NAIDOC Week Celebrations

This year Connections is proud to be involved in the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency’s (VACCA) NAIDOC Week celebrations.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians.

NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society.

Connections has a strong commitment to Aboriginal people and their community. We are actively working to develop culturally appropriate services that are guided by the Aboriginal community. Through the Reconciliation Action Plan sub-committee of the Connections Consultative Committee, we are forging and building partnerships to ensure we are improving our understanding, responsiveness and work with Aboriginal families. 

For more information about NAIDOC Week or to see what events are happening around the country, visit www.naidoc.org.au 

01 Jul 2016

Connections Blog - Findings from Royal Commission into Family Violence

As a provider of child and family services, Connections has been waiting in anticipation, for the release of the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s findings. The 2000 page report delves extensively into identifying the many gaps and limitations of our current service system.

The 227 recommendations highlight the urgent need for reform. The recommendations provide a framework to enable broad and whole of government changes covering the spectrum of primary prevention to early intervention and mainstream services, and the roles each play in identifying and responding to family violence.

The experience of our staff in delivering services to children, young people and their families, includes family violence either as a presenting issue or as an underlying theme, and so it is core to much of the work we do. The impact of family violence is devastating, leaving lifelong physical and psychological pain to those impacted; pain that often take years to recover from, if ever.

The recommendation to prioritise funding for therapeutic interventions for children and young people who are victims of family violence is desperately needed. For children to grow and develop, and meet their full potential, they require trauma informed services which support their healing and recovery. Too long children have been the silent victims of family violence, not treated as victims in their own right and so not provided with the support services they require.

The recognition in the report of the need for early intervention, therapeutic diversionary programs where adolescent violence is present is also a welcomed finding. Many young people who have lived with family violence often go on to use violence toward their parents and siblings with the cycle of violence further perpetuated. Funding to provide specialised and timely intervention to this complex issue is urgently required.

We welcome the recommendations which acknowledge that women and children escaping family violence require greater access to a range of housing options is core to supporting women to make the decision to leave a violent relationship and to keeping children safe in the care of their protective parent.

The Royal Commission recommends, as the preferred option, a new area-based, single intake into Integrated Family Services and specialist family violence services that will include perpetrator interventions. This proposed model, we believe will build on the existing Child FIRST Integrated Family Services platform of service delivery which has taken over ten years to develop and is well and truly embedded across the sector. With additional resourcing and the combining of family violence services there would be capacity to provide a more holistic response to all who require a service response. We believe this is an important step in empowering women and acknowledging and responding to the needs of children.

The Victorian Government's announcement of $572 million in funding over two years to respond to the Royal Commission's 65 most urgent recommendations into family violence, we believe will have a significant impact toward providing a more holistic response for women and children impacted by violence, and men who are the perpetrators. For this we recognise Premier Daniel Andrews for his unwavering commitment to addressing the issue.

There is a sense from other organisations in the sector that we can work together to realise the changes, keeping in mind the resulting outcomes for victims and perpetrators need to be at the forefront of everything we are doing and there needs to be a significant cultural shift individually, organisationally and systemically. This is an important time for our sector and for our community. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government and other parties to play our role.


Lee-anne Chapman
Divisional Manager, Family Services Southern


 

Connections Blog - Delayed Decision Making for Children in Care and Permanency Amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act (2005)

Uncertainty, anxiousness and fear are just a few of the emotions children experience when living in out of home care. The harmful effects of long-term indecision on a child’s permanent living arrangement can not only impact emotional and behavioural development, but also their ability to understand and develop their identity.

This is a real and significant issue facing many of the 5,600 (Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry 2012) vulnerable children and young people in care in Victoria every day.

As a provider of Adoption, Permanent Care and Concurrent Care programs, Connections has been watching with great interest both the current and former Victorian government’s response to the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children enquiry and the Stability Planning and Permanent Care project. We welcomed amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act (2005) effective 1st March, 2016 which aim to address delays in decision making for children and young people in out of home care.    

Children who reside in out of home care due to concerns of abuse or neglect can often be negatively affected by systems issues which can delay decision making and planning for their long-term living arrangements.  

Delays in decision making can be attributed to a number of factors, including; child’s family not receiving adequate support to address protective issues in a timely way; poor planning and lack of case management; and delays due to matters being drawn-out in an adversarial court arena. As children referred to Connections’ Permanent Care program are usually already in foster care and are not at immediate risk, court matters are also frequently adjourned, further delaying outcomes for children.

Children impacted by delayed decision making live with daily uncertainty and continue to experience extended periods of instability. Some can bounce from placement to placement, without knowing where their ‘forever home’ will be – whether that is with their family or with alternative carers. Others may yearn to return to their parent’s care and may feel anxious, sad, or confused about not being able to go home. At the other extreme, a child may be fearful they will be reunified with their family due to traumatic experiences they once had in their care.

While decisions are delayed, some children may be separated from their siblings and worry about what will happen not only to themselves, but to their brothers and sisters. When decisions are delayed, children can also worry about their parents and whether they’re safe and well, especially if they’ve seen or heard things in the past that may have placed their family at risk.

The new changes to the Act will assist agencies, like Connections, in collaborating with our colleagues in Child Protection to ensure timely outcomes for children. This will be enabled through legally mandated requirements for reunification and non-reunification decisions to occur within a twelve month period of children commencing residence in out of home care.  reducing the level of uncertainty children experience.

The Labor Government’s commitment to increase service provision in the area of Placement Prevention and Reunification services is a critical ingredient to the success of the legislative changes. Any changes to the legislation will be ineffective if significant resources are not allocated to preventing the risk of children being removed from their families care, or if children and young people are removed, intensively supporting them and their families to be reunified in a timely fashion.

While it’s unknown at this stage how the changes to the Act will translate in terms of actual outcomes for children and young people in care, the changes can only be seen and interpreted as a step in the right direction, as children in care have not only experienced abuse and neglect in the care of their family, but can be just as significantly affected by systemic failures and delayed decision making.  


Lisa Milani
Divisional Manager, Placement Prevention, Reunification and Out of Home Care

Is Homework for Primary-Aged Children Beneficial?

Now that the school term is truly underway, parents once again face the issue of homework – assisting or coercing their children into completing their after-school tasks.

There has been much discourse recently in the media regarding the topic of homework. Educators, childhood experts and parents appear to have strong opinions on either side of the debate regarding its benefit. Proponents argue that homework assists in reinforcing classroom learning, strengthens parental involvement in their child’s learning and school curriculum and develops important life skills such as time-management and discipline. They do however emphasise for primary-aged children homework be limited to half an hour each week day, with weekends free of homework. They also encourage parents to promote a lifestyle for their children with adequate family time, rest, exercise and intellectual stimulation. One of the United States’ leading homework researchers, Harris Cooper states, "research on the effects of homework suggests that it is beneficial as long as teachers use their knowledge of developmental levels to guide policies and expectations" (Cooper, 2001).

On the other side of the fence, exponents assert that no study has ever demonstrated that homework in primary school leads to academic achievement. Alfie Kohn, an American author, lecturer and advocate for progressive education asserts that in his research, "there was no consistent linear or curvilinear relation between the amount of time spent on homework and the child's level of academic achievement" (Kohn, 2006). Exponents point to successful educational systems, such as that in Finland, where homework is minimal, and play and discovery time, considered the best form of learning for primary-aged children, is maximised. Exponents argue that often the schools’ motivation for homework can be driven by their desire to achieve higher ranking through standardised testing. Therefore, homework is set for the purpose of preparing their students for these tests through route learning, which has limited value in overall intellectual development. Advocates for a reduction in homework state that it could have the reverse effect of diminishing an interest in learning as well as a child’s sense of autonomy. Additionally, the impact that homework could have on quality family time, as well as contributing to strain on parent-child relationships, needs to be considered.

One thing both camps agree on with regards to homework, is that reading in after-school hours is highly beneficial – this can be a joyous, bonding time between parents and children, and provides both an opportunity for a child to practice their reading skills, listening and comprehension skills.

Whichever view you adopt in the homework debate, there is bound to be some measure of homework during each school week. So how can parents best assist their children in navigating the homework path? Education experts encourage parents to be a coach to their children, rather than the doers of their homework. Providing guidance rather than completing children’s homework for them, provides them the opportunity to experience both success and failure through their own efforts. This is turn builds both confidence in their abilities, as well as problem-solving skills and resilience by overcoming difficulties. Parents are also encouraged to examine the quality and significance of their children’s homework and speak up as necessary to teachers, the principal or school if they conclude that the meaningfulness or amount of homework given is questionable or unnecessary. Conversations with other parents in your child’s grade can also provide solidarity and leverage if it is necessary to addresses the issue with the school.

So whichever way the majority in this debate next swings, keep in mind that the important tasks as parents is to ensure that your children have a balanced lifestyle with adequate rest, play, exercise, learning and time with family; as well as asking the right questions regarding their homework and education and addressing concerns with their educators as necessary.

- Miriam Oh

Further reading:

• The Homework Myth (2007) by Alfie Kohn
• Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs (2009) by Cathy Vatterott
• Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of the Research 1987–2003, the Review of Educational Research (2006) by Harris Cooper.
• The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents (2001) by Harris Cooper.

Close the gap in gener inequality

On International Women’s Day, leading community organisation Connections UnitingCare and national anti-violence initiative, Our Watch believe ending gender inequality is going to require bold action by all Victorian workplaces.

“We spend a lot of time in the workplace and with that, people tend to take on the culture, norms and values of their organisation both in their professional lives and private lives too,” said Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes.

Ms Forbes pointed to the results of a report recently released by the Victorian Trades Hall Council titled ‘Stop Gendered Violence at Work’, in which 64% of respondents reported experiencing bullying, harassment or violence in the workplace, and 44% reported having experienced discrimination at work.

“As a woman, it is disappointing that so many of my contemporaries are made to feel disrespected and fearful in their current workplace,” said Ms Forbes.

Connections is one of four and the only community organisation piloting Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect Project (WERP). Under the pilot, each participating organisation will examine how its workplace reinforces gender stereotypes, whose voices are prioritised in decision-making, whether there are flexible workplace policies for both parents and how comfortable staff feel in raising concerns.

“We think, as a community service organisation with a strong reputation in the community, we can use our status and our influence to enter into public conversations about preventing violence against women and support a workplace where we have conversations about gender equality,” said Ms Forbes.

“Core to the philosophy of our programs is our belief that we have an absolute commitment to prevent violence against women, and consequently, children,” said Ms Forbes.

Connections supports more than 2,000 clients and employs approximately 400 staff. Ms Forbes said it was important gender equality is carried through from their community programs into the workplace
environment.

“We help staff make the link between gender equality and preventing violence to women. We encourage everyone to be bold this International Women’s Day.

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer, Mary Barry echoed Ms Forbes thoughts and encouraged all workplaces to #BeBoldForChange this International Women’s Day.

“Workplaces have an important role to play in creating an Australia where women are respected and treated as equals in private and public life,” said Ms Barry.

“The leadership of individual workplaces is vital to build momentum to prevent violence against women. Connections is a great example of a bold organisation working to embed gender equality in their culture, practice and conditions.

Both Ms Forbes and Ms Barry believe “the time to make this change is now”.


If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

Media: Connections’ Chief Executive Officer Angela Forbes is available for interview. Contact Connections’ Manager, Communications, Development & Events, Kirrilee Torney on kirrilee.torney@connections.org.au or 0409 513 432

A copy of the ‘Stop Gendered Violence at Work’ report is available from VTHC; please contact Prof. Lisa Heap at lheap@vthc.org.au
 

Providing Positive Pathways for Young People

A new initiative to support young people (aged 10 to 25 years) find the support they require was recently launched by three local governments in partnership with Connections UnitingCare and Monash Health.

Positive Pathways brings local service level information together in one place. It aims to assist young people, families, schools and agencies by improving awareness of and accessibility to services available to young people and their families across the City of Greater Dandenong, City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia.

Speaking at the launch, Connections UnitingCare’s School Focused Youth Service Co-ordinator, Simone Cunningham said the project began in 2014 after a strategic partnership was formed to develop an online resource tool for young people.

“The website was developed after consultations with schools who identified that it is often difficult to find a service for young people and their families, make a referral and get the family connected to the appropriate service,” said Ms Cunningham. 

“The aim of the Positive Pathways website is to improve the support and responses provided to young people by having a ‘one stop shop’ to find support services in their local area,” said Ms Cunningham.

“This website is a commitment to working collaboratively in innovative ways to achieve the best possible outcomes for young people at risk in Melbourne’s south,” said Ms Cunningham.

Positive Pathways is supported by the City of Greater Dandenong, City of Casey, Shire of Cardinia, Connections UnitingCare, Monash Health, South East Local Learning and Employment Network (SELLEN) and Department of Health and Human Services.

The Positive Pathways Project is a School Focused Youth Service initiative funded by the Victorian Government through the Department of Education and Training (DET).

For more information visit youthpositivepathways.com.au 

Youth Positive Pathways

Changing Life outcomes

An Australian first in Out of Home Care for children under the age of three is being launched by leading community services organisations Connections UnitingCare and MacKillop Family Services.

With the generous support of the Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust, Concurrent Care - Breaking down the Silos will accredit families as both Foster and Permanent Carers so they are able to care for the child for as much of their journey from temporary care to permanency as possible.

The program will see identified and suitable families, care for a child as foster carers for the first six months of their placement, whilst all possible efforts are made to reunify the child with their parent(s). At the end of this six months, a decision is made as to the permanent placement of a child whether that be reunification with birth family or permanent placement with their foster carers.  

Speaking ahead of the launch, Connections Chief Executive Officer Angela Forbes, said that this type of model is effective as everyone involved is working towards achieving the best outcomes for the child.  

“Concurrent planning has been working successfully for a number of years in many countries around the world with the results suggesting the model truly does provide the best outcomes for children,” said Ms Forbes.

“Concurrent Care provides an alternative where a child is placed in a potentially permanent placement as early as possible and seeks to reduce the number of placement moves young children may endure.

“We are delighted to be delivering this program with Mackillop Family Services. We look forward to this program being replicated, ultimately improving the life outcomes for many of this country’s most vulnerable children,” Ms Forbes said.

MacKillop Family Services, CEO, Micaela Cronin said what these children need most is a safe, secure and nurturing place to call home. It is important that more people are made aware of the need for stability for these vulnerable children.

“A considerable number of our foster carers would be keen to move from fostering a child to permanent care where they been unable to be re-united with their birth parents, this program will help them to do this.” said Ms. Cronin.

“Allowing individuals and families to be accredited for both foster care and permanent care concurrently will enable greater stability. We believe strongly that this program will provide children the opportunity to live the kind of childhood they deserve,” said Ms Cronin.

Harmony Day

Harmony Day (21 March) celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

Harmony Day is held every year on 21 March to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The message of Harmony Day is everyone belongs. It’s a day to celebrate Australia’s diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home.

This year marks Harmony Day's 15th anniversary.

Help celebrate this important milestone by registering your event and get free Harmony Day promotional material.

There are also educational resources available for teachers and students to celebrate Harmony Day in schools.

Find out about Harmony Day events in your area by checking out our events calendar.

How will you celebrate Harmony Day this year?

21 Mar 2015

White Ribbon Day Celebrations

Community organisations unite in Pakenham to eradicate family violence.

The Cardinia Family Violence Network is supporting White Ribbon Day with a number of community events concluding with a peaceful walk through Pakenham on Tuesday 25 November.

The Network, led by Connections UnitingCare, and includes Anglicare, Pakenham Police Family Violence Unit, Cardinia Shire Council, Windermere, WAYSS, Stepping Up and SECASA, are uniting to hold this event to raise awareness of family violence in the Cardinia region.

The day’s events will begin with a children’s art exhibition on the theme ‘How I Keep Myself Safe’ at the Pakenham Library on Henry Street at 11.30am, where winners will be announced by local police members. Attendees will then be invited to join a peaceful walk down the Main Street to draw the community’s attention to White Ribbon Day.

Connections Acting Regional Manager, Community Services, Southern Lee-anne Chapman encourages all to get involved in this event and take a stand against violence.

‘Alongside many other community organisations in Cardinia, Connections is committed to supporting those experiencing family violence. White Ribbon Australia is a non-profit organisation and Australia's only national, male-led primary prevention campaign to end men’s violence against women.

‘Family violence has a huge impact on the lives of too many women and children in our community, physically and mentally, often with wide-ranging effects including poverty and homelessness.

‘We encourage the community to attend this event and show their support for an end to family violence,’ Ms Chapman said.

To find out more about this event, please contact Connections Pakenham office on 03 5945 3900 or visit the White Ribbon Day website at www.whiteribbonday.org.au to find events across the country.


EVENT

Tuesday 25th November

11.00am – Launch of Cardinia Family Violence Network logo
11:30am - Children’s art exhibition on the theme ’How I Keep Myself Safe’
10.30am – Peaceful walk down Main Street
Starting at Pakenham Library, Henry Street, Pakenham

Loving homes needed for children with special needs

During National Adoption Awareness Week, Connections UnitingCare is appealing to the public to help provide loving and caring homes for young children with special needs through their Adoption and Permanent Care Program.

Launching the campaign, Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes, said it was important that couples wanting to start their family realise that there are other options out there that exist beyond traditional methods.  

Ms Forbes said. ‘Many of the children we have awaiting placement face an uncertain future if we are unable to provide them a family that can love them, accept them and provide them with the security of a family environment.

‘All children need the stability and love of a permanent family to grow, and develop to their full potential. We are calling out to anybody who thinks they may have room in their lives to provide these special children with a home to make contact with us today.’

One couple who answered the call five years ago was Sue and Russell who are keen to share their experience throughout this campaign.

Just like so many others, the couple spent a number of years trying start their family naturally but following many failed attempts they made the decision to look into alternative ways. After finding out about Connections’ Adoption program, their lives were changed. 

‘When we were told we had been shortlisted for a child with special needs, my husband and I decided that we would go ahead with it because to us, it didn’t really matter what sort of issues she had, we’d try and do our best for her. And, well my husband’s exact words were, “I’m going to give her the best life that she could have,”’ said Sue.

‘We were given a report about what she may or may not have and what might eventuate but it didn’t matter to us because we knew that we wanted to start a family regardless and this was our opportunity to do so. The support that we got from Connections after we were placed with our daughter was just fantastic. If we ever had any issues or had a question our worker was there to help us. 

‘Our daughter is a happy and healthy child that just gives us and our extended family so much joy,’ Sue said. 

Sue and Russell, have recently been re-approved and placed on a waiting list for a second child through Adoption.

‘When I look at her, I sometimes think what her life would be like if she hadn’t been placed with us, if she was still where she was. And I think it would be a totally different life,’ Sue said.

‘Russell and I often say, it’s more what she has done for us, it’s not what we’ve done for her.’ 

Connections Adoption and Permanent Care Program facilitates the placement of children who have been relinquished by their parents or are involved with Child Protection.

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