Nine outstanding award recipients were recognised yesterday during the Queensland Child Protection Week 2017 Launch and Awards ceremony at Premier’s Hall. This year is particularly notable in terms of shining the spotlight on outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals, individuals, programs and communities leading the way for Queensland’s children to be safe and experience wellbeing. PeakCare congratulates all of the 2017 Child Protection Week Award winners for their commitment to children, families and our community. Thank you.

The 2017 Queensland Child Protection Week Award recipients are as follows:

Professional (Non-Government) Award:

Dr Gerald Featherstone – Chief Executive Officer, Kummara Association

Dr Gerald Featherstone is an Aboriginal Social Worker and Bundjalung man from South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. He has recently completed a PhD at the University of Queensland. His thesis focused on understanding urban Aboriginal Parenting in Brisbane. Gerald completed this study with the approval of the Brisbane Elders. This PhD goes to enhancing the knowledge of Aboriginal Child Rearing Practices and the many strengths of Aboriginal parenting in urban settings for the whole social service sector. This study will contribute to the design of services that are sensitive to Aboriginal cultural experiences and parenting activities.

Within his role at Kummara he led the establishment of the Family and Child Connect service in the Ipswich Area. This program is one of the busiest in the state, servicing all the community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The approach to this service model delivery was led by Gerald. His leadership and direction for Kummara highlights the strength of community controlled agencies to not only service the Indigenous community but to effectively service the whole community. The partnership approach to engaging families and the intrinsic understanding of the special place that children hold in families all pull together to see a highly functioning service for the community.

Dr Featherstone shares his thoughts on child protection:

Without doubt the immediate future is about challenging us as service providers to work better together to reduce the numbers of children in out of home care, specifically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. These numbers have steadily increased since the commission of inquiry was realised in 2013 and now 4 years on we still have work to do. In my role as state co-chair of the national family matters campaign I have issued a challenge to Queensland Regional Directors to achieve a 10% reduction of children entering care and also the same 10% reduction of children already in care. This challenge is also directed at all service providers working in the child protection space. This is not about taking a softer approach and in no way should a child’s safety be put at risk, this is about working together to support the best outcomes for children by challenging the existing silos and working better together, bridging between professional services so that we are better able to work side by side instead of at times being antagonistic and adversarial. This doesn’t seem like a big target but I hope that if we can achieve downward pressure and movement in these figures the results will be much higher.

I think when we speak of child protection we mostly lean towards the statutory and at times negative response of removing children. Child protection for me is a much larger continuum, it is important that children are able to experience ‘childhood’ as this only comes once in their lives and should be an experience where they can learn, enjoy, connect with who they and their families are, their history and culture. It is holding the child as central in thoughts of shaping the world in which we live, this means we each have a role in making children feel safe, as when we are safe we learn, we engage and we extend ourselves, the same goes for us as adults. I think we need to focus more on a generational view, less about what’s in it for me now versus how will the world be better for my child when he is 20, 30 and so on.

Professional (Government) Award:

Joanna Gurd – Manager, Strategic Policy and Legislation Branch, Department of Health

Joanna Gurd has been involved in child protection since the early 1980s when she worked clinically in a paediatric ward. In the 1990’s she undertook an increasing role in relation to child protection through providing training to health staff regarding recognising child abuse and her participation in the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team. Following the 2004 CMC Inquiry, Joanna commenced work in Queensland Health’s corporate office, supporting the implementation of Child Protection Liaison Officers within health services.

In her current role as Manager of the Strategic Policy and Legislation Branch Joanna provides ongoing support and advice on child protection matters to internal stakeholders.  This includes Executive officers, clinicians, Child Protection Liaison Officers and Child Protection Advisors and external stakeholders including departmental staff, police, teachers, and representatives of non-government organisations. Joanna is an integral member of numerous multi-agency committees working to implement key system reforms, providing expertise and consistent advice in relation to child protection and the role of the Department of Health in the system.

Joanna has demonstrated significant commitment to advancing the understanding of child protection issues within Queensland. She has developed a range of fact sheets and resources for Health staff, she’s led whole of state training in recognising and responding to child abuse and neglect for public and private sector health services/professionals, conducted annual Child Protection Liaison Officer Workshops, Child Protection Advisor workshops and information sharing workshops, delivered Expert Witness in child protection training for paediatricians, including moot court training and presented at induction sessions for Family and Child Connect and Intensive Family Support services. Joanna also supported the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services in providing information state-wide to key stakeholders on the implementation of child health passports.

To support changes to mandatory reporting legislation, Joanna provided advice to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services on training resources including short videos and she co-facilitated a train-the-trainer program. She developed specific resources for health professionals, including specific areas such as best practice guidelines that were developed in collaboration with all 16 Hospital and Health Services as well as reporting and referral information and training resources, including a child abuse and neglect education module.

Joanna says her aim is to: continue to learn, share my knowledge and support my health colleagues, child protection liaison officers, across the state. As well as supporting other agencies to work towards implementing initiatives to improve support for children and families.  Child protection touches everywhere, from families and their community, including the broad non-government sector, to local, state and federal government agencies. Working effectively together across all of these areas, with an aim to achieve the best opportunities for a child, whatever that means for each child, at the centre of our thoughts at all times, is my child protection message within the ‘child protection is everybody’s business message’. 

Volunteer Award and Education Initiative Award:

Historical Abuse Network

The Historical Abuse Network’s consistent and persistent advocacy has resulted in Australia now having on national record the failure of churches, government agencies and non-government organisations in reporting child abuse, and in covering up incidents of child abuse when it was reported to authorities. Children now and into the future will benefit from the courage and persistence of the many adults, represented by the Historical Abuse Network who experienced abuse as children in institutions, foster care and detention centres.

Thanks to the courage and determination of people who as children experienced significant abuse and crimes in institutional settings, including members of the Historical Abuse Network, the level of awareness has now captured national attention necessary for widespread change. In particular, the Historical Abuse Network has been instrumental in raising awareness relating to the need for Child Aware policies, reform to the legal and justice system for children, impact on families and communities and the need for the accountability of churches and non-government organisations.

The Historical Abuse Network have contributed to lasting change of the child protection system in Queensland for the last twenty years.  Every year, members of the Network organise ceremonies that are held on Remembrance Day. These ceremonies, involving participants who have a lived experience of abuse as children in out-of-home care or faith communities, as well as their family and concerned community members, continue to recognise the history of past abuse so as not to ever again enable the abuse of children in care.

The Historical Abuse Network says they are: driven to do this work because the lived experiences of members drive them to ensure justice and redress of past institutional abuse, as well as have input into government policy today which impact on people today as a consequence of their childhood. It’s important to spread the message of child protection for future generations through early intervention and prevention programs in ongoing reforms of the child protection system. We still have a long way to go on this front. 

Regional Program Award:

Centre Against Domestic Abuse (CADA)

Centre Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) crisis support and counselling services work directly with women and children who are involved with Child Safety, or are at risk of entering the child protection system.  It assists Child Safety to assess the risk of harm and to increase safety. This is especially important where the violent person continues to live in the family environment, or has contact with their children.

CADA provides fortnightly sessions at the Caboolture Child Safety Service Centre working with the ‘Walking with Dads’ Project worker and with Child Safety Officers. The CADA workers provide consultations on domestic and family violence cases, provide joint risk assessments, assist with safety plans and streamline referrals for Child Safety clients to their service where they can provide advocacy and counselling for mothers and counselling for children.

CADA have successful and close working relationships with statutory and non-statutory agencies such as Probation and Parole, Queensland Police Service, Child Safety and non-government family support services. CADA is a key service on High Risk Safety Meetings with these agencies. CADA collaborates with these agencies with the aim to keep mothers and children safe, to hold fathers who use abuse against their families accountable and provide therapeutic intervention for mothers and children who require it. CADA works closely with police through the Partnership Response at Domestic Occurrence (PRADO) program. PRADO was the first of its kind in Queensland, a program designed for case management strategies for families experiencing domestic and family violence where there was police involvement. Clients are contacted within 24-48 hours of a domestic violence event. Warm referrals are offered for both women and their children for supports in the community. CADA has now delivered PRADO in surrounding areas at Redcliffe and Petrie in addition to Caboolture.

CADA’s latest extension to PRADO is the ‘Breaking Down the Barriers’ program. This program delivers high quality culturally appropriate case management activities as part of the domestic violence intervention response. It increases the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in the Caboolture area and surrounds by providing early intervention and multiple points of contact, safety skills and planning, information and options during a critical time for change.

Youth Participation Award:

Speak Up Be Strong Be Heard project

The Speak Up, Be Strong, Be Heard project has demonstrated exceptional commitment to child protection in Far North Queensland since its implementation in June 2016. This project was developed by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) Child Protection and Investigation Unit (CPIU) in Cairns, in response to the ‘Preventing Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse in West Cairns and Aurukun Report’. Due to the success of the project in West Cairns and Aurukun, it is being extended into all discrete Indigenous communities in Cape York and the Torres Strait.

The project aims to develop an ethos of child protection.  One strategy used to achieve this is to increase community awareness of child protection, in particular discrete Indigenous communities in Cape York and the Torres Strait. The project is led by two Indigenous police officers, which has greatly enhanced engagement and delivery with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.  The project increases community awareness by incorporating delivery of tailored presentations with participation in community engagement activities and use of promotional materials. Community ownership of child protection is encouraged throughout the delivery of the project, through a whole of community approach.  The project has had a very positive response from all communities engaged so far.

The presentations are delivered in partnership with the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety) to community members and representatives from government and non-government agencies. The presentations increase awareness of child protection, the principles of the Child Protection Act 1999 and Queensland Police Service and Child Safety policies and procedures. Age-specific presentations are also delivered to children at schools and through engagement activities, to encourage young people to speak up, be strong and be heard.  They cover topics such as: protective behaviours, safety networks and child protection.

Participation in community activities has enabled engagement with almost 6000 community members to raise awareness of child protection. The project team also delivered four events to promote the 2016 Queensland Child Protection Week in Mooroobool, Manoora and Manunda (West Cairns) and Aurukun. Promotional material is used to strengthen engagement, enhance sustainability and reinforce the message of Speak Up, Be Strong, Be Heard.

Media and Communications Award:

Out of the Dark project – Led by the Queensland Family and Child Commission

During March 2017 the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) delivered a series of events including a Learning Forum for professionals working with children and an Expo to encourage online safety for children and families. The Out of the Dark (OOTD) project was designed with young people for the young people of Queensland.

The Expo was widely promoted in print, social media, radio and electronic signage. The QFCC created web and Facebook pages which were promoted and shared by stall holders and multiple schools. The promotion resulted in: Over 30 Facebook posts by the QFCC in the event page and 335 Facebook users indicating interest in attending the Expo.  Two social media posts which generated almost 7,000 interactions.

The following promotional activities occurred:

  1. A mail-out to promote the Expo with 35,000 postcards/posters sent to primary schools
  2. A mail-out to promote the Expo with 35,000 postcards/posters sent to primary, secondary, Catholic and Independent schools in South East Queensland
  3. Electronic signage advertising the Expo in the Myer Centre a week prior to the Expo. Centre management report that foot traffic during this period is approximately 615,000
  4. Live promotion on local radio stations
  5. A Detective from Taskforce Argos was interviewed with radio hosts ‘Those Two Girls’
  6. Working group members blogged the journey
  7. ABC and Channel 7 coverage
  8. The Expo was promoted through the State Library’s ‘What’s On’ publication, ABC Radio National, ‘Brisbane Kids’ and ‘What to do in Brisbane’.
  9. ‘Those Two Girls’ hosted ‘Facebook Live’ discussions with Expo collaborators with over 6,700 views https://www.facebook.com/keepkidssafeqld/videos/1870389123240957/ https://www.facebook.com/thosetwogirls1/videos/1062619160517092/
  10. The QFCC estimates the number of young people, families and community exposed to the messaging and promotion of the Expo to be in excess of 8,000. It is estimated over 700 children, families and professionals were involved in the week of events.

Community Initiative Award:

Cultural Connections Program

The Cultural Connections Program was developed specifically in response to addressing the needs and disconnection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Out of Home Care system. The program was carefully designed and delivered with representation of staff from a number of agencies as well as Elders. The project aim was to positively influence the wellbeing of young people in care through a developmental approach. It focuses on enhancing individual connection to culture, family, community and country for children aged 9 to 12 years. The 10 week program was designed around developing knowledge of language, dance, belonging and connection with country. The pride the young people exuded at their graduation ceremony was only surpassed by the pride observed in the Elders, siblings and carers. This program was considered so successful that it was showcased at the Honouring Frontline Indigenous Forum held in Brisbane. Young people in care have been so eager to participate in the program that a second group was started.

This is an outstanding example of genuine and respectful collaboration across Community organisations, non-government and government agencies as well as partnerships with Elders, carers and young people. The partnership started from a unique idea and progressed through to the development, delivery and redelivery of a very successful program.  Comment from one Gandanu young person: This has been the BEST two hours of my life, Christian.  Comment from a Carer: Thank you so much, this is exactly what we need and what we have been looking for, Rebecca.

Addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, children and young people in the child protection system Award:

Guy Douglas – Senior Community Worker Doomadgee, Save the Children

Guy Douglas is a proud Gangalidda and Waanyi man and respected leader in the Aboriginal community of Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Guy is a devoted father of five children. He has worked in several roles to address intergenerational harm to children and families including as an Aboriginal Health Worker, Teaching Assistant and Community Police Liaison Officer. In his current position, he is the Senior Community Worker for Save the Children. In additional to his professional experience Guy has multiple responsibilities in his community including Community Commissioner for the Family Responsibilities Commission, mentor, cultural advisor, softball coach and church leader. His is an active member of the Yellagundgimarra Health Council, the School Attendance Taskforce and the Dumaji Children and Family Centre Reference Group.

Guy’s relentless contribution to his community extends late in the evenings and on weekends coordinating cultural, sporting and community events. Each week Guy passionately teaches children Waanyi and Gangalidda culture and dance at the Dumaji Children and Family Centre, on the river bank and in the bush. He tells the stories of his people to pass down this knowledge from one generation to another to preserve culture, heritage and identity as a strong protective factor for Aboriginal children living in vulnerable conditions.

Guy delivers the ‘Deadly Doomadgee Homes Program’ to build resilience in families to maintain safe, healthy and nurturing homes for children to thrive. Guy works collaboratively with local health workers to host ‘Doomadgee Kitchen Rules’ to promote healthy eating for families and garden competitions to encourage safe areas for children to play. This program is a place-based response to improve environmental health in the community to reduce the underlying causes of vulnerability for children. The success of this program has been a result of Guy’s capacity to actively engage families in early intervention and prevention services to reduce harm and neglect.

Guy leads the Youth Development Program to engage young people in positive youth-focused activities to build their confidence and life skills including the ‘Deadly Boys’ and ‘Deadly Girls’ Groups. His approach to the design and delivery of programs safeguards cultural integrity for children in Doomadgee. Over 160 children and young people aged 7 to 16 years are participating in the program. Guy works in partnership with Youth Justice, the Doomadgee Police and Police Citizen’s Youth Club (PCYC).  Together they are planning a 60 km horse trail ride as an innovative community-led response to address the needs of young people with offending behaviours. Each morning Guy drives the Dumaji Children and Family Centre bus to pick up children for school to support the Remote School Attendance Strategy. His dedication to improving school attendance is shown by his commitment to reach all children and their families to improve the level of attendance at Doomadgee State School.

Child Protection Week is being held from 3rd September to 9th September. For more information visit the website.