In case you missed our recent series of Tweets @BSEMaus regarding the #BlackLivesMatter and #AboriginalLivesMatter protest movement, we are sharing them again here. BSEM will always have a focus on contributing to collaborative efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of Aboriginal Australians and other marginalised groups. We are always interested in hearing from schools about the work you are doing in this space. Please contact us if you have thoughts, ideas or initiatives you would like to share with us or if you want to join us in this continuing conversation.
One year ago, I moved to Australia to become a Senior Trainer with the Berry Street Education Model. As an American citizen, now an Australian resident, and a former New York City public school educator, I have been closely following the recent Black Lives Matter events in both Australia and the United States. Because this movement has been covered prominently in world news, I’ve had many conversations with Australians who have expressed shock and disbelief that racism is still one of America’s biggest battles. Interestingly though, I can see that Australia has its own story when it comes to the ongoing prevalence of racism. The way both countries have historically and currently treat people of colour significantly impacts the young people with whom we work and as such, is a critical subject to address.
How many babies who experience serious hardships in their first year of life have delayed communication skills?
The Berry Street Take Two team based in Bendigo in the Loddon region of Victoria were worried about this. They welcomed a speech pathologist to work with them for more than a year, as part of Take Two’s Communication Project to help understand the scale of the problem.
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?
In 2007, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle – or the Little Children Are Sacred Report – exposed the complexity and shame of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.
Constant media focus on child abuse in the NT followed. Daily reports in The Australian newspaper and nightly stories on ABC’s Lateline.
They covered, paedophile rings, chronic neglect, kids sniffing petrol, kids roaming the streets day and night and the sexual abuse of kids, including kids abusing other kids. All fueled by a daily diet of pornography and alcohol.
Shocking, awful stuff. Hard to digest, hard to think about and harder to know where to start. But, in time, easy to ignore.
With the 2007 Federal Election looming, the NT intervention was announced in response to this ‘national emergency’.
Just after another election, it’s a good time to ask – has childhood improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?
I’m not sure.
Media stories of neglect and abuse continue. Negative images of Aboriginal kids and families dominate.