Advocating for a Better World

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Ché Stockley

Toddler outside in park laughing

MacKillop Family Services strives to play a leadership role in changing social policy and achieving better outcomes for the children, young people and families we work with.

Over the past six months we have worked closely with our frontline staff to develop submissions on a range of important issues. These submissions draw on our own experience of what works well and what issues we may be able to influence, as well as looking at best practice from across the sector, as well as sector and academic research.

The following is a summary of our recent submissions:

Royal Commission into Family Violence

The Royal Commission into Family Violence has been underway in Victoria since February 2015. The Commissioners invited submissions in May. In consultation with staff from across MacKillop, we prepared a submission on the key issues we believe must be taken into account when considering new approaches to address the growing incidence of family violence.

Our submission explored gaps in the responses to children who are affected by family violence, and had a strong emphasis on the need to intervene early, in order to prevent children entering the child protection system. We highlighted the importance of working with families affected by family violence to rebuild the attachment between mother and child.

We also looked at the needs of young people in out-of-home care and discussed the importance of access to therapeutic services, healthy relationships programs and behaviour change programs for young people.

Our submission can be found here.


Connection to culture

The Commission for Children and Young People conducted an Inquiry into compliance with the intent of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP) in Victoria.

MacKillop’s submission asserted that the intent of the ACPP is to ensure, where possible, that Aboriginal children and young people are placed with Aboriginal carers, when they are unable to live at home.

Our position is that in practice the ACPP should support connection to and immersion in Aboriginal culture for Indigenous children and young people in care. We also believe the ACPP has a role in redressing and preventing further damage caused by past child removal policies as well as assisting agencies to be more aware of, and attuned to, the cultural needs of Aboriginal children and young people.

The ACPP is a useful tool to help the community understand the role of culture as a protective mechanism for Aboriginal children and young people.


Access for everyone

The Australian Department of Industry and Science recently called for submissions on disability access to buildings. MacKillop’s submission described our experience as a recreation services provider working with children and young people with a disability, and advocated for greater accessibility to community venues for children and young people with a disability.

Our staff said one of the greatest challenges in providing these programs is finding venues in the community that are appropriately accessible for children and young people with a disability.

In Melbourne’s west there are only two community venues with a full-sized change table and a hoist. This means that some children and young people are simply unable to participate in our programs, denying them the opportunity to enjoy recreation activities and interact with people their own age.


Supporting communities

The NSW Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Issues recently explored how to better support communities with high social needs[LM1] .

MacKillop’s submission advocated for a wrap-around model of care, in which a comprehensive array of community-based services and supports are bought together and accessed through a central coordination point. The organisations work in partnership with the families of children and young people with complex emotional, behavioural and mental health needs.

The ongoing success of this model has been widely recognised in the United States and evaluation of the model has provided overwhelming evidence of greatly improved outcomes for children, young people and their families.


Accommodation for young people with disabilities

Our submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs on the Adequacy of Existing Residential Care Arrangements Available for Young People with Severe Physical, Mental or Intellectual Disabilities in Australia made a number of recommendations.

It included a recommendation that accommodation should be tailored to the needs of the individual, should be home-like, and promote social inclusion and community engagement. We also proposed that case management and support should be family-centred, but alternative methods, such as a wrap-around model of care, should be further explored for people with a disability.

MacKillop representatives were also invited to address the Senate Committee, where they discussed case management, supports for families with a child with a disability, service delivery models for a tailored response to the individual client’s needs and the importance of approaches that are child-centred, family-focussed and trauma-informed.

READ MORE great stories from the MacKillop blog.