Donna has spent the last 16 years working with the NSW Department of Education and Training in special education positions. She has taught in both primary and high schools in special classes for students with intellectual disabilities, autism, and mental health issues. She has also worked in schools as a consultant supporting teachers, students, families and school communities in the area of inclusion, behaviour management, curriculum development, and non-violent crisis intervention. Donna is also a City Councillor in the Wagga Wagga Local Government Area and has two children, aged eight and 16.

Megan Neale – Western Sydney, Parramatta

Megan brings experience from a broad range of roles in the non-government, government, research, and private sectors. Over the past 10 years, her work has predominantly focused on streamlining and developing systems across government agencies and non-government organisations to improve service communication, coordination, and case management. This work has been driven and informed by her work and research in the areas of unemployment, disability, homelessness, and domestic and family violence. Megan holds a Bachelor of Social Science from the University of NSW. One of her favourite questions is, “But what does that policy look like…on the ground?”, something which she reminds herself of often.

Rod Plant – Illawarra

Rod came to Keep Them Safe after six years as a Performance Auditor, analysing State Government programs like the Home Care Service and the Cross City Tunnel from a taxpayer’s point of view. Before that, he had a 25-year career with NGOs, including Burnside, Shelter NSW, and the Ethnic Communities Council. He has also lived and worked in Thailand and Laos for 10 years (yes, concurrently with NGO experience – Save the Children and others). This is his first job close to home, between the escarpment and the sea north of Wollongong. He has two daughters, 20 and 17, and is enjoying a renaissance as an amateur actor!

Family Case Management update

Family Case Management (FCM) is happy to welcome Penny Johnson to the team. Penny has started work with Mission Australia as the FCM Coordinator in Western NSW. She will drive local implementation of the project by supporting local groups with organisation, reporting and problem solving.
In the two other FCM Stage 1 regions (SW Sydney and SE NSW), local teams from government and non-government organisations have started working with families.

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