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The Return to Country Framework has been developed to progress the Victorian government commitment to providing Aboriginal Return to Country cultural and family connection programs for 18 Aboriginal children or young people residing in out of home care in the Gippsland Region. The Return to Country Project has two phases: Phase One comprises the development of a Return to Country Framework and Phase Two comprises the implementation of a Return to Country pilot in Gippsland commencing in February 2017.

The aim of Return to Country Framework is to guide Return to Country programs undertaken by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations across Victoria. In the interim it will guide the Return to Country Program Pilot to be implemented by GEGAC and VACCA in 2017, while encouraging flexible responses to the needs and circumstances of Aboriginal children, young people, their families and their communities.

The framework highlights the value of the Return to Country program as a celebration of Aboriginal cultural practice.  It recognises the impact of disconnection on identity, health and wellbeing and is about knowing who you are, where you come from and what this means. It incorporates people, land, water, language, kinship systems, law, knowledge, values, beliefs and spirituality.  It is about a shared history and shared memories, healing and resilience, survival and pride. Importantly, Return to Country is a representation of how the ‘Best Interests of the Child Framework’ and the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Placement Principle’ can intersect successfully to enhance practice.

Much of what is recommended in the framework is already in practice and illustrates the commitment of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and the Victorian Aboriginal Community to celebrating and restoring culture and keeping our children and young people safe. Therefore, rather than an end point, the framework reflects ongoing organisational and community processes with the ultimate aim of providing opportunities for all Aboriginal children and young people to learn about and practice their culture inclusive of an understanding that this practice is empowering, supports connectedness, instils hope and optimism about the future, identifies meaning in life, and makes self-determination possible.

Our vision is that our children and young people will be proud to be Aboriginal and will thrive.

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