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Merinda Dryden

In this video, Merinda Dryden, a young Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warrung woman, bravely shares her experience of growing up under the care of the ‘Department’ since age three.

Merinda’s story is one of strength, resilience and the importance of connection to Culture.

Merinda is not alone in the challenges and struggles she has had to face. There are currently more than 15 000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are in ‘out –of- home care’ in Australia.

For our children, many wounds may not be healed. However, in the face of adversity, we know that connection to our Culture provides strength, hope and belonging.

VACCA has a range of cultural programs that help Aboriginal children and young people connect to culture and heal. You can learn more about them here, or donate to the programs here.


Sophie Dryden

In an Australian first, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has commenced transferring Guardianship of Aboriginal Children on Children’s Court Protection Orders to the CEOs of Aboriginal Controlled Organisations— a change VACCA has  been working on for more than a decade.

DHHS now officially calls the program Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care.  VACCA calls it Nugel,  meaning ‘belong’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people.

In 2014 VACCA ran a pilot program for 13 children. Sophie Dryden, who  was 15 years old at the time, shares her incredibly moving and inspiring story .

At VACCA we have made a commitment that the Aboriginal children we look after through Nugel, and their families, will have their voices respected and heard. The children will grow up resilient with self-belief and identity, and be connected to community and culture.

We would like to acknowledge the long history and work of many people in making Nugel a reality. You can learn more about Nugel here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material. To listen to our Acknowledgement of Country, click here.