In an Australian first, Victoria has taken the next vital step in making sure Aboriginal people are at the forefront of decision-making for vulnerable Aboriginal children with the launch of the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care Program.
The program realises the implementation of Section 18 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 giving greater responsibility for the safety and protection of vulnerable children subject to Children’s Court protection orders to authorised Aboriginal organisations.
This new approach to child protection recognises that the needs of Aboriginal children and young people are best met by Aboriginal community services, allowing them to provide support to these children and their families in a manner that best meets their cultural and community needs.
Section 18 allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to authorise the principal officer of an Aboriginal agency to perform specified functions and powers in relation to an Aboriginal child subject to a Children’s Court protection order.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is the first Aboriginal organisation authorised under Section 18. VACCA will take responsibility for case planning and care management of 36 Aboriginal children and young people in the Northern Metropolitan region.
Trial pilots of the new program are underway in the Dja Dja Warrung region by Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BDAC) and previously in the Northern Metropolitan Region by Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.
Six of the 13 children involved in the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency pilot were re-unified and there has been strong family engagement with Aboriginal agency staff in the current BDAC pilot.
The new program and pilots have been co-designed alongside Aboriginal agencies, the Commission for Children and Young People and Community Service Organisations.