Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010-2020)
Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010-2020)
i Contents Contents Foreword ii Executive summary 1 The story so far … 8 Acknowledging our history 8 A focus on improving outcomes 9 Planning the next steps 10 Government commitments 13 Section 1: Parenting and the early years 15 What are our shared aspirations? 18 Victoria’s targets 19 How Aboriginal parents and children are faring 19 What Victoria is doing 26 Future directions 31 Section 2: Growing up as strong young people 33 What are our shared aspirations? 35 Victoria’s targets 36 How Aboriginal young people are faring 37 What Victoria is doing 43 Future directions 47 Section 3: Families, culture and community 49 What are our shared aspirations? 51 How Aboriginal families and communities are faring 53 What Victoria is doing 58 Future directions 60 Section 4: Services that work for Aboriginal families 61 What are our shared aspirations? 65 How the service system is working 65 What Victoria is doing 69 Future directions 73 Next steps 73 References 75 Appendix 78 Consultation methodology 78 Governance 79 Acknowledgements 80 Key Acronyms 81 Key definitions 81
ii Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010–2020) Foreword The Victorian Aboriginal communityand the Victorian Government share a common aim: that Aboriginal children and young people have the best start in life, are able to succeed in school, and grow into capable, active adults. There are around 33,500 Victorian Aboriginal people and close to half that number is represented by Aboriginal children and young people aged under 18. Most Aboriginal households include children and the number of children is expected to rise.
The Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework (VIAF) was established in 2006 and is the policy base for whole-of-government reforms to improve the quality of life experienced by Indigenous Victorians and reduce the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians.
Major priorities include improving maternal and child health, early childhood development and educational outcomes for younger Aboriginal Victorians. In 2008, Aboriginal leaders and the Victorian Government jointly released Dardee Boorai: Victorian Charter of Safety and Wellbeing for Aboriginal Children and Young People.
Dardee Boorai broke new ground in framing the Victorian Government and the broader community’s commitment to improved outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people within a human rights framework, particularly the Victorian Charter of Human Rights. It also signalled the development of a 10-year plan to put these commitments and principles into practice. Balert Boorron: the Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010–2020) delivers on this commitment. Despite areas of improvement, there are difficulties that continue to confront Aboriginal families and impact on their children’s chances.
The State of Victoria’s Children 2009: Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria provides a comprehensive account of the safety, health, development, learning and wellbeing of Aboriginal children, young people and their families. The report’s unprecedented evidence base has been a key input into Balert Boorron, which means ‘strong child’ in Wathaurong language. Equally important have been the views generously provided by Aboriginal young people, families, communities and agencies. The plan has also drawn upon commissioned research and has been shaped by the expertise of members of the Aboriginal Children and Families Advisory Committee and the Premier’s Aboriginal Advisory Council.
Balert Boorron is being released at a time of national commitment to closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, and a growing consensus between Aboriginal communities and governments about how to achieve this. It reflects the positive feelings about the future that Aboriginal families and young people articulated during the consultation. It supports the creativity and hope of the next generation of first Australians. Young Aboriginal Victorians are at the centre of the plan and their voices resonate throughout.
iii Foreword The plan starts by outlining the challenges faced by parents of young children and how the Government and the community can together support them in caring and providing opportunities for their young children.
It pays equal attention to the school years and adolescence, and to the pathways that will guide young people to become creative, capable adults, confident in their Aboriginality and able to participate on equal terms in an increasingly globalised world. To achieve these shared goals, Balert Boorron looks to the strengths of Aboriginal families, culture and communities and to the strengths of the services and organisations developed by the Victorian community and Government. Continuing to build these strengths will underpin Victoria’s capacity to reach the stated targets in crucial areas of safety, health, development, learning and wellbeing.
Recognising and acknowledging disadvantage allows the Government to focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and their families. Balert Boorron sets out directions while respecting Aboriginal culture and the right of Aboriginal people to shape economic, education, health and justice policy.
Hon Rob Hulls MP Deputy Premier Chair, Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs Hon Daniel Andrews MP Minister for Health Ms Jill Gallagher Chair, Aboriginal Children and Families Advisory Committee Member, Premier’s Aboriginal Advisory Council Hon Maxine Morand MP Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development Hon Lisa Neville Minister for Community Services Hon Bronwyn Pike MP Minister for Education Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation Hon Richard Wynne MP Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
1 Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010–2020) Executive summary Balert Boorron reaffirms the Victorian Government and the community’s shared commitment to work in partnership to improve outcomes for Aboriginal families, children and young people.
The plan has been developed in consultation and partnership. It sets out the directions for future action by Government, and by Aboriginal organisations and communities, putting the principles and commitments of Dardee Boorai into effect.
Rationale The plan has been prepared because Aboriginal children are a growing and important group of Victorian children, whose history and family circumstances means that they require particular attention. The State of Victoria’s Children 2009 confirmed that while Aboriginal children’s outcomes are similar to those of other children across some important measures, too many Aboriginal children are faring significantly worse and could be left behind as the living standards and opportunities of most Victorians continue to rise.
Many Aboriginal families are managing precariously, often experiencing repeated life stressors, making it hard for parents – many of whom are raising children alone, often with limited support from overstretched families – to care effectively for their children.
For some it is too hard, leaving a disturbingly high proportion of Aboriginal children in need of care or protection. It is possible to reduce the burdens faced by Aboriginal families. In some important areas the situation is improving, and the Victorian Government has already committed to further improvement. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has made explicit commitments to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, and the Victorian Government has set targets for improvement within the VIAF. Over half of all Aboriginal people in Victoria are under the age of 25, providing Victoria with an unprecedented opportunity to draw on the resilience of Aboriginal culture and the potential of children and young people to break the cycle of disadvantage, and to work towards a stronger and healthier community.
Preparation of the plan Balert Boorron has been prepared drawing upon, and responding to, new data on the safety, health, development, learning and wellbeing of Victorian Aboriginal children, young people and their families. This evidence base was supported and extended through a commissioned literature review and expert papers. Some papers were targeted to fill known data gaps, while others provided an overview from an Aboriginal perspective. The plan has also been informed by extensive input and advice from families, parents and young people as well as from key Aboriginal organisations. Consultation through targeted group discussions was conducted throughout 2009 to capture the views of Aboriginal parents and young people.
2 Executive summary Forums and workshops were conducted with Aboriginal young people, including a three-day Digital Storytelling workshop in partnership with the Victorian Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (VIYAC) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. In addition, meetings were held with staff at a number of key Aboriginal organisations and relevant program areas across the Victorian Government. Major needs emerging from consultation were for: • early intervention and holistic support for families, with increased support for young parents, single parents and fathers • engaging children and young people in education and training, with a focus on supporting young people through transitions and when they are most vulnerable • strengthening connection to culture and building pride in cultural identity • addressing racism and discrimination in all its forms • ensuring the provision of a culturally safe, cohesive service system for Aboriginal families, children and young people.
Some of the most powerful suggestions for the plan came from Aboriginal young people themselves and their voices have given shape to the plan’s future directions.
From aspiration to action Balert Boorron outlines the improvements sought by Aboriginal families and communities as well as by the Victorian Government – to close the gap in those areas that currently limit Aboriginal children. The first two sections of the plan focus on the two stages of childhood. • The early years of life, where capable parenting is needed to give children the best start in life, and for which the Victorian Government has set targets to close the gap in seven areas. • During the school years and into adulthood, where adolescence and independence produce new challenges to young people successfully completing school and building careers.
The Victorian Government has set targets to close the gap in six areas over these years.
The next two sections focus on the underpinnings of action in these years. • The cultural and community context in which Aboriginal families raise their children, recognising both the positive opportunities offered and the negative experiences of racism and discrimination. These are of primary importance to the community. • Shaping the service system, including schools, so that they work for Aboriginal families. Leading the development of these systems is a major way in which the Government can influence outcomes.
Each section of the plan starts by setting out the shared aspirations of Government and the community – in broad terms, what we hope and plan to see at the end of the next 10 years – placing them in the context of relevant Dardee Boorai principles and government targets of COAG and the VIAF, as well as reflecting views gathered through consultation.
Each section then examines the current situation, presenting key data to illuminate the challenges facing Victoria. Current initiatives and new strategies being put in place are then reviewed. Finally, each section considers the future directions that government and communities should pursue, and lists actions for consideration over the life of the plan.
3 Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010–2020) Balert Boorron: the Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010-2020) Section 1: Parenting and the early years The first section of the plan aims to support Aboriginal children and families to enjoy culturally rich and vibrant home environments. It is about promoting and creating the conditions for Aboriginal children to grow up in homes with parents and families who are healthy, happy and confident in their parenting abilities, as well as strong in their culture.
Our shared aspirations are that: • babies will be born healthy • parents will be capable, confident and supported • young children will be given opportunities to learn and thrive. Recent evidence shows some areas of progress. For example, fewer babies are born with a low birth weight, and there is higher use of maternal and child health services and rate of participation in kindergarten. However, there remain significant gaps compared with the general population. Over half of Aboriginal children and young people are living in single parent families, and mothers are more likely to be teenagers than the general population when giving birth.
Aboriginal families experience higher rates of multiple life stressors than other families. There is a high rate of substantiated child abuse, affecting one in seven babies during the first year of life.
The following future directions will guide our efforts to realise our shared aspirations and meet Victorian targets in this area. So that babies will be born healthy, we will work together to: • improve services to ensure that all Aboriginal women have access to high-quality and culturally safe antenatal care and support through pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period, with particular focus on the first trimester of pregnancy and reducing smoking during pregnancy • sustain efforts to ensure that all Aboriginal children and families have maternal and child health service contact and more targeted support as needed in the first few years of life.
So parents are capable, confident and supported, we will work together to: • promote access to culturally appropriate parenting programs promoting resilience, particularly for young and first-time parents, and increase the engagement of Aboriginal fathers and men • support families to adopt healthy lifestyles informed by evidence, including ensuring service availability as needed • develop strategies to ensure that primary school nurses work closely with Aboriginal families, possibly with the assistance of Koorie Liaison Officers • continue the partnership between community and government to implement Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families: towards a safer future for Indigenous families and communities 10 year plan to reduce family violence • undertake collaborative research into the underlying reasons for the high levels of life stressors experienced by Victorian Aboriginal families and children, and assess effective ways to reduce child protection substantiations among Aboriginal children and improve the response to vulnerable children and young people Executive summary
4 Executive summary • implement an early parenting strategy with a particular focus on providing practical parenting support tailored to the needs of vulnerable Aboriginal families. So that young children have opportunities to learn and thrive, we will work together to: • promote active parental engagement in children’s education • ensure that all Aboriginal children can participate in kindergarten programs • customise arrangements supporting the transition to school to meet the needs of Aboriginal families • provide data and information to Aboriginal families and communities on the importance of the early years and how Aboriginal children are faring, and resource Aboriginal organisations to play a key role in transferring this knowledge • explore ways to better support Aboriginal families when their child has a disability or developmental delay.
Section 2: Growing up as strong young people The second section of the plan sets direction to ensure that Aboriginal children and young people have every chance to succeed in school and are supported to become active, valued young adults who can take advantage of employment, further education or training opportunities.
Aboriginal young people face particular risks and problems in negotiating adolescence and are at much higher risk of coming into contact with police. However, the energy and creativity of young people, and the resilience of Aboriginal culture, may break the cycle of disadvantage if the Victorian community can support young people to reach their potential. Our shared aspirations are that: • children and young people will succeed in school, supported in their identity and culture • young people will confidently transition into rewarding employment, training or educational pathways after leaving school • young people will have a strong voice in their communities and feel supported and valued, with skills to build healthy, respectful relationships.
Recent evidence shows important progress in literacy and numeracy scores. Many young people now aspire to achieve a university education, although this number remains much lower than it is across the whole population and actual completion of secondary school remains a minority experience. Enrolments in Vocational Education and Training (VET) have been growing. However, some young people face significant barriers to their educational success. Some of these barriers reflect persistent disadvantage that surfaces most dramatically in adolescence.
The following future directions will guide our efforts to realise our shared aspirations and meet Victorian targets in this area.
So that children and young people will succeed in school, supported in their identity and culture, we will work together to: • continue to implement the Wannik Education Strategy for Koorie Students to ensure that schools and services are well equipped to support Aboriginal students to attend and engage • increase opportunities for all Aboriginal young people to engage in pro-social activity such as sport Executive summary
5 Balert Boorron: The Victorian Plan for Aboriginal Children and Young People (2010–2020) • increase the engagement of students with the education system by the provision, through the Wannik Education Strategy, of sport and recreation-based programs such as Clontarf Football Academies and Wannik Dance Academies • improve the transition of students from primary to secondary school through the use of Individual Education Plans, the transfer of academic data and the work of Koorie Engagement Support Officers where necessary • develop better supports for families of Aboriginal young people with disabilities to address the particular issues and challenges they face.
So that young people will confidently transition into rewarding employment, training or educational pathways after leaving school, we will work together to: • develop strategies to better meet the needs of young parents with a particular focus on keeping young parents engaged in education • provide Aboriginal students with high-quality career advice from Years 7 and 8 as well as work experience opportunities • build on existing tools such as Individual Education Plans and Managed Individual Pathways to identify how career advice will support Aboriginal students to form relationships with potential employers and further education and training providers to create clear transition pathways • provide access to mentors who can support Aboriginal students to realise their educational and career development aspirations • ensure that engagement initiatives, including activities linked to sport, art and culture and career development advice, are provided from Years 7 and 8 and involve students’families • provide targeted re-engagement activities in identified areas of high rates of early school leaving.
So that young people have a strong voice in their communities and feel supported and valued, and to equip them with skills to build healthy, respectful relationships, we will work together to: • actively encourage young people to have a voice in the community by providing greater support for community youth organisations to enhance youth involvement in decisions affecting their lives • enhance pathways to positive youth programs and provide opportunities for young people to share their skills with the community • build on successful Frontline initiatives and Koorie Youth Justice strategies to prevent youth involvement in the justice system and to build safer communities • in line with the Government’s Respect Agenda, support young people to build respectful relationships and make positive decisions relating to drugs (including smoking) and alcohol, with programs tailored to the needs of particular locations • promote access to peer education for young people about sexual health, intimate relationships, pregnancy and choice in parenthood.
Section 3: Families, culture and community The third section of the plan sets direction to ensure that families, children and young people are genuinely free to identify as Aboriginal in Victoria today – that their Aboriginality is something to be celebrated and strengthened. This includes actively providing opportunities for children and young people to explore and rework connections and traditions. It also means ensuring that they are brought up safe from the damaging effects of racism and discrimination.