Families and communities

Families and communities

The ACT Government is working to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families and carers, so everybody can share in the prosperity of our city. Safety and stable care, whether it be at home, at school, in hospital or around our community are critical to the wellbeing of families.

We’re focused on building inclusive, connected local communities and providing extra support when Canberrans need it most.

The ACT Government has responded strongly to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse by creating laws that make it the responsibility of every adult to make a report to authorities if they believe a child is being subject to abuse. We are also introducing an intermediary scheme which will help vulnerable witnesses, including children and people with a disability, to overcome the challenges they face being heard by the criminal justice system.

Supporting our carers

In October 2018, the ACT Government launched the first three-year Action Plan under the ACT Carers Strategy 2018–2028. The Plan includes 25 actions to deliver on the Strategy’s vision, outcomes and priorities to better support and recognise Canberra’s carers.

The actions were developed through a collaborative approach that included carers, Carers ACT and representatives from the community sector and the ACT Government.

Following an evaluation of the Marymead Grandparents Group, the Government will be funding the group from 2019-2020.

Services for our children

In 2019-20, ACT Government will better support families with newborn babies or children who need to travel interstate for specialist medical treatment by providing financial assistance toward travel and accommodation costs.

Our Children’s Services Program provides short-term early childhood education and care to families in crisis or children in out of home care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child. In 2017-18 this program provided support to 434 children, including 386 new referrals. 76 of the children identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, making up 18 per cent of the approvals for this period.

Families and children once again enjoyed the National Multicultural Children’s Sanctuary during the 2019 National Multicultural Festival, with art, craft, music, dance and bilingual storytelling to help tell the tale of our multicultural city.

Stepping up for our kids

The first priority of the Government’s Out of Home Care Strategy 2015-2020, A Step Up for Our Kids, is to work with families to keep children and young people safe at home. In its third year of implementation, and with additional investment in frontline Child and Youth Protection Services staff in the 2017-18 Budget, the Strategy has seen a 25 per cent reduction in the number of children and young people entering care in 2018 compared with 2017. We will keep building on this achievement by working with families in ways that respect and empower them.

In 2019-20, the innovative continuum of care approach under A Step Up for Our Kids is getting a boost to ensure that we can deliver sustainable outcomes for those children and young people who cannot safely live at home with their parents. The Government will continue to work collaboratively with foster and kinship carers and with our service partners to embed a therapeutic, trauma-informed model of care for our most vulnerable children and young people.

The Our Booris, Our Way review of the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care and protection is being driven by a wholly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Steering Committee and has already led to changes in Child and Youth Protection Services. At the same time, the Government’s investment in Family Group Conferencing and Functional Family Therapy delivered by Aboriginal controlled organisations, empowering families to make decisions about how to keep their children safe and connected to family and culture.

Preventing domestic and family violence

We remain absolutely committed to preventing and reducing the prevalence of domestic and family violence and improving the safety and life opportunities for impacted families.

The ACT Government is working with our community and businesses to develop innovative ways to stop violence before it starts. This includes work to improve gender equity, running respectful relationships programs for students in schools across Canberra and contributing to the Stop it at the Start national violence prevention campaign.

Family Safety Hub

We have developed the Family Safety Hub to design and deliver better service for those affected by domestic and family violence. The Family Safety Hub targets one challenge topic at a time, bringing together people with lived experience, government, community and private sectors partners to identify and understand the barriers, system gaps and opportunities that exist for each topic. New ideas are tested and evaluated for their potential long-term and positive impact.

The first pilot program from the Family Safety Hub, a Health Justice Partnership, is offering free and confidential legal advice in health and community care settings. Understanding and addressing legal issues can have a significant positive impact on health and wellbeing. The partnership is reaching vulnerable women who have multiple legal issues and are receiving support and advice they would otherwise not be able to access.

We are also exploring how we can prevent housing and financial crisis for those affected by domestic and family violence, bringing representatives from financial services, housing providers, expert domestic and family violence services and government together to generate ideas for new or improved services to support those in need in our community. The most promising of these ideas are now being considered for development by the Family Safety Hub.

We are improving access to Safer Families Assistance funds to help eligible people re-establish a family home after leaving family violence.

To stop men’s violence from reoccurring we’re funding Room4Change, a therapeutic residential men’s behaviour change program run by the Domestic Violence Crisis Service that also supports partners and children to stay safely in the home. We have also expanded our restorative justice scheme to include family violence and sexual offences.

We are learning from children and young people about family violence to better understand how to meet their needs.

and all ACT Government staff will be required to undertake training to improve their capability to respond effectively and appropriately to the needs of people impacted by domestic and family violence.

We are supporting community-led approaches to addressing family violence within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community as part of the new ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2019–28.

A new ACT Family Violence Death Review scheme will review and recommend system-wide changes to prevent the likelihood of future family violence deaths.

To enable a common approach to screening, assessing and managing domestic and family violence risk, we are developing a domestic and family violence risk assessment and management framework.

Other initiatives with ongoing support include:

Connecting kin and keeping families together

Joseph* was born prematurely, weighing only 1.6 kilograms. His parents relinquished care of him shortly after he was born, so he was assigned a crisis carer who visited him in hospital every day, and took him home when he was well enough to go.

While Joseph lived with his crisis carer, his caseworker from the ACT Government-funded ACT Together service worked with Joseph’s parents and Child and Youth Protection Services to search for a relative who could care for him long-term.

They mapped out a family tree, knowing that Joseph’s connection with his family and culture would be greatly enhanced if he could be cared for long-term by a member of the extended family.

Based on the names provided by Joseph’s father, Joseph’s caseworker searched for possible relatives in Queensland. Through this process, she discovered Joseph had an aunt on his father’s side, Kim**.

Kim’s world changed the day she got a call from ACT Together. Not only did she find out her brother was alive, but he had a baby boy who needed to be looked after. Kim and her husband said they’d do whatever it took to become Joseph’s kinship carers. They were assessed, deemed suitable and soon brought Joseph into their family.

Above Joseph’s bed, Kim has put photos of his birth parents, his crisis carer, and her family. She points them out to Joseph, saying, “these are the people who made you, these are the people who cared for you, and we are the ones who are keeping you.”

*Not their real names