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Stolen Generations, trauma training for child protection workers

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Frontline child protection workers in South Australia will be taught to be more considerate and sensitive towards Aboriginal families who have been impacted by the Stolen Generations, in a bid to slow the number of kids entering state care.

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During the two-day training program, government and non-government workers who support families to keep children out of the child protection system will be taught Aboriginal history and told how to avoid re-traumatising families who have been impacted by past events such as the forcible removal of children.

The course – called Yaitya Mingkimingka Purrutiapinthi, or Tree of Hope – is mandatory for the 300-plus frontline workers who provide early intervention child protection support.

It is described by the Government as a “state-first” program to keep Aboriginal families together and out of the child protection system.

Guardian for Children and Young People Penny Wright last year reported that Aboriginal children represented 36 per cent of children in state care in South Australia, which was an increase of 13 per cent from the year before.

The growing overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in state care has been a longstanding concern, as First Nations children represent just five per cent of the state’s total child population.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the launch of the $200,000 program this month was a “significant step in a total reform of the child protection system”.

She said the training program would provide workers with “an understanding of the very difficult history Aboriginal families have faced and the real impact their grief, loss and trauma can have on individuals, families and communities”.

Workers will also discuss the impacts of past events such as the Stolen Generations, and how they contribute to the trauma Aboriginal people face today.

“Aboriginal people told us if we want vulnerable families to access early support, we need to be considerate of and responsive to past trauma, that for some families has a lasting effect over generations,” Lensink said.

“In practice, this means that support staff will be trained to use a more sensitive and healing approach in their work, so they can avoid re-traumatising families who have already gone through so much.”

The training course was developed by the State Government in collaboration with Aboriginal child advocacy group SNAICC following consultation with workers, non-government providers, Aboriginal elders and people with lived experience of intergenerational trauma.

It will be delivered by South Australian Aboriginal-controlled organisations including Aboriginal Family Support Services, Kornar Winmil Yunti and Tauondi Aboriginal Community College.

The State Government says it trialled the program with nearly 40 workers and received positive feedback.

SNAICC’s CEO Catherine Liddle said the child protection system needed to be culturally safe and sensitive of Aboriginal people’s trauma, in order for them to feel comfortable seeking support.

“This innovative new approach embeds local cultural values relevant to South Australian aboriginal communities, which is important for the workforce to understand,” she said.

It comes after last year’s Family Matters report – a SNAICC initiative – found that South Australia was having “difficulty” reforming its child protection system to meet the cultural needs of Aboriginal families.

It also found that reform efforts had not addressed the intergenerational impacts resulting from the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

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