Berry Street believes that an important priority for the next three year action plan, as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, should be the development of a national Trauma Informed Practice framework.
Director Public Policy & Practice Development
Over the last two decades strong evidence has been established of the impacts of childhood trauma arising from exposure to maltreatment, abuse, neglect and violence on healthy human development, and the need for children and young people to receive effective support to heal and recover from trauma.
We know more about the way trauma affects brain development, the consequences for the capacity of children to form healthy relationships with secure attachments and the behavioural challenges that traumatised children and young people present within their families, their broader network of relationships and within service settings from maternal and child health, early learning and care services, schools and the out-of-home care system.
In more recent years child and family welfare service systems have sought to respond to this evidence by developing ‘trauma informed’ policy, program and practice initiatives to support children and young people to recover and heal from childhood trauma.
“While we are the lucky country, it’s not lucky for everyone,” David James, General manager of Children’s Ground.
After 20 years working with communities facing the reality of sustained socio-economic disadvantage in remote areas, it was found that things had not improved; rather they had worsened…and probably wouldn’t improve.
This called for a complete rethinking of how to end entrenched disadvantage. This approach started with thinking about the needs of the community and ended with the building of the Children’s Ground platform.
Children’s Ground is a set of ideas and steps that can be implemented from within the community as opposed to being imposed upon it. It aims for families and communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage to realise their aspirations for the next generation of children – to be free from trauma and suffering. If this feels like a big commitment, that’s because it is!
This is a preventative program and a huge part of its success is starting early, even before the birth of the child. This commitment gives the child the best possible start at life and then this child is supported by the Children’s Ground platform for twenty-five years.
Within this time, the platform places focus on the child first, then the family and the community as a whole, whilst still being implemented from within the community. This bottom-up model for community led action is perhaps the biggest achievement of Children’s Ground.
It allows for deeper engagement and builds a relationship with a generation who can pass information and knowledge on to future generations.
The Children’s Ground platform is currently being used in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and West Arnhem Land. Here the platform was offered to the community with no strings attached and no further communication with Children’s Ground if the community didn’t seek it.
This giving up of ownership is was makes for the community led success of this project.
Aboriginal children today are twenty times more likely to be homeless, receive over 30% less financial support, face a life expectancy 20 years lower than that of non-Aboriginal children, and they are more likely to experience disability, ill health, and a reduced quality of life.
Despite all of that, Muriel reminded us that this data doesn’t tell us about the good things happening in Aboriginal communities and spoke of the successes in culture andsport of indigenous people like singer Jessica Mauboy, AFL star Buddy Franklin & NRL star Jonathan Thurston.
"When asked to draw what makes them feel safe, over 85% of Aboriginal children draw the Aboriginal flag" – Muriel Bamblett #GCConf
Muriel shared that building Aboriginal culture into everything VACCA do is crucial, and that after their safety, the most important thing to establish in an Aboriginal child’s life is culture and cultural safety.
How can we help provide an environment which respects that culture around us?
We were thrilled with the success of our inaugural The Good Childhood Conference. I know you can’t judge success by numbers but here are a few statistics:
Over the 3 days of the conference (starting with the pre-conference workshops) we had 1000 people in attendance;
During the two day conference there were 64 presentations & activities, including: 8 keynote addresses, 10 keynote presentations, 40 concurrent sessions, 2 performances, 1 youth panel, 1 youth led workshop, 1 football skills drill, and 1 book launch;
63 young people and 25 foster carers attended the conference on scholarships;
There were 18 displays and exhibitors, as well as a street artist creating a work in front of our eyes;
We were supported by 7 sponsors, 22 supporting partners and many friends of the conference who provided scholarships for young people and carers.
Presenters and delegates alike have been very positive in their feedback and we thank you for your encouragement.
In holding the conference we were seeking to explore what sustains a good childhood and how we can best support those who have not experienced a good childhood and we are keen to understand whether we met this aim.
We are currently analysing delegates’ evaluation forms and will be sending out a survey to those who attended to obtain further information to assist us with future planning. Watch this blog to find out about some of the themes from this feedback.
What happens now? One of the unique features of The Good Childhood conference was the presence of young people from SYN Media who attended all of the keynote and a range of other sessions, commenting on conference themes on twitter and drafting blog posts which we will share over the coming weeks.
This blog is going to become a permanent fixture for the Berry Street Childhood Institute as we encourage you all to engage in this conversation about what we want for children in Australia in the 21st century.
Why don’t you enter this conversation right now by commenting here? Otherwise get involved on Twitter at @ChildhoodInst.
Thanks to all of you who participated in any way at our conference!
This is a first for me as I join the blogging community!
At Berry Street, we believe that all children should have a good childhood, growing up feeling safe, nurtured and with hope for the future. Sadly, evidence and our experience over 136 years tells us that this is not a reality for far too many children.
I think there is a lot for us to learn and share about what sustains a good childhood and how we best support those who have not had this experience. One of the key ways forward is bringing together parents’ experience, the knowledge of practitioners and different disciplines.
There are a wide range of terrific speakers lined up for our inaugural The Good Childhood Conference, designed to appeal to different audiences. Some will be controversial. That’s part of the intention, because we really want to start a broad conversation about childhood.
We hope to have a large contingent of young people at the Conference – as both presenters and participants.
Like the work of Berry Street, our Conference will appeal to people from many different disciplines. 50 workshops will cover areas such as child protection, education, early years, wellbeing, place-based initiatives, family violence, the impact of technology and Out of Home Care.
We couldn’t be doing this without our Sponsors and Supporting Partners. We are especially grateful to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, who describe their role as helping to build a strong and fair society for all Australians and developing social policies to:
Increase opportunities for all Australians to participate in our society and work
Promote cohesive and connected society
Support basic living standards
Support individuals, families and communities to build their capacity
So, please spread the word and I look forward to meeting you at the conference.