The AASW/PeakCare Child Protection Practice group was established and is co-facilitated by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Queensland Branch and PeakCare Queensland. Membership consists of social workers, human services and social sciences practitioners employed in government, non-government and private services who work with children and families and are involved with the continuum of child protection and family support.

The purpose of the practice group is to provide a forum for discussing child protection and family support policy and practice from a social work/sciences and human services perspective. A key objective is, when appropriate, to provide advice to AASW and PeakCare about trends, issues, needs and solutions from practice, policy and systemic perspectives relevant to child protection and family support practice in government, non-government organisations or private practice.

Specifically, the practice group aims to:

  1. promote and advocate for the unique contribution social work and human services can bring to child protection and family support work;
  2. inform child protection and family support practice and policy, by advocating for professional standards via relevant professional qualifications in social work, human services or behavioural sciences for staff working in specific child protection and family support roles;
  3. prioritise, develop and advocate for strategies and social policy responses, to inform child protection and family support matters;
  4. provide advice to AASW and PeakCare about trends, issues, needs and solutions from practice, policy and systemic perspectives relevant to child protection and family support practice in government, community sector organisations or private practice;
  5. function as a peer group in which contemporary practice issues can be discussed;
  6. plan, develop and provide continuing professional development activities that highlight and support practitioners in child protection and family support.

The practice group has recently undergone a transformation, with co-convenors, PeakCare’s Lorraine Dupree and AASW’s Dr Fotina Hardy conducting a survey of members earlier this year. Feedback noted that the practice group was an important part of members’ professional development and reflective practice. However periodic forums, as opposed to the previous monthly meetings, were highlighted as a preference in how the group comes together.

As such the first Forum will be held on Friday, 17th November from 9.00am until 12.30pm in the AASW/ PeakCare Conference room, 17 Ross St, Paddington.

The topic of this inaugural forum will be:

Who is the Client?

Reflecting on the complexity of Child Protection and Family Support practice in the context of the intersection with Domestic and Family Violence. 

This Forum aims to respond to the specific complexities involved in working within the context of child protection, family support and domestic and family violence. This includes addressing the conundrums that arise including issues of who is the client and the various roles practitioners undertake.  The additional marginalisation of clients such as those who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds and those who experience mental health and/or alcohol and drug issues will also be explored.

In asking the question: Who is the Client?  Forum presenters and participants will collectively unpack the questions of how we all respond to the complexities of a focus on clients whilst also considering the many associated relationships in each individual’s life.  The ideological and practice perspectives that either enhance or impede what practitioners do each day supporting clients in complex scenarios will also be discussed.

The group co-convenors, Fotina Hardy and Lorraine Dupree, see this practice group as providing a really important forum for practitioners to have a voice and join together to share experiences about direct practice.  They note that it is particularly pertinent during this time of rapid child protection reform as we integrate the roadmap.

“There are positive and exciting changes and it is important for practitioners to have space to reflect upon these and be able to offer their insights, critique and perspectives.  The voices of children, young people and their families are integral to a well-functioning system that offers quality support and intervention.  Similarly, those who work directly with children and young people and their families have a wealth of information and knowledge to share, and a crucial perspective that sits alongside those of children, young people and families.  Practitioners have not always been valued as they should be.  This group is about hearing practitioners, respecting their challenges, identifying areas for practice improvement and acknowledging the practice wisdom that so many hold, all in a common goal of providing the best services possible to safeguard and support children, young people and their families” stated Dr Hardy.

This forum boasts a wealth of knowledge shared from academic and practitioner perspectives.  The biographies and topic areas noted below outline the opportunities for learning and discussion:

Belinda Cox – Communities and Partnerships Program Manager, Brisbane Domestic Violence Service, Micah Projects

Topic: Viewing Domestic and Family violence from a gendered perspective in the context of child protection and family support – What are the complexities? 

Belinda Cox is the Communities and Partnerships Program Manager at the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service, Micah Projects where she has worked for 8 years. Belinda regularly provides specialist and complex case management support and advice to the team of workers at the service. She has an extensive working knowledge of complex risk factors regarding domestic violence and coordinating responses within the broader community sector. Belinda is a regular provider of specialist training and community education to service providers and community groups in Brisbane. Belinda has worked in the human services sector since 1998, where she started in the alcohol and other drugs field specialising in harm minimisation, dual diagnosis and the support of women with children. Belinda is passionate about advocating for marginalised people who experience discrimination, disadvantage and abuse or violence.

Dr Silke Meyer – Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence, Central Queensland University

Topic: The continuum of women and children’s safety and men’s accountability.  Are these comfortably co-located in practice?

Dr Silke Meyer is a social worker and criminologist and currently works as a Lecturer and Researcher at Central Queensland University (CQU). She teaches in the Domestic and Family Violence Practice Program at CQU and her research centres on a variety of aspects of domestic and family violence, including women and children’s safety and wellbeing, men’s accountability in their role as perpetrators and fathers and experiences specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Silke is passionate about social justice and service systems addressing the needs of vulnerable families. Her research has informed policy and practice in domestic and family violence-related service delivery, especially with regards to child safety strategies. Silke is also one of the non-government board members on the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board.

Hayley Smith – Numula Domestic and Family Violence Program, Kurbingui

Topic: The added complexities of Domestic and Family Violence for the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children and the accountability of perpetrators.

Karina Maxwell – Case Manager, Joyce Wilding Hostel

Topic: The added complexities of Domestic and Family Violence for the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children and the accountability of perpetrators.

I am a Quandamooka woman, and part of the Ngugi clan Moreton (Mulgumpin) and North Stradbroke (Minjerribah Islands).  I have a Bachelor of Social Work and graduated in 2007.  Since that time I have worked in policy in State Government – Remote Indigenous Housing and Cabinet work for a few years, then worked as a case worker with Community Detainees (Asylum Seekers) for a while before heading into Intensive Family Support in a main stream organisation based in Logan working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families (mainly single mothers) with about 90% of those who have experienced Domestic Violence in some shape or form.  Since the start of this year I moved across to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service which is a community controlled organisation, firstly as a group facilitator before then moving into my current role as a Case Manager out at Joyce Wilding Hostel.

Joyce Wilding Hostel (JWH) is managed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service which is a proudly community controlled organisation.  JWH is a crisis accommodation facility that houses women and children for up to 3 months.  We prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders but will take any nationality.  During their time here, I ensure that they are linked in with services as well as provide ongoing support.  Most of the women unfortunately have experienced some form of Domestic Violence or Family violence.

Last year I engaged in focussed training on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders around Domestic Violence, Sexual assault (child and adult), Child Protection as well as the Socio Political context.

Jatinder Kaur – Director, JK Diversity Consultants

Topic: Working with families of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds.  What are the specific needs with regard to domestic and family violence?  Do these fit with child protection and family support agendas?

Jatinder Kaur is the Director of JK Diversity Consultants and Accredited Mental health Social Worker specialist in working with migrant and refugee communities. Her professional career spans 15 years and across various scopes of practice: research, child protection, family support, refugee settlement support, domestic violence counselling, policy roles and teaching social work practice. Since 2011, she has been delivering training workshops to professionals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds across Australia to build cultural capability and responsiveness within child welfare, mental health, domestic and family violence. She has been a strong advocate and has published research in various journals and presented at national and international conferences. She has prepared submissions to various child protection inquiries and Royal Commissions and Domestic Violence reviews.

She is a member of Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). She is appointed as community member of the Queensland Parole Board and on the Advisory Board of Sikh Helpline Australia.  In November 2017, she is launching a new service in Brisbane South West region in partnership with Inala Community House. The Oasis Centre which provides affordable holistic counselling support for everyone (children, young people, adults, seniors and families) from all cultural backgrounds to improve their health, social and emotional wellbeing in a safe and supportive environment, services will be offered under Medicare and NDIS.

Sophie McCashin – Practice Manager, DV Connect

Topic: Domestic and Family Violence Crisis intervention.

Sophie has worked in the domestic and family violence space in various positions including as a community advocate, a practitioner, and in leadership positions both in Refuge settings and also crisis response services within New Zealand, Cambodia and Australia.

For several years Sophie worked for safe steps family violence response centre – the statewide crisis response service in Victoria.  She is currently the Practice Manager of the Womensline and Sexual Assault Line at DVConnect, Queensland’s 24/7 state-wide crisis service. In her role at DVConnect, Sophie oversees the group of committed Practitioners who aim to achieve a seamless passage from violence to safety for all by responding to initial crisis calls and referrals for women and children seeking safe accommodation or assisting those who require an urgent crisis intervention as a result of experiencing domestic or family violence.

Jane Bowman – Program Manager (Brisbane), Queensland Injectors Health Network (QuIHN)

Topic: Domestic and Family Violence, trauma and Alcohol and Other Drugs.  Working with families who experience a range of complex issues.

Jane Bowman is Program Manager of treatment services at Queensland Injectors Health Network (QuIHN) Brisbane. Jane started at QuIHN in 2009 as a student.  She has a Bachelor of Applied Social Sciences (2009) ACAP and a Master of Social Work (2012) QUT. Jane is a member of the AASW. Jane is passionate about working with clients with drug use and mental health issues with a particular focus on working with parents who are engaged in the Child Protection system. She aims to balance the needs and safety of the child whilst empowering parents to have an active and truly collaborative role in the process.

Rachel Shelton – Domestic Violence Specialist, Brisbane Domestic Violence Service (BDVS is an activity of Micah Projects)

Topic: Working in domestic and family violence within a child protection and family support context.  What are the complexities? 

Rachel Shelton is employed as an embedded Domestic Violence Specialist within Family and Child Connect which includes a partnership of organisations including: Mercy Community Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service and Kurbingui Youth Development Ltd. Rachel started working at Brisbane Domestic Violence Service as an information and referral worker in 2014, whilst applying for permanent residency in Australia. During this time, she has gained experience and passion for supporting survivors of domestic and family violence undertaking a range of roles, including crisis work for state wide helpline DV Connect, counselling and support roles at Brisbane Domestic Violence Service and partnership work with numerous government and non-government services.

She has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (Hons) from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and graduated in 2012. Rachel’s core interest involves enhancing safety for survivors of domestic and family violence, including children and young people, plus raising awareness and skill base for workers in the community sector through training sessions and consultation. Rachel aims to improve outcomes for survivors of domestic violence and their children, particularly those at risk of entering the child protection system.

Following the presentations a panel discussion will be facilitated by Fotina Hardy and Lorraine Dupree whereby attendees can pose questions to the panellists.  Participants will also be asked to share their own practice experiences should they wish to do so.

Questions that the panellists will respond to are as follows:

For all panellists:

  1. The gendered violence analysis is widely accepted but remains problematic for some. How does a gendered analysis assist or impede your practice?
  2. When we talk child protection and family support then domestic and family violence, can all these issues be managed within a continuum or does this raise issues of who is the client first and foremost?

For targeted panellists:

  1. Are domestic and family violence issues different for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families?
  2. Are domestic and family violence issues different for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children and families?
  3. Are domestic and family violence issues different for children and families impacted by mental ill health and/or drug and alcohol issues?

All are welcome to participate in this practice Forum.  For more information or to register please email Lorraine Dupree ldupree@peakcare.org.au or phone 0439 790 360.