This week, PeakCare’s Executive Director, Lindsay Wegener, enjoyed the privilege of participating in a 2-day workshop hosted by the Queensland First Children and Families Board for purposes of developing the second iteration of the Changing Tracks Action Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families. The significance of this exercise was underlined by the list of participants. For extended periods throughout the two days, if not the whole of the event, the participants included the Honourable Di Farmer MP, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence and her staff; not one, not two, but three Directors-General – Mr Michael Hogan, Mr Bob Gee and Dr Chris Sarra – and their staff; Natalie Lewis, Co-Chair of the National Family Matters Campaign plus the Co-Chairs of the Queensland Campaign, Aunty Rachel Anderson and Mr Gerald Featherstone; invited academics; chief executives and senior representatives of Queensland peak bodies; and, of course, Co-Chairs of the Queensland First Children and Families Board, Professor Boni Robertson and Mr Mick Gooda and members of the Board.

In Lindsay Wegener’s opinion, amongst the many words of wisdom exchanged throughout the exercise, the quote of the days belongs to Ms Maureen Irvine from the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women. Gifted as she is with a beautifully resonant speaking voice and an eloquent mind to match, Ms Irvine explained that sometimes we crave for a chocolate cake, but all that we get is a vanilla one.

“We can cover it with chocolate icing so it looks like a chocolate cake, but it will never be more than a vanilla cake dressed up to look like chocolate,” she said. “There will always be some essential ingredients missing and it will not taste good enough.”

As we proceed towards a transition of authorities and responsibilities for service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community control, as inevitably we must, the meaning of Ms Irvine’s metaphor becomes clear. The transition won’t work if it simply involves transferring authorities and services in the ways in which they are currently designed and implemented to community controlled organisations. All that this would represent is a change in their auspicing arrangements and will do little to address inherent flaws in their design and their limited relevance and lack of accountability to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and communities. Community control means community control over the design as well as the delivery of these services. Without that, it will mean nothing more than offering up a cake which may be lathered with chocolate icing, but taste no better than a packet sponge.

Let us know your opinion by entering your comments below, anonymously if you prefer. More metaphors involving food are welcomed.