National research tour report of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services

Over the last year Black Wattle Consulting was commissioned by SAF,T, the new Northern Territory peak body for Aboriginal children, youth and families, to organise and report on a research tour of Indigenous / Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services, looking at best practice models in child protection and their applicability to the NT.

SAFT interstate research tour reports 2012

Four reports of best practice in Aboriginal child and family services across the nation

SAF,T writes: ‘What we learnt from the research tour”

SAF,T writes on their website: “Over the last year, SAF,T has visited or consulted with forty child, youth and family agencies across the nation. We asked them what they do that works which may guide us as we begin our NT work. We have been inspired by these services and we thank them all for their time, patience, vision and hospitality and we thank Black Wattle Consulting staff Rosie Elliott, Nina Kelabora and Julie Sleight for their organisation, participation in and documentation of our nation wide meetings.

“The tour highlighted the creativity of locally developed services, adapting to their community circumstance and overwhelming need, based on the dedication of staff, working in early intervention, intensive family support, out-of-home care, foster care support, community outreach and cultural support.

“SAF,T research team included SAF,T CEO Josie Crawshaw, supported by different team members on each trip, including SAF,T Chair Margie Furber. We spoke with two sister state peak organisations – the Queensland peak, QATSICPP and the NSW peak, AbSec, both of which provide child protection services as well as their peak functions – where practice informs policy. We were also inspired by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) and the S.A. Aboriginal Family Support Services (AFFS), which both have such breadth of service and depth of experience they are defacto state peaks, combining advocacy and service provision.

“Our tour highlighted the importance of a long term, respectful relationships between state departments and the Aboriginal service sector. We were excited to feel the sense of achievement arising from the recent NSW transfer of out of home care case management to the NSW NGO sector. The energy radiates from our community controlled services like KARI, Burrun Dalai, Ngunya Jarjum and M.G.L.A.C.S. We were also impressed with the ongoing cooperative work between Departments and our services in SA and Victoria and the creative work between our services and the Children’s Commissioners/ Guardians in WA and NSW.

“We heard about different state accreditation processes, most particularly in NSW, where services which originally resisted accreditation now praise them! On the other hand, we heard services nationwide worry about regulatory demands that limit the pool potential foster carers eg police checks, Blue Cards.

“We were emboldened to hear from legal advocates about the importance of embedding our work within a long term human rights framework. We were inspired to hear of WA foster care and alternative accommodation services, which are also extending their role in a new case-management trial. We heard of how the WA ACCA combines its foster care work with the IPSU early childhood training arm, given the value of the Early Years Learning Framework for both foster carers and early years services.  We heard of locally driven flexible, community based solutions to keep kids safe in an unsafe environment, to keep kids safe in community. The Pormpuraaw FNQ Children’s Safe House is built in the heart of the community, staffed by community, overseen by an Elder’s group.

“This story contrasted with a sense from many other Queensland services, where there has been a change from a local AICCA model to a more controlled Recognised Entity model, and a separation of family support from statutory advice services. This contrasts with the Victorian Lakidjeke model, where the statutory function is embedded in the wider VACCA holistic service.

“The main message? Organisations of every size and type across the nation told us of the central role of promoting cultural well being of children – from urban services like Yorganop, AFFS, VACCA, Children of the Dreaming and RAATSICC, to remote services like Fitzroy Valley, Chuulanga Outstation and Pormpuraaw. Their main message was that Aboriginal community control is central to deliver culturally appropriate, effective services.”

The Aboriginal Child Care Agencies (ACCAs) and other service staff interviewed are listed below as appear in each of the four state reports.

New South Wales

  • Big changes for NSW Aboriginal child and family services: Transfer of NSW out of home care to NGOs – Rosie Elliott
  • Kerryn Boland – NSW Children’s Guardian; Maha Melhem – Director of Policy and Projects; Wendy Lawson – Director of Accreditation
  • Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation Inc Dana Clarke, CEO
  • AbSec – Tracey Keevers-Keller, Manager of Projects
  • KARI Aboriginal Resources Inc – Paul Ralph, CEO
  • Manning Aboriginal Children Services (G.L.M.A.C.S.) – Amanda Bridge, Great Lakes
  • Ngunya Jarjum – Lenore (Minna) Marlowe – CEO; Lester Moran – Manager, Case Workers; John Herington – Consultant
  • Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services (HACS) –Terry Chenery CEO
  • Terri Libesman, Senior Lecturer, University Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

View the report: SAFT Research Tour Report – NSW »


  • Kalwun South East Queensland Recognised Entity & Family Support Service – Grant Williams, Debby Smith
  • Indigenous Urban Health Institute – Jody Currie
  • Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP) – Natalie Lewis, Royden Fagan
  • Indigenous Family & Child Support Service – Greg Upket
  • Children of the Dreaming – Rosie Connors
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Human Services Coalition – Dianne Harvey
  • Kummara Association – Gerald Featherstone
  • Karbul Indigenous Placement Agency – Lyn Guidry
  • Cape York/Gulf Remote Area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Care Advisory Association Inc (RAATSICC) – Desley Thompson
  • GenX Enterprises – Mark Gebadi
  • Pormpur Paanth Aboriginal Corp – Kurt Noble, Samuel Bong, Bessie Holroyd,
  • Coen Wellbeing Centre – Shaun Sellwood, Marilyn Keppele, Rhys Gardiner
  • Chuulanga Outstation – David Claudie and family
  • Wuchopperen Health Service– Carlene Munro
  • Remote Area Child & Youth Mental Health Service – Che Stow, Ernest Hunter
  • Safe House, ACT for Kids – Kieran Smith

View the report: SAFT Research Tour Report – QLD »

South Australia and West Australia (combined in the one report)

  • Dept. Child Protection, West Kimberley – Julieanne Davis, Leah Dolby
  • Former CEO CQAICCA – Donna Kawane
  • Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre – June Oscar
  • Yorganop – Dawn Wallam, Kathleen Pinkerton
  • Djooraminda – Glenda Kickett
  • Dept. Child Protection, AECD & West Kimberley – Jacqueline McGowan Jones
  • Commissioner for Children & Young People – Michelle Scott
  • Yorgum Aboriginal Corp. – Millie Penny, Lorna Alone
  • Indigenous Psychologist Society – Tracey Westerman
  • Aboriginal Family Law Service – Mary Clark
  • Aboriginal Family Support Services (AFSS) – Sharron Williams
  • Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth & Family Services (MAYFS) – Sharen Letton, Jasmine Tonkin, Liz Tongerie
  • Nunkawarrin Yunti – Sharon Betty, Lucy Abadiez-Bocye, Gill Harrison
  • Dulwich Centre – Cheryl White, David Denborough

View the report: SAFT Research Tour Report – SA/WA »


  • Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) – Muriel Bamblett, Connie Salamone, Gwen Rogers, Julie Toohey, Heather Brooke, Fran Baird, Chrissy Mayberry, Liz Munt
  • Joint meetings with VACCA and Berry Street: Muriel Bamblett, Kerry Crawford, Suzanne Cleary and Ranessa Nelson, Julian Pocock, Craig Cowie, Lisa McClung, Les Corlett, Marcus Stewart, Anita Pell, Pam Miranda, Annette Jackson
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) – Daryl Higgins, Elly Robinson
  • Parenting Research Centre – Jan Nicholson
  • Parenting Research Centre – Robyn Mildon
  • Chair Victorian Child Protection Inquiry – Dorothy Scott
  • Melbourne University, Social Work – Marie Connolly

View the report: SAFT Research Tour Report – VIC »