- COVID Vaccines Rapped!
Vaccine hesitancy was identified as an issue for some of our Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) community in Gippsland. We came up with an idea to write and make a rap song and video encouraging all Aboriginal communities to get vaccinated.
“VACCA has produced music clips in the past, which have proven to be successful in reaching-out to community. We think a clip that speaks to community about vaccinations is a good strategy to reach people of all ages,” said Corey Harrison, Director of VACCA Gippsland and Southern.
Lionel Rose, from Drouin, is a well-known local artist who has recorded songs with Indigenous Hip Hop artists from across Australia. Lionel works with young people through VACCA’s Family Violence Therapeutic service in Morwell. He wrote the rap, ‘Time to Get Vaccinated’, as a way to connect with young people on this issue.
“I fell in love with music at a young age, growing up around family members who played guitars and sang, mostly country music. I believe young people can express themselves, their fears and hopes for the future through music,” Lionel Rose said.
At VACCA, we know there are low vaccination rates in Gippsland so we have established a group comprising a local Elder, ACCOs (Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations) in the region, and Government Departments including Justice, Health, and DHHF (Department of Families, Fairness and Housing). The group is currently developing strategies to boost COVID-19 vaccination numbers across Inner and Outer Gippsland.
“I hope the song gets stuck in people’s heads, it’s stuck in mine. I encourage young people and all mob regardless of where they live to widely share the video and its important message,” Corey Harrison said.
Check out the video: https://youtu.be/r9IaPxL9B5o
According to the Australian Government’s Operation COVID Shield figures for SA4 regions dated
21 September 2021, the vaccination rate for Latrobe-Gippsland Indigenous community members aged 15+ years shows 1838 people (48.71%) have received one vaccination dose, while 1075 people (28.49%) are now fully vaccinated.
For interviews contact Corey Harrison, Regional Director, VACCA Gippsland | 0437 921 969
- Aboriginal women and children deserve a future free from violence: An urgent call to close the gap
Today is the first day of the National Summit on Women’s Safety. Every day in Victoria crime statistics show 16 Aboriginal women will report family violence to police, but many more will reach out for help from Aboriginal-led organisations, and many more again will stay silent because they fear not being believed or worse, being misidentified as the perpetrator of abuse.
Muriel Bamblett, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), the largest Aboriginal-led provider of family violence services in Victoria said, “As Aboriginal people we have been promoting the need to adopt a holistic approach to address the causes and the consequences of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. If we treat it as simply a law and order matter, a matter of legal compliance, or a health matter, we will not Close the Gap or achieve lasting improvements. The solutions are complex, multi-faceted and require long term focus and commitment to address.”
In Victoria and nationally there are noticeable gaps that have easy solutions. There are no funded, Aboriginal-led dedicated women’s health organisations, women’s policy units, women’s information and referrals services – the answer is to create them. Aboriginal women and families need victim centred responses to their experiences of violence. A national Aboriginal community led Family Violence centre for Excellence would build the Aboriginal evidence base, best practice approaches resulting in consistent responses to family violence for women, children and families regardless of where they live.
“Too long have we accepted that it’s 'normal' for others to dictate what’s right for Aboriginal families, women and children and that unfortunately has been less. Less funding, less resources, less government action. We have been quietly leading community change for decades, now at this Summit, Aboriginal voices have joined together to urgently and loudly call for the gap to close and to encourage more Aboriginal voices to join our chorus.”
“Family Violence is also about lack of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and women. We need to fight it as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and rebuild our proud traditions and community structures so that there is no place for fear and intimidation" Ms Bamblett said.
We can no longer accept the making of commitments to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequality without putting into place adequately resourced processes and programs to match the stated commitments. We can also not continue to accept the failure of governments to commit to an urgent plan of action. It is not acceptable to continually state that the situation is 'tragic' and ought to be treated with urgency, and then fail to put into place bold targets to focus policy making over the short, medium and longer term or to fund programs so they are capable of meeting these targets to Close the Gap.
Governments must work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities to identify and implement solutions to address family violence and abuse. There are significant processes and networks already in place in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to progress these issues. We need to support them to lead efforts to stamp out violence.
Ms Bamblett encouraged government to be bold; “There must be accountability measurements put into place to hold governments to their commitments. We require a urgent change in mindset of government. Current approaches pay for the consequences of disadvantage and discrimination. It is a passive, reactive system of feeding dysfunction, rather than taking positive steps to overcome it. We need a pro-active system of service delivery focused on building functional, healthy communities.”
For all media enquiries, contact Siobhan O'Neill, Communications Manager | 0439 921 589
- Leadership through crisis - Celebrating extraordinary people in extraordinary times
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is proud to announce the Mollie Dyer Awards for 2021. The Awards are named in honour of our extraordinary co-founder, Aunty Mollie Dyer, who tirelessly advocated in support of Aboriginal Children, young people and families.
The Awards recognise the extraordinary work of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have risen to the challenge of overcoming the significant difficulties of the past 12 months to deliver services, provide support and meet critical needs for Aboriginal families and communities across Victoria.
The Awards are presented in three categories:
- Emerging Leaders (18-24 years) - Celebrating an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young person living in Victoria who showed strength and leadership in a time of need and crisis. Our young people are the next generation of change-makers and we want to celebrate how deadly they are!
- Community Leaders - Recognising an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community member living in Victoria who has shown leadership through crisis. This could be by adapting to new challenges and changes, advocating for the needs of their community, or caring for community during difficult times.
- ACCO Leaders - Recognising an exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who, through their work, has adapted to the challenges of crisis and positively contributed to the lives of Aboriginal children, young people and families. This could be through improving practice, service excellence, raising awareness, or advocating for the rights of Aboriginal children, young people and families during times of crisis.
Nominations are open for six weeks; Monday 30 August - Friday 8 October 2021. Nominate online via awards.vacca.org, or download a nomination form and submit by email to email@example.com, or by phone on 0439 921 589.
Winners will be presented in an online streamed event at the VACCA AGM on Friday 26 November 2021. Each category winner will receive a commemorative plaque and $3,000 cash prize.
“There are everyday heroes everywhere, and never have they been more evident than during the challenges of this past year. The Mollie Dyer Awards exemplify the work of our co-founder Aunty Mollie Dyer, and the extraordinary people who work with vision and dedication in our community. VACCA is proud to recognise their efforts through these Awards,” said Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO.
About Mollie Dyer: Aunty Mollie Dyer, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, is remembered as a courageous advocate for the rights of Aboriginal children and families. She advocated tirelessly for the Aboriginal community, especially for Aboriginal children in care to be placed with Aboriginal families whenever possible. She was a co-founder of VACCA and instrumental in establishing the national peak body SNAICC. Aunty Mollie Dyer remains an inspiration to many people today.
About VACCA: The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is Victoria’s leading Aboriginal child and family services organisation and the largest provider of Aboriginal family violence and homelessness services. We have been supporting children, young people and families within the community for over 40 years as an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. To learn more about our work, please visit www.vacca.org.
For all media enquiries, contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | 0427 421 621
- $1billion Federal investment towards Closing the Gap is a start to reform
Today Scott Morrison delivered the National Agreement on Closing the Gap update in Federal Parliament, including the announcement of a $1 billion investment towards the National Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. With the States launching their plans as well, today is a hopeful start for Indigenous Australians.
The range and scope of funding commitments under this Federal announcement is welcomed, and VACCA believes they will help start much-needed reform processes to decolonise health, wellbeing, justice, safety and quality of life outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The Federal government’s Redress Scheme for Stolen Generations survivors was a significant missing piece for Australia, and the announcement of funding and the offer of personalised apologies is testament to the ongoing advocacy and strength of community to fight for what is fair and just. The fact that WA and QLD do not yet have a scheme remains deeply disappointing.
To achieve sustainable, impactful change nationally in 'Closing the Gap', funding must reach communities and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and not stay in Government pockets, if we are to truly design self-determined service systems in partnership.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett says, “After years of inaction, we must create accountability through measurable outcomes and reporting. Implementing these plans will present challenges for Government and the ACCO sector nationally but with the right resourcing, capacity building and a systems transformation mindset I believe we can achieve meaningful change.”
Given only three of the 16 targets are on track to be achieved, this funding must be outcomes driven and based on highest need, balancing the need for interventions with where people are located, incorporating a mix of city, rural and remote action. Everything must be evaluated, data must be shared and accountability measures put in place. This will be the difference between the first and new National Agreement.
VACCA is also pleased to hear of the commitment from Labor to establish a national Treaty Commission for Truth Telling. This is a powerful step towards Closing the Gap, and to acknowledging the pain of the past, the present and the remarkable resilience of Aboriginal peoples and communities. This process should take key learnings from the recently established Yoo-rrook Truth and Justice Commission in Victoria, the first of its kind.
“Our mob are strong and resilient. We must leverage off the strengths of community, looking to and learning from what is working now in order to build prosperity. Reaching targets should not be our stopping place, there is so much more we can and should do to improve the lives of Aboriginal peoples and communities,” Muriel Bamblett said.
VACCA looks forward to the launch of the Victorian Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, and to working with State and Federal Governments to influence and affect meaningful change.
For all media enquiries, contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | 0427 421 621
- New redress scheme for Stolen Generations survivors in ACT, NT and Jervis Bay missing piece in national coverage
Today’s Announcement by the Federal Government to implement a new redress scheme for Stolen Generations survivors taken from their families in the Northern Territory, the ACT and Jervis Bay Territory is a missing link for victims of the Stolen Generations.
Victoria is in the final stage of implemented our State’s redress scheme which also includes a Funeral fund. Aunty Bev Murray, Head of LinkUp Victoria said, “This announcement means that more of our sisters and brothers across the country that were taken from their families can start the process of healing. We saw the power of the Apology in 2008 for survivors. Acknowledging government failings through compensation will help so many.”
The Statistics show that survivors of the Stolen Generations quality of life and outcomes are poorer than other Indigenous people. Announced on the day the Federal Government are tabling their Closing the Gap report in Parliament, we know the Gap for Stolen Generations survivors and their families is more significant.
“We have seen so many years of inaction by successive Governments of problems they have created. The Bringing them Home report is now 20 years old and many of the recommendations have seen no action. Today I welcome the announcements and the Federal Governments commitment to redress, listening to survivor’s stories and personalised apologies,” Muriel Bamblett, CEO of VACCA said.
But for many survivors, no amount of money will heal the trauma of being removed from their parents and family. Stolen Generations survivor Joanne* said, “I’ll keep accessing healing services so that I am a better parent to my children & grandchildren. I know that I will never fully heal from being taken from my mum but I don’t want to pass on my trauma, grief and anxiety to my kids. Redress is so important to help me and others heal to support our future generations.”
Western Australia and Queensland, its time to step up. At VACCA we believe that when you know better, you should do better. WA and QLD know better. The eyes of the Nation are watching you.
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | 0427 0621 421
- Heal Country, Heal Ourselves
The theme for NAIDOC Week 2021 is ‘Heal Country’, calling on all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands. A connection to Country is inherent to Aboriginal identity; spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.
This NAIDOC Week, a group of Aboriginal leaders share some of their rich personal stories, and offer a rare insight into the true meaning of Country in their lives.
Fay Carter AO is a respected Elder of the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung clans. For over 40 years she has worked with families, reform welfare programs, and set the standard for Aboriginal aged care services. Aunty Fay Carter is a Life Member of VACCA.
“Going out on to Country and walking Country is the most wonderful spiritual experience. To actually walk on the country, to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, you get the feeling of being there with them, of understanding them, of feeling them. To walk Country is very, very spiritual, very important. You can talk about Country, which is also important, but to walk it and talk it, it's an amazing experience,” she said.
Jodie Chatfield works in the justice sector on behalf of Aboriginal people. She is a proud Wiradjuri woman from Dubbo, NSW, and shares her family connection to Country, and bringing her daughter to Country for the same experience. Melbourne-based Jodie gets back to Country as often as possible, though the pandemic has made it difficult at times, and she has found the separation to be particularly difficult.
“That Country is what keeps us all coming back. We all moved away. Especially growing-up in a rural town, you move away for opportunities. But there’s something … but I feel complete. I feel whole. I feel me when I’m actually back on Country. When I drove over the border, I just felt a whole heap of calmness,” she said.
Kevin Russell, a proud Yorta Yorta man, works to reunite members of the Stolen Generation. He comes from a family with a long history of highlighting injustices. In 1938 his maternal great-grandfather, Aboriginal activist William Cooper, famously walked from Footscray to the German Consulate in Melbourne with a letter decrying the Nazis treatment of Jews during Kristallnacht. William Cooper dedicated his life to working for Aboriginal rights, education and citizenship.
Being on Country is very important to Kevin; walking Country, listening to the stories of the Elders, and now bringing his own sons to share in that special connection. And its benefits are far-reaching.
“I believe that the whole healing of Country, healing of community, healing of individuals is interwoven. It’s that very holistic understanding of connection, that one thing can’t be out of whack otherwise it will affect everything else,” he says is of greatest importance. As we heal, Country heals, we heal as a people, and as a community. We all benefit from that,” he said.
Muriel Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Bunnerong, Taungurong woman who has been CEO of VACCA since 1999. She is also Chairperson of SNAICC, the peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services nationally, and serves on over 30 advisory groups.
She continues to be a strong and dedicated advocate for the protection of Aboriginal children, families and communities. Healing has been an important factor in her work.
“To me country has so many healing properties, it relates stories of our many peoples; of our lands; of our resilience and survival; it links us with healing ceremonies of smoking; with the animals of the land as our totems and moieties that we use in healing, of Bunjil and the possum skin cloak. Land links us with spirituality – through our stories of the dreaming,” she said.
Wally Harrison is a Cultural Facilitator with VACCA in Melbourne’s eastern region. A proud Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung man, he has worked for many years in VACCA’s family violence services, and understands how the deep wounds of the past continue to impact the lives of many Aboriginal people. He is passionate about supporting young people and the reunification of families.
He believes letting go of barriers and educating non-Aboriginal people about Aboriginal culture and identity is paramount to moving forward.
“Healing has to start from community. It has to be adopted by families, community … to let go of the past. Look forward to tomorrow,” he said. The video series can be viewed on our website www.vacca.org or via our You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com.
NAIDOC Week: It is 46 years since NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) became a week-long event in 1975, beginning as a Day of Mourning in 1938. This year, NAIDOC Week runs from Sunday 4 July to Sunday 11 July.
VACCA services are holding local events in areas across Victoria. Virtual events are also a popular choice this year. There is still time to host your own Morning Tea for Culture. For details please visit the VACCA website – www.vacca.org.
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Funding boost for Closing the Gap welcomed, but must filter down to Aboriginal communities
On the 24th June, the Victorian Government announced an additional $5 million funding boost to continue support for Closing the Gap and work towards achieving targets set out in the new National Agreement.
This funding is an essential component to ensuring there is significant investment in Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) to work towards improving outcomes for Aboriginal peoples and to ensuring our children and families grow up healthy, thriving and connected to culture.
The new National Agreement was released in 2020 and outlines a new and refreshed way for Aboriginal communities and the Victorian government to work in partnership to address the systemic and structural reforms necessary to make impactful and sustained change. Focusing on issues that disproportionately affect our families including health, justice, out- of-home-care, education, family violence, early childhood and social and emotional wellbeing.
VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett, AO says “It is crucial that this funding is equally filtered between ACCOs across Victoria, recognising failures of the previous agreement to form a true partnership with Aboriginal Victorians and the lack of investment in our communities to respond to the needs of our peoples.”
Under this new National Agreement, each state and territory are also developing their own Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. On the 23rd June, Victoria became the first jurisdiction to table their Implementation Plan and after working closely with the ACCO sector and the Victorian Government to develop it, VACCA looks forward to progressing this essential reform work towards better outcomes, in particular reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031.
“This plan will place a significant resource burden on Aboriginal organisations but we are ready to rise to the challenge. It is time we all look at how we can Close the Gap for Aboriginal children, their families and the community. The ACCO sector will lead meaningful solutions and we can’t wait ”- CEO Muriel Bamblett.
“We cannot Close the Gap without a genuine investment in Aboriginal community controlled organisations”
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | email@example.com
- Keeping Them in Sight - joint statement on the Out of Sight report
In our community, it is never acceptable for any child in out-of-home care to not receive the support and services they need, when they need them.
For the Aboriginal community-controlled and child and family services sectors it is always challenging to hear that, for some children in state care, their fundamental needs are not being met. Anytime a child tells us they haven’t received an appropriate level of care is an opportunity for improvement and reform. We hear the voices of children in our services and we hear these same voices in the Out of Sight report released by the Commissioner for Children and Young People (the Commission).
As a sector deeply concerned with the health and wellbeing of children in the Child Protection system, we understand that there needs to be fundamental changes so that the best possible care can be provided. All residential care settings must offer a child-centred, therapeutic approach that responds to the individual needs of each and every child. This means addressing a number of broader issues that do not meet children’s needs, including decisions about which residential home a child should be placed in, and whether the child will fit in well with other children already living in the home. This will in turn support children to heal, grow, and thrive. Adherence to, and promotion of the best interests of every child, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, is fundamental to improving the lives of all children and young people in care.
Residential care units are not just ‘placements’, they are homes to the children and young people who live there, offering safety, protection, and comfort. All residential care units should be governed by the therapeutic model. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children, this should involve connection to Aboriginal services and communities and the opportunity to grow up strong and proud of their identity and connected to Culture.
To achieve this, we need significant changes to consistently provide home-like environments. These include tailored and specialist treatment responses, which start with the immediate and longer-term needs of the child, alongside immediate access to support, and smaller two- and three- bed residential homes that are appropriately resourced to provide the range of specialist and non-specialist services needed.
It is important to acknowledge that our sectors, the Commission, and agencies are more aware than ever before of the circumstances that cause children to leave their residential homes. It is crucial that we work together to prevent children from experiencing harm. With the release of this and previous reports, the Commission has reinforced just how important this collaboration is and that we stay vigilant.
It’s very clear that we need to accelerate the pace of reform in residential care. We are heartened by the government’s commitment to the Residential Care Action Plan and to reviewing the cost and available models of residential care in the state. Our sectors worked alongside the Department to develop the Plan and we continue to advocate for it to be fully implemented and resourced so that it can be responsive to what children are telling us.
Our sectors will always keep listening to and advocating for children in care, for their rights to safety and connection to their family, community and culture to be promoted and protected.
- Victorian state budget 2021-22 and a new financial year
The new financial year starts with a Victorian State Budget (2021-22) that includes the largest investment in Aboriginal community in Victoria’s history.
A total of $448 million is invested in Aboriginal communities and state-wide healing, which is a significant increase from the $357 million allocated last year.
Released on 20 May 2021, the Budget made a priority of many existing critical needs across every aspect of life for Aboriginal Victorians, while ensuring that care for Aboriginal people is led by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), like VACCA.
Health and wellbeing with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention featured, in response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system, though most funding remains in mainstream tertiary mental health systems not Aboriginal hands.
As did Child and family supports and out-of-home care investments ($31.5m) for at-risk Aboriginal families which will help to increase the number of Aboriginal children to be supported by ACCOs.
VACCA also applauds the Budget’s commitment to truth and justice for Aboriginal Victorians.
Investment (over $58m) has been allocated for Australia’s first-ever truth-telling process, the
Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, which will redress historic wrongs and address continued injustices. Yoo-rrook is an Australian-first initiative.
Preventing and reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the youth justice system is an area in which ACCOs are committed to find Aboriginal- and community-led solutions. As thirty years have passed since 339 recommendations were tabled by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the Budget commitment ($10.9m in 2021, from a total of $31.2m over four years) to resourcing services that include after-hours family violence support and regional egal assistance for Aboriginal communities is long overdue
The Budget is investing ($16.9m) in continued roll-out of Victoria’s nation-leading treaty process, and demonstrates the State Government’s commitment to self-determination.
VACCA is also pleased to see the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and self-determination initiatives as a priority within this State Budget, and a significant proportion (almost $19m) has been identified for Aboriginal organisations. VACCA looks forward to seeing this decisive investment reach ACCOs and Aboriginal community members to continue this important work.
“The Budget is welcomed for the investment in many areas of need, including mental health and suicide prevention. Supporting our youth in justice, education and heritage is also important, because we know that Aboriginal children and young people grow-up strong in culture, supported by their kin and community,” said Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO.
“VACCA applauds news of investment to continue the transfer of case management of Aboriginal child protection and out-of-home care services to ACCOs. Recognition of the importance of place-based, Aboriginal-led solutions tailored to meet the real needs of the community is a positive step.
“The Budget takes a definitive step towards dealing with crisis need in the youth justice system and housing solutions. But there is much more to be done. The biggest issue remains a lack of investment in prevention and early intervention for Aboriginal children.
“This is key to healing, and addresses the impacts of trauma to support positive social and emotional wellbeing, which is a cornerstone to building a healthier, stronger community,” she said.
For all media inquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director, Office of the CEO | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Funding to further self-determination within our education system
Today VACCA welcomes the announcement from the Victorian Government of almost $3.7 million to undertake a co-design initiative to drive community led and self-determining changes in our schools.
This education funding will support the work of VACCA in the early years, where we support parents and carers to feel confident in their role as first teachers to their children. We know it is these first, early years that begin to teach children how to navigate the world around them and help to ensure they grow up strong in their identity, connected to culture and thriving.
VACCA is working closely with the Department of Education, other Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and Traditional Owner Groups to develop a model of what self-determination looks like in schools. The allocation of funding to host community-led conversations on what this model may look like will help to ensure the voices of our children, young people and community are at the centre. Creating opportunities to hear what is and isn’t working and how to further self determination across the whole education system.
VACCA believes in order to ensure children, young people and their families receive wrap around care that is based on their needs, ACCOs need to work closely with schools to provide coordinated support. We strongly believe funding should be proportionate to service demand and aligned to community needs. VACCA is in a unique position with the largest footprint in out-of-home-care, family violence, homelessness and justice services across the ACCO sector. This makes us well placed to provide holistic care, tailored to the needs of Aboriginal children, young people and their families.
VACCA’s CEO Muriel Bamblett AO says “When education funding supports local community engagement, we will see our kids feel heard, see themselves represented in our shared history, and see their futures.”
“Our Elders have been teaching the next generation of leaders for millennia. When we welcome them into the classroom, we open up the opportunity for all children to learn about some of the most stoic of leaders in civil rights movements, of innovators and change makers, conservationists, world renowned artists and athletes.”
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director Office of the CEO | email@example.com
- Much needed funeral fund announced to support Stolen Generations
VACCA welcomes the Andrews Government announcement of the Interim Funeral Fund which was established to support families of Stolen Generations who have passed to access financial support to cover funeral expenses. This is an important element of the Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme which is expected to commence later this year. Such support is retrospective to the beginning of this year, helping to provide justice and recognition of the devastating impacts experienced by the Stolen Generations who were forcibly removed from their families under various government policies that are still being felt today.
VACCA provides a number of services that supports the Stolen Generations including Link-Up Victoria and Narra Jarra Noun and is involved in the Stolen Generations Reparations Steering Committee. We have advocated strongly for the Reparations Scheme for many years as we know that receiving compensation and recognition of the devastating trauma the Stolen Generations endured is crucial to their healing journey. The Interim Funeral Fund as part of the broader Reparations Scheme, will bring Victoria in line with the United Nations’ Van Boven Principles, detailed and endorsed in the Bringing them Home Report as the appropriate framework for responding to the gross violation of human rights.
Professor Muriel Bamblett AO, VACCA’s CEO says “supporting families of Stolen Generations in their time of grief is a crucial part of their healing journey. The Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme, alongside the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will bring long overdue recognition, compensation, justice and healing for our people.”
- 30 years on, Aboriginal lives still don't matter to government
Thursday 15 April, 2021 marks 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down their final report and recommendations. In those 30 years, well over 450 more Aboriginal people have died in police or prison custody and in the last six weeks alone, there have been five more deaths.
Indigenous people are being incarcerated at higher rates than at the time of the Royal Commission and are now 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people. We are seeing the significant and heartbreaking impact of these systemic issues in the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the out-of-home care and justice systems.
On Saturday we saw protests and marches across the city, with thousands of people attending to protest against ongoing injustices against Indigenous people, and the lack of commitment by governments to implement these reforms. VACCA supports the families and communities calling for urgent action.
The Final Report made a total of 339 recommendations for reform across the entire justice system including death investigations, diversion, prison safety, social change, and self-determination. 30 years on and we are yet to see any drastic reform or commitment to implementing these recommendations with many having been only partially or not at all implemented.
Recommendation 62 calls for governments and Aboriginal organisations to devise strategies to reduce the rate of which Aboriginal children and young people are involved in the welfare and criminal justice systems, and the rate in which children are removed from their families and communities- yet we are still seeing a disproportionate number of our children in out of home care and crossing over into the justice system.
VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO says, “We know that our kids are over-represented in the out-of-home care and justice systems, and this puts them on a terrible trajectory to becoming one of these statistics. More is needed to protect and prevent further tragic deaths of our people in custody.”
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap includes new targets related to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal adults and young people in the criminal justice system and is an opportunity to reflect on what is needed across the system. Aboriginal designed and led responses must be prioritised. It is unacceptable that the Victorian Government has been working towards an Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy for four years with no plan yet released.
The recent establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, the first ever independent truth-telling process in Australia, is an important step towards truth and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will look to make recommendations for the Victorian Government to redress and address systemic injustices and promote healing for First Peoples and the broader community.
We call on politicians and governments to take immediate action to meaningfully implement all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody on these recommendations
“It is evident change, and a policy overhaul is needed in our justice system, most importantly to stop deaths in custody but also to continue to work towards closing the gap and improving all outcomes for our peoples”- VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO.
- VACCA to lead nation's first Aboriginal-led child protection investigations pilot
10th March 2021
Announced today by Minister for Child Protection Luke Donnellan, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) will be one of two Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to pilot the first Aboriginal-led child protection investigations in Australia.
“This announcement is ground breaking. Victoria’s ongoing commitment to self determination and investment in Aboriginal Communities allows us to put the voice of Aboriginal children and families into the decisions and services that affect their lives,” Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO said.
VACCA and Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-Operative (BDAC) will work in conjunction with child protection officers to provide tailored, culturally appropriate responses to investigations. This announcement is a much-needed step forward in the transfer of investment and resources over to Aboriginal community control.
Ms Bamblett added, “the removal of children from their family should always be an absolute last resort. The focus must be on prevention, on keeping families strong and together. An Aboriginal led response to child protection notifications will help to ensure the safety of our children and to make sure they grow up connected to family and culture”.
“We know that when our children and families are supported, they grow up thriving, resilient and surrounded by culture. We know what works and ACCOs are best equipped with the knowledge, skills and expertise to respond to the needs of our families” Ms Bamblett said.
Whilst there is a long way to go to reduce the over-representation, Aboriginal led child protection investigations is a necessary step and VACCA looks forward to continuing to work with the Victorian Government throughout the expansion of Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, ensuring responses are Aboriginal led, self-determining and embedded in culture.
For all media enquiries please contact Sarah Gafforini, VACCA Director Office of the CEO on 0427 621 421
- Aboriginal cultural safety not prioritised in the Final Report from the Royal Commission into Victoria's mental health system
2 March 2021
Many Aboriginal people and their families continue to experience poor mental health and wellbeing due to the long-lasting impacts of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, government policies and systematic racism exacerbated by a mental health system failing to meet demand or the needs of Aboriginal children and families.
Today’s Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System Final report tabled in Parliament provides much needed guidance on creating a more accessible, holistic and community led mental health system for Victorians. Yet, while the report highlights that Aboriginal people experience disproportionately higher rates of suicide, anxiety and depression and systemic racism in all health systems; the recommendations continue to value and prioritise mainstream, tertiary level interventions.
“The lack of recommendations to make mainstream mental health services accountable, to provide culturally safe and appropriate mental health services to Aboriginal children and families is in direct contrast to the great work being undertaken in Victoria to further self determination and truth telling”, says VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett.
The recommendation to invest in Aboriginal led healing centres is overdue. At VACCA our multi-disciplinary, Aboriginal led Healing Team have been providing mental health services to children and families over a number of years and we look forward to working with government to share our learnings and develop best practice models moving forward.
“Providing developmentally and age-appropriate treatment and care for children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing that is Aboriginal led, with a connection to their culture is the only way forward. The recognition that the age limit of youth mental health services be expanded to 26yo must flow through to other sectors so our children receive the support they need, like supported housing, education and employment pathways. These are all essential to greater wellbeing and health,” Ms Bamblett added.
While most Aboriginal children and young people grow up surrounded by family and culture, many are still removed from their families, placed in out-of-home care and experience significant trauma.
“We need a mental health system that works seamlessly with other areas of need where Aboriginal people choose to access support outside of health services. Where are the mental health supports for children in OOHC, children exposed to family violence, children in the justice system etc? Social and emotional wellbeing occurs in a context, this report fails to adequately address the whole Aboriginal person, fully understand Aboriginal therapeutic practice frameworks for engagement and treatment. Nor does it address institutional and systemic racism and challenge mechanisms to keep them socially responsible.”
For all media enquires please contact Sarah Gafforini, VACCA Director Office of the CEO, on 0427 621 421
- VACCA and Link-Up host the 13th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by the Australian Government
12 February 2021
Each year on 13 February we commemorate the day the Australian Government said sorry in Parliament, acknowledging the pain and suffering caused by Governments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the forced removal of their children from family, community, culture and country.
13 years on, while the Apology represents a significant step in the truth-telling process, we are still bringing our people home.
VACCA and Link-Up Victoria, in partnership with Connecting Home and Darebin City Council, are hosting a free online event to commemorate the Anniversary of the National Apology on Saturday 13 February.
The event gives all Australians the opportunity to pay their respects to all Stolen Generations, both the living and those who have passed on to the Dreaming. It provides a voice for the Stolen Generations and tells them that they have not been forgotten.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett says it’s an important day in history that should be nationally commemorated like other historical days in this country.
“When the apology was made 13 years ago, it finally recognised the destruction caused to our peoples and cultures by successive Australian governments. It was vindication for all Stolen Generations, both living and passed, for the hurt and damage caused to them and their families for no fault of their own. It provided affirmation of Australia’s legacy of systemic racism and it was a huge step in truth telling about the history of Australia,” Ms Bamblett says.
“We need to see Stolen Generations markers in all major cities and rural towns, the Anniversary of the Apology should be commemorated by all levels of Government and government departments, local Councils, secondary schools and universities. A lot has changed in the last 13 years to ensure that the Apology was not a token gesture, but a lot more needs to be done.”
Through commemorative events, development of educational resources about the Stolen Generations, and placement of markers in cities across Victoria we can continue to encourage conversations about the nation’s true history and acknowledge the trauma faced by those who continue to feel the impacts of being removed from family, culture and Country.
For more information and media enquiries contact Nikita Blom – Communications Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
- January 26 - A day of mourning, not celebration
January 26 means different things to different people. At VACCA, we don’t believe January 26 is a day of celebration. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people it is a day of mourning. It is a reminder of the lasting impacts of colonisation, of dispossession and invasion.
VACCA has provided services and protected and promoted the rights of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and families for more than 40 years. In doing so, we have witnessed first-hand the structural disadvantage, injustice and trauma our people continue to face.
This is evidenced by the disproportionate rates of incarcerated indigenous children and young people. It is evidenced by gaps in health, education and employment outcomes. It is evidenced by the rate of child-removal outcomes, disconnecting children and young people from culture and Country.
January 26 is also a day to recognise the strength and resilience of our people, and the opportunity to celebrate the survival of our culture. A day which reminds us to fight for our rights, the rights of our children and of our community.
On January 26, we stand with our community in the ongoing calls for:
- Greater investment in early childhood intervention and healing strategies
- Greater community control and access to support for our children and young people in out-of-home care to stay strong in their identity and connection to community, culture and Country
- Compensation for our Stolen Generations survivors
- An end to deaths in custody and the racist laws, policies and practices
- The creation of treaty/treaties that are robust, honour cultural protocols and are driven and controlled by community
- The creation of a genuine “Voice” based on the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- A Refreshed Closing the Gap policy, based on Aboriginal self-determination
January 26 is not a celebration that everyone can participate in. This date marks the beginning of disproportionate disadvantage, injustice and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. VACCA supports changing the date and finding a day in which we can all feel included and participate in equally – a day to celebrate together.
- UN Human rights session calls on Canberra to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14
21 January 2021
UN Human rights session calls on Canberra to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14
According to The Guardian today over 30 countries at a UN human rights session criticised Australia for not raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years – something experts say is linked to Australia’s high rates of incarceration of Indigenous children.
VACCA strongly advocates for raising the age of incarceration from 10 to 14, and that under no circumstances should a child under the age of 14 be incarcerated. Aboriginal children and young people are over-represented in all stages of the Youth Justice System, particularly in detention.
We know Aboriginal children are disproportionately disadvantaged by age of criminal responsibility. They are 16 times more likely to be involved in the justice system, and high rates of incarceration have a strong correlation with greater risk of ill health, substance abuse, complex health conditions and premature death.
"Australia should be ashamed of the human rights record against Aboriginal children and young people. Turning a blind eye and making excuses for systemic racism and the sustained institutional levers that are used against Aboriginal children is not leadership. I challenge the Prime Minister and any politician to spend a day in the same conditions that we force incarcerated children to live in and tell me it’s not cruel and inhumane," says VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett.
- Raising the age needs to be accompanied with;
- An Aboriginal self-determining justice system including investment in ACCOs to deliver youth justice programs and services
- Therapeutic, trauma-informed responses focused on prevention and early intervention
- Improved cultural safety and cultural competency in the justice system
- Access to diversionary programs
- Family centred approaches within family and justice support services
"We need to do more than criticise the government about their inaction on closing the gap between Aboriginal children and others. It’s time for all Australian’s to publicly challenge the government to set a date and raise the age in 2021" says Ms Bamblett.
- Raising the age needs to be accompanied with;
- VACCA joins the National Redress Scheme as a participating institution
4 January 2021
VACCA has been declared a participating institution in the National Redress Scheme. The Scheme and the instrument has been registered as National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment (2020 Measures No. 20) Declaration 2020.
VACCA officially joined the National Redress Scheme as a participating institution 25 December 2020, to ensure that any person who may have suffered any form of sexual abuse while in VACCA’s care can seek redress through a fair, transparent and independent process.
The National Redress Scheme, which started 1 July 2018 provides support to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse and will run for 10 years.
VACCA believes that all children have a right to feel and be safe and to live in an environment that is free from abuse, neglect and violence. We are committed to promoting and upholding the right of Aboriginal children to maintain and celebrate their identity and culture, recognising that connection to culture is critical for children’s emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett said that VACCA’s participation in the National Redress Scheme will provide greater accountability and support for the community to understand more about the Scheme.
“We understand that for the community impacted by abuse it will have caused immense trauma both for them and their families, we recognise that having to tell their story will be distressing,” she said.
“VACCA’s participation ensures we can provide information for anyone abused while in VACCA's care, as well as providing further information on the process in applying and what supports are available to community.”
For more information visit VACCA's page on the National Redress Scheme
Contacting the National Redress Scheme
The Scheme started on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years.
Applications can be made any time before 30 June 2027
How to Access support
Revisiting the events of the past may be distressing for people as they apply for redress.
Free and confidential Redress Support Services are available through the National Redress Scheme to help you.
They can support you before, during and after you apply for redress. Services can provide practical and emotional support, legal advice, and financial counselling.
If you need immediate support, 24-hour telephone assistance is available through:
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Yarning SafeNStrong: 1800 95 95 63
- Victoria's children deserve a fair justice system
29 December 2020
The introduction of a Spent Convictions Bill in Victoria in the new year will mean Victorian children aged between 10 and 15 years of age will finally be treated as such, as children in the eyes of the justice system.
This bill takes some steps to addressing systemic racism in the justice system. Aboriginal children are locked up at extremely high rates without second thought. Other children get to go home.
The penalty for being Aboriginal in the justice system too often is death. One only has to read the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
"Our Nation must acknowledge that this is not an acceptable outcome, not a future we want for our children," VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett says.
"To write children off as offenders without recognising their potential means we lose our humanity. Any child who interacts with the justice system becomes a victim of it."
"It is critical to understand the systemic and institutional levers that lead to the over representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the justice system. We need to do more and invest in early intervention and family support through Aboriginal agencies to keep our children safe and out of the justice system."
"Our children deserve better. They have a right to a just and equitable service system. Locking children up without addressing what’s happening in the family or in knowing what is leading to their offending early is failing them," says Ms Bamblett
The future of Aboriginal children relies on preventing any interaction with the justice system. Children deserve a second chance to heal and become strong, resilient community members.
- A message to commemorate National Sorry Day 2020
26 May 2020
To commemorate National Sorry Day and pay tribute to the Stolen Generations and their families, we would like to share this video message from our CEO, Prof Muriel Bamblett AO (Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung).
Please watch the video or read the abridged transcript below.
"I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners, all their Elders past and present, and our emerging Elders.
I also want to pay tribute today to the Stolen Generations, their families and their friends who come together today.
Today is National Sorry Day. It is a day that marks the special place of our Stolen Generations. It is our time to acknowledge those who were taken from their families, for we know better than anyone the impacts of removal on our people.
It is also a day for families whose children were taken. It’s a day for us to remember, to never forget what happened to our families, communities and cultures and how there was a great loss experienced by our people that we are still trying to come to terms with and we are still trying to address today.
We acknowledge particularly the deep sense of loss of culture. Aboriginal people see the world through their culture, through language, dance, song and spirituality. To take this away is surely one of the biggest travesties committed. My greatest gift is the generational handing down of Aboriginal practices, of respect of knowledge and Aboriginal ways of doing.
As with the greatest tragedies across the world, people carry the scars — and as a community we can never forget, we can never get over what happened to us. We can never forget that we were treated less than human — that our race was deemed expendable and governments in power decided it was best to wipe our race out through assimilationist policies.
No, we will never forget. This is why today is so important to us.
My love and respect goes to all the Stolen Generations out there today, some of whom I know will be struggling, to all the families who were separated, to all the mothers and fathers whose children were taken. To those who are remembering those lost and saddened by stolen lives.
If we do celebrate anything on National Sorry Day, it is the legacy of those who lived and gave evidence to the historic Inquiry Into the Removal of Aboriginal Children and what this gave us.
In the face of adversity, the Stolen Generations demonstrated beyond any doubt their tenacity and bravery — and against all odds, many found their way home.
As the CEO of a large Aboriginal community controlled organisation that has child and family services as well as services for the Stolen Generations, I can say that a lot of work has been done to address the inequalities, to close the gap between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people — but there is still much more to do.
VACCA runs the Link-Up Victoria program which supports the Stolen Generations to find their family, to be reconnected to them and works to ensure that they are able to proudly reclaim their Aboriginal heritage and culture.
So yes, we are still bringing our mob home. We are still reuniting Aboriginal people with their families. We are still bringing families together.
Here in Victoria, the State Government recently announced that it would create a Reparations Scheme for the Stolen Generations. This was fantastic news. Reparations is something that VACCA, the Stolen Generations and other organisations and services have been calling for since the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament on this day 26th May in 1997 — some 23 years ago.
I look forward to the development of the scheme over the coming months and to its implementation in 2021.
National Sorry Day is a day for the Stolen Generations. It is a day for all of us to remember with affection the courage of our people and the value of their resilience.
It’s a time to honour those Stolen Generations who have gone before us and to acknowledge those who suffer still from the effects.
It is a day for all of us to support the Stolen Generations and their families and stand together for truth, justice and healing.
Most importantly, it is a day to celebrate our survival — and I thank those Stolen Generations for making their way home to us."
— Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO
- Time for change on Public Drunkenness Laws
30 November 2020
VACCA strongly supports law reform on public drunkenness offences. Alcohol use and its misuse is a serious health and social issue requiring immediate action. It should not be a criminal offence.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett said, “Virtue signalling doesn’t prevent Aboriginal deaths in custody. Action does. After 30 years of continued unnecessary and preventable deaths of Aboriginal people in custody, the Law reform proposed by the State Government is long overdue.”
She continued, “If removing offences for public drunkenness reduces our community’s interaction with and overrepresentation in the justice system, it is the right thing to do. It doesn’t help when parts of the justice system don’t see we all have a role to play in bringing about change.”
A new approach to prevent and minimise the occurrence of public drunkenness is needed, one that focusses on healing and the underlying causes. She added, “It is in the public interest to support Aboriginal people with alcohol use issues to access timely and culturally appropriate health and social supports.”
Aboriginal specific Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) services in Victoria are limited. We estimate that only 50% of Aboriginal people who need AOD Services can access them. “Urgent government investment in Aboriginal led AOD services is needed to underpin this life saving area of law reform.”
She concluded, “When Government invests in Aboriginal communities and organisations to be empowered, make decisions and lead service delivery for their own communities, better outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people, families, women and men are achieved.”
- VACCA's Response to the Victorian Government State Budget 2020/21
25 November 2020
We at VACCA work tirelessly to ensure Victoria is a fairer place for Aboriginal children and families. We commend the Victorian Government for their commitment towards and investment in the Aboriginal community in the 2020/21 State budget.
This budget acknowledges that when Government invests in Aboriginal communities and organisations to be empowered, make decisions and lead service delivery for their own communities, better outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people, families, women and men are achieved.
Victoria leads the way in supporting and strengthening self-determination to improve the lives of Aboriginal people across all spheres of life. VACCA will continue to work with Government to ensure the voice of Aboriginal children and families are reflected in the actions arising from this Budget.
The $20.2 million commitment to support the ongoing journey to Treaty with the First People of this land is a significant step forward. This will support the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to continue progressing towards Treaty and ensure community voice is central to this process.
Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme
We are pleased to see that the Victorian Government has adopted our recommendation to invest in Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme. VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO says, “A Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme is important in supporting the healing of survivors who continue to feel the profound impacts of being removed from family, culture and Country today”.
VACCA is a leader in providing culturally appropriate family violence therapeutic work with all family members affected by family violence. Our CEO, Professor Muriel Bamblett says, “Our approach to family violence helps the whole family to heal, reconnect and keep children and women safe.” The $238million commitment in the budget to continue implementing the Family Violence Royal Commission recommendations with a focus on multiagency information sharing and perpetrator accountability programs is welcomed.
VACCA will also continue working with Government to ensure Aboriginal adolescents and men who use violence in the home are provided with holistic, intensive services to support them address underlying issues leading to these behaviours, and to heal the family. Our intensive support approach supports and strengthens families to stay together, reunify and is linked to less family relocations and relieves pressure on crisis accommodation and refuges.
The funding for the two new dedicated Aboriginal Family Violence refuges with enhanced case management capabilities will be highly valued in the community. Through our Orana Gunyah program servicing Gippsland, Latrobe Valley, Baw Baw, South Gippsland and Bass Coast, we know that when access to an Aboriginal specific, culturally appropriate and wrap-around response is available Aboriginal women and children feel more confident, safer and supported to seek assistance and allows Aboriginal women to see a positive future for themselves and their children.
As we emerge from COVID-19, VACCA will continue working with the government to ensure all family violence interventions and services in Victoria are culturally safe for Aboriginal women and their children.
Children and Young People
Aboriginal children and young people who grow up strong in culture and are supported by their kin and community thrive and have improved future life paths. Aboriginal community-control of child welfare services is critical to reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in care. VACCA welcomes the $74.1 million to reform out-of-home care services ensuring Aboriginal family case management control is in the hands of ACCOs.
VACCA’s Nugel program, has led the way in developing a new model of child protection practice which is premised on Aboriginal organisations working in partnership with Aboriginal families to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people. Our CEO, Professor Muriel Bamblett reflects on the impact of Nugel that “our children will know who they are and where they belong. They will take pride in their cultural identity and will grow up strong and resilient”.
VACCA is pleased that the Government has implemented our recommendations for additional leaving care supports and extended care, providing funding of $64.7 million over the next four years for the Home Stretch program as a part of the funding to reform out-of-home care services. This will provide young people in care with the necessary supports to empower them to transition to independence until their 21st birthday. Young people leaving care particularly need access to safe and secure housing to ensure they do not end up in the homelessness or youth justice system.
We acknowledge the Government’s investment in social housing in the coming years and how valuable this will be to the Aboriginal community, especially young people and families. VACCA will continue working with Government to implement the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework and to ensure that their investment in Aboriginal social housing supports young people leaving care to safe and secure accommodation.
The additional funding for the Better Futures program of $10.3 million will provide young people in care with tailored supports, including education and employment advice, and life-skills coaching helping them to prepare for life after care. The Aboriginal community values education. The commitment of a further $7.5 million or 2 years funding to support the Murrung Aboriginal Education Plan and the investment in tutors will go a long way to ensure that Aboriginal kids receive fair and equal access to education and help us close the education gap. We will continue advocating for dedicated funding for more support for Aboriginal children and families in their school transitions and school attendance so that they can come out of COVID stronger.
COVID-19 posed challenges and opportunities for our children and young people to maintain engaged in education. Some of our children thrived with the support of VACCA staff distributing education packs and resources and others struggled keeping engaged with their schooling. We welcome the State Government’s $10 million plan to recruit 4,100 tutors and hope to work with Government to ensure Aboriginal children and young people receive culturally safe tutoring supports.
Supporting families who are under pressure or in crisis with the tools they need to support their children is essential for families to stay together and reduce the number of Aboriginal children in out of home care. We welcome the $90.2 million for Targeted Care Packages and will continue working with Government to ensure that ACCOs receive funding proportionate to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in care. All Aboriginal children, young people, their families and carers must receive tailored and individual supports to meet their specific needs.
A particular focus of VACCA’s advocacy is the urgent need for additional resources to be dedicated to early help, prevention and early intervention. Culturally based services that support the social and emotional wellbeing and safety of children, young people and families can reduce the need for out-of-home care. VACCA welcomes funding of $85.8 million for intensive family restoration and preservation supporting Aboriginal children and families to stay together.
We commend the Government’s investment in smaller two and three bedroom Residential Care units, but this is only part of the solution. VACCA has developed Aboriginal models of residential care that focus on healing, engagement and connection with family, community and culture and supporting children and young people’s education and development. VACCA calls upon the State Government to partner with the Aboriginal community controlled organisations to develop and fund local Aboriginal residential care facilities and programs to meet the best interests of Aboriginal children in care so they are safe, connected to culture and their siblings.
We at VACCA strongly believe in providing culturally therapeutic, trauma-informed youth justice programs delivered by ACCOs which holistically support children and their families. Programs that connect Aboriginal children and young people to culture, family and community allow for healing, address the impacts of trauma and support positive social and emotional wellbeing as key to preventing offending behaviour and recidivism, and reduce overrepresentation of Aboriginal young people in the Youth Justice system.
Investment in more effective, culturally safe and trauma-informed alternatives to the current justice system for Aboriginal children and young people is needed and we welcome the $1.5 million in the first year, with recurrent funding for 4 years, for Aboriginal Community-led youth justice responses. Youth justice responses must be co-designed with the voice of Aboriginal children and young people as central to the process and ACCOs are well placed to lead this work.
Aboriginal children and young people belong in community, not in prison. We seek commitment from the State Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility, as part of the development of new Youth Justice legislation. The minimum age of criminal responsibility at 10 years is a key driver of the high rates of Aboriginal children coming into contact with Police and the justice system. By criminalising Aboriginal children, responsibility and resources are diverted into the justice system rather than being available for the cultural and wellbeing support required to appropriately respond to their needs.
Throughout the pandemic, Aboriginal communities and the Government have worked in close partnership, with the COVID-19 Aboriginal Community Taskforce delivering community-led support for Aboriginal people.
The ACCO sector knows best how to support Aboriginal children, young people and families and it is critical that they are adequately funded to provide direct support and assistance during the ‘transition’ into recovery. We are pleased that the State Government has invested $22.6 million for the Aboriginal community to lead COVID-19 recovery.
COVID-19 has placed increased pressure on the ACCO system workforce capability and capacity which is already experiencing high demand due to Aboriginal population growth. "VACCA will be working to ensure that other announced measures, such as the investment to create 500 new jobs across mental health, family violence, health and child protection and the training pathways and internships are made available to Aboriginal people, particularly young people. We need to bring every available resource to the task of recovery" said Muriel Bamblett.
As the Aboriginal population in Victoria is growing rapidly and will increase by up to 48% by the year 2028, budget funding and investment must increase in line with population growth. This budget is a significant investment in Aboriginal communities and organisations and in putting people first.
For all media enquires please contact Sarah Gafforini, Director OCEO, VACCA on 0427 621 421.
- Investing in Aboriginal Community Control in COVID-19 Recovery Effort
11 November 2020
The CEO of VACCA, Victoria's largest Aboriginal child and family welfare organisation, Muriel Bamblett AM, said today, "the $40m of funding announced by the Deputy Premier to resource front line Aboriginal organisations to support social and economic recovery is welcomed."
She added, "it is critical that the impacts of the pandemic don't further entrench the socio-economic, health and well-being challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and families. Aboriginal organisations in Victoria have led the work to protect Aboriginal people from COVID-19 and despite the heightened risk to Aboriginal people of infection the rate of infection in the Aboriginal community has been well below that of the broader community."
"This demonstrates the results we achieve when Government invests in Aboriginal self-determination through Aboriginal organisations. The success of the Aboriginal community in keeping infection rates so low is being recognised internationally as best practice. Now we can build on that success in the recovery effort", she said.
She concluded, "beyond the specific allocation of $40m VACCA will be working to ensure that other announced measures, such as the investment to create 500 new jobs across mental health, family violence, health and child protection and the training pathways and internships are made available to Aboriginal people, particularly young people. We need to bring every available resource to the task of recovery."
- Statement from the VACCA CEO on Ombudsman Report
Statement from VACCA CEO
Better models of Residential Care long overdue
The Victorian Ombudsman report into assaults perpetrated against children living in residential care, tabled in the Victorian Parliament this morning, brings to light the limitations and failures of Victoria's residential care system - and the consequences for children.
Sadly, nothing in the report is surprising. There have been many previous reports. The experiences of Aboriginal children in residential care are inter-generational. The Stolen Generations experienced abuse and harm in residential and institutional care and have bravely shared their stories. Hearing and believing the Stolen Generations opened the pathway to healing.
Through this report five children and young people have shared their experiences of contemporary residential care, including an Aboriginal girl cared for by a number of agencies before being placed with VACCA. We believe what she has told us and the inquiry, we believe her and we believe in her.
The report is by no means new, the failures of the residential care system are well known, as are the solutions. The need to reform residential care remains urgent.
The Victorian Ombudsman stated that:
These failures are not the result of deliberate disregard for the welfare and safety of the children, either within the Department or the Community Service Organisations. They stem from a system that is neither resourced nor structured to address the multiple complex demands being placed on it.
VACCA supports the inquiry recommendation to transition residential care to smaller therapeutic residential homes with priority access to services to ensure children feel and are safe.
Creating smaller residential facilities as options for children is part of but not the whole solution. Changing the facility without changing the model of care will have limited impact. VACCA has developed Aboriginal models of residential care that focus on healing, engagement and connection with family, community and culture and supporting children and young people’s education and development.
VACCA calls upon the State Government to partner with the Aboriginal community controlled organisations to develop and fund local Aboriginal residential care facilities and programs to meet the best interests of Aboriginal children in care.
- 2020 Budget - VACCA's Response
Overall, the 2020-21 Federal Budget does little to support the needs of Aboriginal children, families, and communities given the many new and existing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis with ongoing concerns for the recovery process. VACCA is deeply concerned that there is no specific focus on resourcing the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector to continue to respond to the pandemic and prepare for recovery. With JobSeeker and JobKeeper levels not being extended, nor guaranteed at an adequate rate we are gravely concerned that this will only further entrench the poverty experienced by many Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities. VACCA strongly advocates for the Morrison government to extend the coronavirus supplement to JobKeeper and to legislate a permanent increase to JobSeeker.
There was no social housing investment announced, and $41.3m cut from homelessness services in this year's Budget. Given the ongoing National Inquiry into homelessness in Australia, this is a devastating blow to the sector. We are concerned for Australia’s most vulnerable populations, as the 2020 Federal Budget has largely ignored the calls for increased funding for social services including child and family services, housing, mental health, and AOD. As our CEO, Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett, has stated. "There has been a significant under-investment in Aboriginal community-controlled organisations across where our Aboriginal people are particularly over-represented".
- New Fund To Support Aboriginal Family Violence Sector
Media Release in response to https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-fund-support-aboriginal-family-violence-sector
24 September 2020
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) applauds the Victorian government’s recent announcement of funding for Aboriginal led family violence program through the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund. VACCA, as the largest provider of Aboriginal family violence services in the state we work holistically with women, men, young people, and children affected by family violence providing support in prevention, early intervention, intervention, and crisis family violence programs.
We know from ‘Always Was Always Will Be, Koori Children’ report that family violence, alongside parental AOD issues, is the leading cause for Aboriginal children to enter out-of-home-care. Our therapeutic, trauma-informed programs work intensively with the family unit as a whole.
The impact of COVID-19 of Aboriginal families has been immense, and families now face many complex issues which have been exasperated due to the pandemic including housing insecurity and homelessness, AOD, legal, social and emotional wellbeing, education and employment. This funding will allow Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work with the community in providing a suite of culturally safe, trauma-informed family violence and healthy respectful relationships programs.
VACCA commends the government’s commitment to advancing Aboriginal self-determination and this funding will allow VACCA and other Aboriginal Family Violence Services to enhance our programs to meet the community needs over the next two years.
- BSL report - enabling economic security for single mothers and their children
Single mums and their children need ongoing support through COVID-19 and into recovery. A new report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence looks at the struggles and needs of single mothers and their children.
Aboriginal mums and their children have faced significant challenges under the COVID-19 pandemic. Being away from family, kin, and community has been extremely distressing for many already vulnerable families. Physical distancing and restricted service delivery has created barriers for mums to draw on family and community support whilst also trying to meet the social and emotional wellbeing and financial needs of their family.
Such challenges compound with experiences faced by all single mothers and their children, where the report has found that:
- Even with careful planning and budgeting, mums cannot make ends meet
- The fixed hours of childcare clash with unpredictable work hours restricting the choices mothers are able to make about their children's care
- Strict requirements and conditions for social security payments cause anxiety, distress and harm for the whole family
The addition of the Coronavirus supplement to many social security payments earlier this year, including Parenting Payment Single, has been widely welcomed. Allowing many single mums to be able to make ends meet put fresh food on the table and take their kids on outings. However, the Federal government is set to cut the supplement on 25th September, with the dramatic drop impacting up to 1.1 million children.
Reducing COVID supports for families will remove food from tables for children and push families into further financial and emotional stress. With the economic crisis and uncertainties of COVID remaining for some time, vulnerable families need ongoing and guaranteed support now and into recovery. Children should not suffer because their families cannot find work.
The report calls for wide reform to ensure employment opportunities are family-friendly and flexible and childcare is affordable and of high-quality.
This is a unique moment in the history of social security policy where stakeholders ranging from business groups to community organisations hope to create momentum for the positive changes, we have seen during COVID-19 to remain permanent.
Aboriginal mums, children and families experiencing financial crisis should be empowered and supported rather than pushed to the side. VACCA supports the ACOSS campaign to Raise the Rate and believes that the most effective way to support families into the future is to keep the current level of payments.
Raise the Rate: https://raisetherate.org.au/about/
- Lorna Cubillo, a pioneer who fought for the Stolen Generation, dies aged 81
VACCA is saddened to learn of the passing of Lorna Cubillo. Ms Cubillo dedicated her life to fighting for justice and compensation for Stolen Generations. Ms Cubillo was involved in the first Stolen Generations litigation case against the Commonwealth Government where she sought compensation for the trauma and abuse she suffered during her time at Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home. Her harrowing experience, alongside so many others featured in the Bringing the Home Report. Sadly, this comes after our own loss of our own Stolen Generations advocate Auntie Eunis Wright.
VACCA mourns Lorna Cubillo's passing and commends her bravery. Lorna took the fight to Canberra with a gentleness that belied her tenacity to fight against the gross injustices perpetrated against not only herself but against so many children removed under Australia's shameful Aboriginal child removalist policies.
Our thoughts are with her family, and all who loved her.
Lorna Cubillo, a pioneer who fought for the Stolen Generation, dies aged 81. VACCA is saddened to learn of the passing of Lorna Cubillo. Ms Cubillo dedicated her life to fighting for justice and compensation for Stolen Generations. Ms Cubillo was involved in the first Stolen Generations litigation case against the Commonwealth Government where she sought compensation for the trauma and abuse she suffered during her time at Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home. Her harrowing experience, alongside so many others featured in the Bringing the Home Report. Sadly, this comes after our own loss of our own Stolen Generations advocate Auntie Eunis Wright. VACCA mourns Lorna Cubillo's passing and commends her bravery. Lorna took the fight to Canberra with a gentleness that belied her tenacity to fight against the gross injustices perpetrated against not only herself but against so many children removed under Australia's shameful Aboriginal child removalist policies. Our thoughts are with her family, and all who loved her. Read full news here.
- New National Agreement on Closing the Gap to strengthen outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families
30 July 2020
VACCA welcomes the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to strengthen outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) came together with more than 50 other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations to negotiate a comprehensive National Agreement on Closing the Gap with the Commonwealth and all State and Territory Governments.
The new National Agreement is a commitment from all governments to fundamentally change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.
Representing SNAICC on the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks VACCA's CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO says,
"The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap recognises that structural reforms, including addressing institutionalised racism and genuine shared decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, are the keys to succeeding where the previous Closing the Gap agreement failed.
Governments have made a commitment to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031, echoing calls from VACCA and SNAICC to eliminate the over-representation of our children in out-of-home care by 2040.
Achieving this target will require the empowerment of Aboriginal agencies in determining children's best interests and greater investment in early intervention and family support to keep our children safely connected to family, culture and kin," says Ms Bamblett.
"This agreement includes Priority Reforms, Outcomes and Targets with implementation to focus on partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and building the capacity of our Aboriginal community-controlled services. Improving data, monitoring and Aboriginal led independent evaluation will make sure we are capturing a true picture of progress in securing the wellbeing of our children and families."
More than 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participated in community engagements on what should be included in the new National Agreement, guiding us in our negotiations.
The National Agreement brings both new and renewed focus on issues affecting our families including family violence, health justice, social and emotional wellbeing, education, out-of-home care and early childhood. We welcome this more holistic approach to addressing disadvantage through shared decision making, funding reform and addressing systemic racism.
"There is significant work to do but we are steadfast in our commitment to working collaboratively with the Victorian ACCO network, and the state and federal government through the Closing the Gap Agreement.
The future of our children relies on this agreement setting a new standard of working together, we will hold the government accountable to meeting these new targets." — Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO, CEO VACCA.
To read the full new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, visit the Coalition of Peaks website here.
For more information and media enquiries
- VACCA: Muriel Bamblett on 0407 802 026
- Coalition of Peaks: Jo Scard on 0457 725 953 or email@example.com; and Julia Macerola on 0422 337 332 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Supporting self-determination in Aboriginal women raising their babies at home
- A new project will support Aboriginal women in Victoria to better meet their babies' and infants' needs and reduce the likelihood of children entering the state's child protection and care system.
- In Victoria, Aboriginal children are significantly over-represented in out-of-home care (OoHC).
- About 1 in 18 (18,000) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in OoHC in Australia at 30 June 2019, more than 10 times the rate for non-Aboriginal children.
- This new project is funded by a collaborative group of philanthropists with a shared interest in improving the outcomes of children and young people who are at risk of entering, or with an experience of, out-of-home care.
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre) are pleased to announce a grant of more than half a million dollars to co-design a new approach to supporting young Aboriginal mothers raise their babies and infants at home.
The grant is awarded by members of the Out-Home-Care Philanthropic Funders Network (the Network), a group facilitated by the Centre, with an interest in improving the outcomes of children and young people at risk of entering, or with an experience of, out-of-home care. The funding is awarded as part of the Network's Innovation Grants program, a program which sees Network members collaborate to drive innovation and systemic change across the child and family services sector. This project is the second collaborative funding initiative of the Network.
CEO of VACCA, Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett said VACCA is determined to address the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care: "This funding will enable us to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal families in Victoria, with the broader goal of reducing the likelihood of Aboriginal newborns and infants entering out of home care, we must do better."
CEO of the Centre, Deb Tsorbaris said the fundamental right of self-determination for Aboriginal communities meant that VACCA was well placed to deliver this project alongside Aboriginal communities, "All children and young people should grow up in safe, stable home environments, connected to family, community and culture. Through this project, VACCA will work alongside Aboriginal women and families to help them make decisions about the safety and wellbeing of their children."
The three year 'Growing Up Aboriginal Babies at Home' project which will commence in October 2020, will be delivered by VACCA in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s Department of Social Work, and will:
- Work with young Aboriginal women (and their partners) who are identified as at risk of their baby being placed in out-of-home care or, if removal has already occurred, seek reunification with their baby.
- Support the women to meet their infants' needs and keep them safe.
- Use Aboriginal defined measures of success and culturally appropriate data collection.
Children and Young People Grant Manager at Equity Trustees and Network member Emily Cormack said the Network's objective is to fund innovative and collaborative approaches to address systemic issues: "This Network and the Innovation Grants demonstrate how philanthropy can work together to affect change and create lasting impact for children and young people with an experience of out-of-home care"
Network members who collaborated to fund this project include Equity Trustees - The David Taylor Galt Charitable Trust, Gandel Philanthropy, William Buckland Foundation, The Jack Brockhoff Foundation, Sidney Myer Fund and the Australian Communities Foundation – EM Horton Family Fund.
About the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is a state-wide Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) servicing children, young people, families, and community members. It is the largest of its kind in Australia.
We believe in Aboriginal peoples' right to self-determination, the rights of the child and we commit to upholding Victorian Aboriginal cultural protocols.
About the Out-of-home Care Philanthropic Funders Network
The Network is a collaborative group of philanthropists with a shared interest in improving the experiences and outcomes for children and young people who are at risk of entering, in, or have an experience of out-of-home care. Members of the Network include Equity Trustees, Gandel Philanthropy, William Buckland Foundation, The Jack Brockhoff Foundation, Sidney Myer Fund and the Australian Communities Foundation.
The Network meets to share learnings, evidence, and innovation in out-of-home care in Victoria and other jurisdictions. This information sharing forum supports Network members to collaborate and fund innovation grants in community service organisations to improve outcomes for children at risk of entering or with an experience of out-of-home care and focus on systemic change and collaboration within, and across sectors. The Network has so far funded two projects in collaboration.
The administration of the Network is conducted by the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and proudly funded through Equity Trustees' Children and Young People granting program.
About the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare
The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre) is the peak body for child and family services in Victoria. Representing more than 150 community service organisations, students and individuals.
The Centre advocates for the rights of children and young people to be heard, to be safe, to access education and to remain connected to family, community and culture.
Our vision is to see a community that is fair, equitable and creates opportunities for children and their families to live happy and healthy lives.
For further comments from Muriel Bamblett, call Nigel D'Souza 0400 978 015
For further comments from Deb Tsorbaris, call Christie Long 0403 053 584
- All Black Lives Matter - Aboriginal Deaths in custody and the killing of George Floyd
The over-whelming outpouring of emotion in Australia at the tragic and very visible killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota Police is now being displayed in relation to the plight of black people – the Indigenous people of Australia.
Over 400 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the last ten years is the least of the racism we experience everyday in our own country. Over the last few weeks, we have tragically lost five young Aboriginal people by suicide in Victoria alone and barely a word has been heard about it.
These deaths are the bad enough but worse than this is the indifference. The indifference to our material poverty, our homelessness, the violence we experience and the removal of our children. The indifference to the daily racism we experience which is not necessarily the overt hate and violence but the insidious discrimination and the unsaid thoughts and the casual racist jokes or comments. Compounding indifference is the neglect that despite knowledge based on innumerable inquiries and reports little action is taken to stop this and turn it around.
There are other recent highly publicised instances of racism in this country: the incident of the NSW policeman assaulting the young Aboriginal teen - would it have made the news if it had not resonated with what is happening in the US? The destruction by Rio Tinto of 50,000 year old caves and sacred sites in WA.
Aboriginal people very well understand the feelings of intense frustration and anger that leads to the kind of reaction we see in the US.
Our Prime Minister and leaders of all States and Territories, need to show leadership at a time like this in the same way they have shown it with covid-19. Now is the time to say we have much more work to do about racism in this country and this is how we are going to do it side-by-side with Aboriginal people. We should not congratulate ourselves about how well we compare with the US in their time of turmoil.
Here in Australia our jails are filled with Indigenous people at rates higher than prior to the last Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its final report in 1991 almost 30 years ago. Yet there isn’t the same degree of widespread community anger and there is even less action by governments.
Over the last 10 years we have seen an 88% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people incarcerated, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.
The excuse that we do not know how and why these things happen does not wash any longer if it ever did. Even if the current crop of politicians weren’t around when the Royal Commission in 1991 reported, the Australian Law Reform Commission report on Indigenous Incarceration in 2018 is within the purview of the current Coalition Government and was crystal clear about what needs to be done. The current Attorney-General Christian Porter tabled the report in Parliament and has done nothing about it since.
Aboriginal deaths in custody is the extreme and tragic end of the spectrum of racial injustice we experience daily. From the cradle to the grave we bear the legacy of almost 300 years of racial violence and injustice which is now manifested by poor health, short life expectancy, high rates of mental illness, family violence, unemployment and underemployment. Many of our families have to put up with the intrusion of state authorities in their lives whether this be child protection workers or police.
VACCA says it is time to act here in Australia. It is time to act on the recommendations of the ALRC report into Indigenous Incarceration. It is time to over-turn the edifice of systemic racism by thoroughly examining how it works by talking to and involving us in the process.
In Victoria we must press on with a Treaty. Truth and justice is needed here in Australia. A treaty will empower Aboriginal communities to address racial injustice and bring about equality and a level playing field for us to move ahead.
We support the right of all people to protest and support those who chose to attend tomorrow’s action. We ask that whoever does attend take appropriate precautions. Restrain from normal shows of affection. Don’t go if you are not feeling well. Maintain hygiene with sanitisers or hand washing. Keep your distance from others.
This movement is marathon not a sprint and we know we will be called on and have opportunities to act in the near future.
For comment contact Nigel D’Souza 0400 978 015
- Bringing them Home report: A living document 23 years on.
25 May 2020
23 years on Stolen Generations Report still a "living" document.
On the 26th of May 1997 the landmark Bringing them Home report was tabled in federal parliament. Bringing them Home is the final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families and was conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission between 1995 and 1997.
Twenty-three years on and most of the Bringing them Home recommendations remain unimplemented.
However, here in Victoria, the State Government announced in mid-March that it would create a Redress Scheme for the Stolen Generations committing $10 millions towards its set-up and operations.
Speaking in Melbourne ahead of an online event for Stolen Generations on National Sorry Day, CEO of VACCA Professor Muriel Bamblett AO said, “The announcement of the Victorian Redress Scheme was wonderful news. It is something that VACCA, the Stolen Generations and other organisations and services have been calling for since the Bringing them Home report was tabled in Parliament on this day 26th May in 1997 — 23 years ago today. I look forward to the development of the scheme over the coming months and to its implementation and commencement in 2021.”
Prof Bamblett added, “Bringing Them Home is not just a report. It is the testimony of hundreds of Stolen Generations, many of whom had never spoken of their grief and suffering before. It has stayed alive as a record of their stories, because we have a connection to them and the grief and suffering they endured. It is part of every Aboriginal person and their family."
"In moving ahead, each year on this day we commemorate National Sorry Day not just because the report was launched on this day but because we have an unwritten commitment to our people, the Stolen Generations, that their stories will forever be a part of our communities’ stories. We also commit to continue working towards bringing them home and supporting them in their efforts to do so and towards justice for them."
Part of ensuring justice is done will be to pursue the implementation of the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Inquiry which found that Australia had breached its’ own commitment to the Genocide Convention and had committed gross breaches of human rights by removing Aboriginal children.
In the immortal words of Uncle Archie Roach, a Stolen Generations member himself, in his song “Took the children away” he sings:
One sweet day all the children came back
The children come back
The children come back
Back where their hearts grow strong
Back where they all belong
The children came back
Said the children come back
The children come back
Back where they understand
Back to their mother's land
The children come back
Back to their mother
Back to their father
Back to their sister
Back to their brother
Back to their people
Back to their land
All the children come back
The children come back
The children come back
Yes I came back.
For comment and inquiries contact Nigel D’Souza on 0400 978 015.
- VACCA welcomes Victorian Government's announcement of $77.5 million package to support vulnerable families and children
Date: 23 April, 2020
VACCA welcomes the announcement by Minister for Child Protection, Luke Donnellan of $77.5 million for additional support for Victoria’s most vulnerable families and children.
Through the package kinship and foster carers will receive a one-off $600 payment for every child they care for.
The package also includes:
- Extra financial support for carers most in need.
- An increase in capacity of family services to provide outreach support to the most vulnerable families.
- Expansion of DHHS landmark Home Stretch program will be expanded to support all young people currently in care who are due to turn 18 before December this year.
- Support for residential care service providers to form mobile response teams that will bolster staff where needed and proactively respond to the needs of every young person.
- It will also help to ensure residential homes are properly cleaned to ensure the safety and hygiene standards needed during this crisis.
In light of the package announcement, the Hon Luke Donnellan said: “Every day, our foster families and kinship carers provide the most amazing support to our children and young people. Now, it’s our turn to support them.”
- VACCA welcomes establishment of Reparations Scheme for Stolen Generations Survivors in Victoria
18 March 2020
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency welcomes the establishment of a Reparations Scheme for Stolen Generations Survivors in Victoria as announced by the Victorian State Government today.
VACCA CEO Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett AO says “It is time we made compensation to the survivors of the Stolen Generations in Victoria – in accordance with one of the key recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families in 1997 the Bringing them Home Report.”
“A Reparations Scheme is important in supporting the healing of survivors who continue to feel the profound impacts of being removed from family, culture and Country today”, adds Muriel
“It will also go some way towards addressing the intergenerational impacts which have been clearly highlighted through research.”
“The Andrews government has listened to our voices and once again is highlighting its commitment to self-determination for Aboriginal People in Victoria”
A Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme in Victoria needs to be established to provide compensation for an act of genocide in contravention of the Genocide Convention Act 1949, through forced removal, cultural denial and assimilation of the Stolen Generations.
The new Scheme will sit in parallel to the National Redress Scheme which was established to provide compensation specifically to people who have experienced institutionalised child sexual abuse.
Eligible Stolen Generations survivors who experienced institutionalised child sexual abuse, should receive compensation through both redress and reparations schemes.
Stolen Generations Survivor, Eva Jo Edwards says “No compensation can take away the impacts of our trauma, however a reparations scheme will enable us to acknowledge the wrongs of past government policies and ensure our history is learnt and told.”
Providing compensation to the Stolen Generations will, as part of a broader reparations scheme, bring Victoria in line with the United Nations’ Van Boven Principles, detailed and endorsed in the Bringing them Home Report as the appropriate framework for responding to the gross violation of human rights.
The devastating impacts experienced by the Stolen Generations who were forcibly removed from their families under various government policies is still felt today.
Receiving compensation and recognition of the devastating trauma the Stolen Generations endured is a key element of their healing journey.
For all media queries contact VACCA Communications Manager Vanessa Morris on email@example.com
- VACCA welcomes Victorian State Government commitment to introducing legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria
Date: 27 February 2020
VACCA is pleased to hear the announcement that the Victorian State Government has committed to introducing a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria.
This decision will help to ensure old criminal records for eligible offences do not have a damaging impact on an individual and their ability to gain employment, secure housing or undertake volunteer work.
VACCA made a submission in July 2019 which formed part of a response to the Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee’s Inquiry into a Legislated Spent Convictions Scheme.
VACCA’s submission highlighted that the introduction of a spent convictions scheme is a step towards addressing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal children and young people involved in the justice system by ensuring they are protected against discrimination on this basis.
It provides an opportunity to be reintegrated back into community and effectively rehabilitate free of discrimination on the basis of their criminal record.
Victoria is the only jurisdiction that does not currently have a legislated spent convictions scheme.
- Aboriginal leaders call on the State Government to implement the Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework
26 February 2020
Aboriginal leaders call on the State Government to implement the Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework and take real, concerted action now to begin to fix the homelessness crisis in our community.
Every year thousands of our people are denied the safety, security and stability that can only be provided by a home.
The framework reveals that one-in-six Aboriginal people in Victoria will seek homeless support this year. It is the highest and fastest growing rate of Aboriginal homelessness in the country. If mainstream Victoria experienced housing crisis at this rate more than one million people would be seeking homelessness assistance every year.
These statistics are unacceptable and unavoidable for Aboriginal people in the supposed most progressive state in Australia.
The dispossession and disempowerment homelessness creates is ongoing, traumatic and worsening.
Homelessness is one of the largest contributing factors of Aboriginal disadvantage in Victoria. It is a major driving factor in family violence, child removal, growing incarceration rates, youth homelessness, low educational outcomes, and poor health and mental health outcomes for Aboriginal people.
The Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework is a landmark moment for the Victorian Aboriginal community and our relationship with government.
It is the first time in Australia that a detailed policy framework of this scale has been led by the Aboriginal community, for the community. The Victorian government should be commended for committing to and supporting this process.
Now comes the real challenge for the community and the government.
The scale of the crisis requires immediate short-term action to alleviate the worst of the problems and a genuine commitment to a long-term target to reduce Aboriginal homelessness by 10 per cent per year until it resembles the rate of other Victorians.We have been homeless in our own country for more than 200 years. It is long past time for that to change.
The solutions outlined in the framework are backed by community experience and evidence of what works. The Victorian government can lead by example and begin implementing these policy solutions today.
We need action, not just promises.
We call on the Victorian Government to affirm its commitment to self-determination, listen to what our community needs, and begin the long work of ending Aboriginal homelessness in this state.
Muriel Bamblett - Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)
Antoinette Braybrook - Djirra
Darren Smith – Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV)
Esme Bamblett – Aboriginal Advancement League (AAL)
Indi Clarke - Koorie Youth Council
Linda Bamblett - Victoria Aboriginal Community Services Association (VACSAL)
Lionel Bamblett - Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI)
Michael Graham - Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS)
Read the Framework via www.vahhf.org.au
- New Framework to reduce criminalisation of young people in residential care will help stem the levels of incarceration of Indigenous young people
Date: 13 February 2020
New Framework to reduce criminalisation of young people in residential care will help stem the levels of incarceration of Indigenous young people
85 Aboriginal young people make up 23% of the residential care population in Victoria currently. Regrettably many of these young people will almost inevitably move into the adult prison system. Victoria Legal Aid (2019) found that 57% of young people in Residential Care will face criminal charges within a year with Aboriginal young people over-represented in this number.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO says “The launch of the Framework to reduce criminalisation of young people in residential care today is a welcome development which will lead to the reduction of the high levels of criminalisation of our young people”
“As one of the signatories of the Framework we are committed to doing everything we can to make this new approach work.” adds Muriel
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in residential care have already experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives before they enter residential care. A punitive approach to their rehabilitation in residential has been shown to fail and will inevitably lead to criminalisation.”
“This Framework offers an approach for VACCA to work with agencies including Victoria Police, State Government, the courts and our sector partners to de-escalate problems and work to address the trauma as we reconnect these young people to their communities and culture.”
The Framework will enable
- Greater focus on understanding Aboriginal Communities – development and maintenance of relevant, appropriate and ongoing preventative supports and resources for Aboriginal families
- Implementation of a new model of care (AHCCS) – tailored to better meet the needs of Aboriginal children and young people residing in residential settings
- Children and young people remain safe, strong and connected to culture and their communities through Culturally Sensitive Programs
- Consider child’s voice
- Divert Aboriginal children to ACCO and community-led programs (before and as a part of sentencing), rather than after being processed into the mainstream Juvenile justice system
The Framework is being launched by Ministers’ for Child Protection Luke Donnellan and Crime Prevention Ben Carroll, VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO and others today.
For all media queries contact VACCA Communications Manager Vanessa Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0457 153 850.
- VACCA supports call for overdue Reparations Scheme for Victorian Stolen Generations survivors on 12th Anniversary of the National Apology
Date: 12 February 2020
VACCA supports call for overdue Reparations Scheme for Victorian Stolen Generations survivors on 12th Anniversary of the National Apology
As we reach the 12th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February 2020, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) continues to advocate for the long overdue establishment of a Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme in Victoria.
While there have been formal State and Federal Government apologies to the Stolen Generations for the harms caused by past policies – there has been no progress on behalf of the Victorian Government in relation to reparations for survivors of the Stolen Generations.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO says “It is time we see compensation made to the survivors of the Stolen Generations in Victoria – this is one of the key recommendations of the Bringing them home report, which continues to be ignored since its release 23 years ago.”
“Victoria has fallen behind other states and territories as the only state without a reparations scheme, which is integral to support the healing of survivors who continue to feel the profound impacts of being removed from family, culture and Country today”, adds Muriel
“The cost of reparations would be minor compared to the costs to Victoria’s Aboriginal communities and peoples of the forced removal policies giving rise to the Stolen Generations.”
A Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme in Victoria needs to be established to provide compensation for an act of genocide in contravention of the Genocide Convention Act 1949, through forced removal, cultural denial and assimilation of the Stolen Generations.
It should sit in parallel to the National Redress Scheme which was established to provide compensation specifically to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse. Eligible Stolen Generations survivors who experienced institutional child sexual abuse, should receive compensation through both redress and reparations schemes.
Providing compensation as part of a broader reparations scheme would bring Victoria in line with the United Nations’ Van Boven Principles, detailed and endorsed in the Bringing them home report as the appropriate framework for responding to the gross violation of human rights.
Stolen Generations survivor, Eva Jo Edwards says “At the end of the day, the apology doesn’t take away the pain or the fight for survival for us as Stolen Generations survivors. Saying sorry is an empty gesture if nothing is followed through, and a reparations scheme just needs to be done.”
“No compensation can take away the impacts of our trauma, however a reparations scheme will enable us to acknowledge the wrongs of past government policies and ensure our history is learnt and told.”
“As a survivor, this is a hard time of year but also a time of year for reflection to see how far I have come personally and how I can help support other survivors the best way I can. Healing is different for Aboriginal people and is a long time coming.”
The devastating impacts experienced by the Stolen Generations who were forcibly removed from their families under various government policies is still felt today. Receiving compensation and recognition of the devastating trauma the Stolen Generations endured is a key element of their healing journey.
For all media queries contact VACCA Communications Manager Vanessa Morris: email@example.com or 0457 153 850.
- VACCA statement regarding 26 January: A day of mourning
Date: 24 January 2020
For the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, 26 January is a day of mourning.
It is a sobering reminder of colonisation and its lasting impacts including displacement and discrimination which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have faced since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.
While it is difficult for us to celebrate the anniversary of the notion that this country was founded 230 years ago – this is a day for us to recognise and celebrate the strength and resilience of our people and communities who continue to survive and thrive despite attempts of genocide and ongoing colonial violence.
As one of the largest Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) in Victoria, we have provided services and protected and promoted the rights of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people, families and community members for over 40 years. During that time, we have witnessed firsthand the structural disadvantage, injustice and trauma our people face at every turn.
This 26 January, we stand with our community in the ongoing calls for:
- An end to the removal of our children and greater investment in early intervention and healing strategies
- Greater community control and access to support for our children and young people in out-of-home care to stay strong in their identity and connection to community, culture and Country
- Compensation for our Stolen Generations survivors.
- An end to deaths in custody and the racist laws, policies and practices
- The creation of treaty/treaties that are robust, honour cultural protocols and are driven and controlled by community
- The creation of a genuine “Voice” based on the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- A Refreshed Closing the Gap policy, based on Aboriginal self-determination
Central to this is the acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty.
Our true and shared history for over 60,000+ years that our Ancestors and people have lived and thrived with rich cultures and knowledge systems which are alive and relevant today, is vital for us as this land’s First Peoples.
Always was, always will be.
- Prime Minister hosts historic meeting with the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap
Date: 23 January 2020
Today the Prime Minister hosted a historic meeting with a delegation of senior representatives from the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, a national representative body of fifty community controlled peaks from across Australia.
VACCA CEO, Muriel Bamblett, was part of the delegation who attended today’s meeting.
Progress in developing a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to replace the National Indigenous Reform Agreement was discussed during the meeting. The new agreement will set out our shared priorities over the next ten years to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Prime Minister also provided an update on the Government’s bushfire recovery efforts and acknowledged the role of the Aboriginal community-controlled organisations in providing support to effected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This includes VACCA’s new Bushfire Recovery Program. The PM also acknowledged the impact the fires are having on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the landscape and wildlife.
This meeting comes after the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed in March 2019 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks where for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their community controlled representatives, and Australian governments share decision making on Closing the Gap.
After the meeting VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO said, "These meetings, including those with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will now be a regular part of the process of the refreshed Closing the Gap Framework and targets."
"All governments across Australia finally acknowledge that genuine progress in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing can only occur with us at the table and at our direction."
View transcript for Remarks, Indigenous Peak Bodies Roundtable here
- GEGAC and VACCA to provide dedicated support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community affected by the bushfires
Date: 21 January 2020
Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-operative (GEGAC) and Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) are standing with bushfire affected communities and will provide dedicated support to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people impacted by bushfires in Gippsland and North East Victoria as part of the State Government’s new Victorian Bushfires Case Support Program.
Announced by Premier Daniel Andrews and Bushfire Recovery Victoria Chair Ken Lay, the $14.4 million program will provide immediate support to the broader community affected by the bushfires in Gippsland and North East Victoria.
As a result of the devastating bushfire events which has seen the large-scale displacement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria, VACCA will have eight dedicated caseworkers working directly with community across the state over the next twelve months.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett said “VACCA and GEGAC are committed to supporting our community members on the road to recovery and as part of the new State Government Bushfires Case Support Program.”
“Our dedicated case workers will support affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members across the state – and to ensure our ability to provide suitable support, we will work closely with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and health services.” adds Muriel
GEGAC CEO Jamie Williamson said “With the fire season far from over and the full impacts of recent events difficult to understand at this point in time – the safety and wellbeing of our community is a high priority, and providing support is a matter of urgency.”
“Our thoughts are with those who have been directly affected by the fires and the broader community, and we extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in the fires.” adds Jamie
The caseworkers will help link community members with vital support such as information and advice, mental health support and financial counselling.
They will also help with practical matters such as filling out paperwork, accessing grants and financial claims, and navigating services available through local council, state and commonwealth governments.
The program is funded by the Victorian Government in partnership with Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and will be supported by Bushfire Recovery Victoria to help communities recover and rebuild.
Affected Victorians can access a support coordinator by contacting their local council, visiting a recovery centre or calling 1800 560 760.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who are impacted by the fires and require support:
- based in Gippsland, contact GEGAC: firstname.lastname@example.org
- outside of Gippsland: submit a request for support here or call 03 9742 8399
If you have any other queries, contact VACCA via email@example.com
Information about recovery centre locations and opening hours can be found at emergency.vic.gov.au.
Image credit: Sascha Grant via flickr
- VACCA welcomes the First Progress Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability
20 December 2019
VACCA welcomes the first Progress Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability released today, especially its intention to “embed First Nation issues in all areas of [its] work”.
The Royal Commission’s Progress Report details its plans for 2020 including Terms of Reference that “direct us to pay particular attention to the experiences of First Nations people with disability”.
To ensure this, they will be conducting a hearing in the Northern Territory from 18 May 2020 to hear directly from First Nations people with disability about their experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
In the first Progress Report released today, the Royal Commission says the following in regards to First Nations people:
“We know that there is a substantially higher proportion of First Nations people with disability compared to the non-Indigenous population. Because of this, the approach the Royal Commission is taking is to embed First Nations issues in all areas of our work. This means that on every issue we consider, First Nations people with disability concerns are a paramount consideration.
The Royal Commission will engage with First Nations communities and organisations across Australia during the life of the Royal Commission. The principle of listening and hearing directly from First Nations people with disability and other people who are working to make communities and organisations more inclusive is core to our work.
The Royal Commission has established a First Nations People Strategic Advisory Group. This body is an expert panel of 7 First Nations representatives who will provide leadership and direction on matters specific to First Nations people with disability.
We are also finalising the First Nations engagement strategy, which will be published on the Royal Commission website in early 2020. This is being developed through consultation with key First Nations stakeholders. An essential component of our work is to ensure a strong evidence base and data driven approach to inform our engagements and to ensure we are engaging with jurisdictions and communities that have high percentages of First Nations people with disability. The Royal Commission has engaged 4 Indigenous engagement officers to support our engagement work with First Nations people.”
In regards to First Nations people consultation workshops, the report states:
“The Royal Commission held 2 First Nations people consultation workshops in Sydney and Darwin on 6 August 2019 and 15 August 2019 respectively. The main purpose of these workshops was to hear the stories, insights and proposals for change from First Nations people with disability. Participants raised concerns about:
- institutional racism within the health system, and the lack of services in remote settings for First Nations people with disability and
- education for First Nations children with disability, especially concerns that the needs of First Nations children with cognitive impairments are often not met throughout school due to the misperception that certain behaviours are a disciplinary matter.
Participants in both workshops emphasised the critical importance of member-led First Nations organisations leading services and support to First Nations people with disability at the local and regional level.”
For more information go to the Royal Commission website at https://disability.royalcommission.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
- VACCA's response to the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report 2019
9 December 2019
On 25 November, the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report 2019 which highlights how Victoria is working towards achieving the vision of the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023 (VAAF) was launched.
The framework's vision is ‘that all Aboriginal Victorian people, families and communities are safe, resilient, thriving and living culturally rich lives’.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO said “While the report provides a valuable status update across a number of social and economic indicators, it pays too little attention to the drivers of success and lacks analysis of what government is investing relative to the needs of Aboriginal people in Victoria.”
“Stronger commitments to combat institutional racism combined with investment in cultural strengthening will see rapid improvement across all indicators.”
“We know that self-determination works, and VACCA will continue to advocate for the investment and systemic reforms that will ensure Aboriginal people in Victoria thrive at every stage of life.”
The report found that Aboriginal children remain significantly over-represented in care at more than 20 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children, reflecting an overwhelming and devastating increase since 2007-08.
A positive reform has been ensuring Aboriginal children and young people are connected to culture with an increase in the number of Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC).
The number of children in care being case managed by an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) has increased almost four times over the past three years to roughly 33 per cent.
Unacceptably, less than 20 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people in care have cultural support plans despite it being a legislative requirement.
Connection to culture is essential for Aboriginal children and families to heal and thrive in their community and it is crucial for ACCOs and the Victorian Government to continue working towards all Aboriginal children and young people in care having cultural support plans.
The Report also highlighted the substantial rise in the number of Aboriginal children and families engaging in early childhood education. Since 2008, Kindergarten enrolment increased from 62 per cent to 100 per cent, surpassing enrolment rates of all Victorian Children.
You can read the full report here.
For all media queries, please contact VACCA Communications Manager Vanessa Morris on firstname.lastname@example.org
- VACCA welcomes release of first interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System
29 November 2019
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) welcomes the release of the first interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System. We are the largest Aboriginal child welfare service in Victoria having operated our service to our community for over forty years.
We know that in Victoria, the dimensions of social and emotional wellbeing problems in our community are significant and contributes to a large number of Aboriginal children entering the child protection system. Often mental illnesses are undiagnosed often being left so until children and young people enter the child protection and the juvenile justice system.
We reiterate our support for the interim recommendations which call for an expansion of social and emotional wellbeing teams throughout Victoria and the setting up of a new Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre which will support these teams.
The centre will help expand social and emotional wellbeing services through: clinical, organisational and cultural governance planning and development workforce development — including by enabling the recommended scholarships guidance, tools and practical supports for building clinical effectiveness in assessment, diagnosis and treatment, developing and disseminating research and evidence for social and emotional wellbeing models and convening associated communities of practice.
We understand that that the Royal Commission will explore these issues further next year including the scope of the mental illness amongst Aboriginal families and children and we hope this will lead to a more comprehensive response to the pressing needs in our community.
We also support the call by the Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance who are calling for an Aboriginal specific roundtable to bring to light the systemic failings of child protection and mental health systems on Aboriginal children, young people, their families and carers. This will also provide Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations the opportunity to highlight the innovative solutions they have driven in their communities.
We commend the Andrews' Government for establishing the Royal Commission and look forward to playing our part in the establishment of responses for the wellbeing of our community.
The interim report is available to read here.
- VACCA supports call for greater improvements to out-of-home care for Aboriginal children
27 November 2019
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) welcomes the report of the Commissioner for Children and Young People In Our Own Words systemic inquiry into the lived experience of children and young people in the Victorian care services system.
Recommendations the report details are important measures that need to be implemented immediately. These include a new investment approach for a safe and quality out of home care system prioritising the drivers of demand and reversing increasing numbers of Aboriginal children and young people entering care, as well as earlier intervention and prevention strategies.
While we know the government is already working with the Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCO) sector through various strategies and plans, we believe more has to be done to improve the quality of care for children and young people and for their voices to be heard on a regular basis. This needs to happen on a child by child basis, as well as through broader inquiries such as In their own words.
“Giving children and young people a voice, their rights under the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the laws of the land, will also mean they will not be afraid to speak out if and when they feel unsafe in care.” said Muriel Bamblett AO CEO of VACCA in Melbourne today.
“If the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse taught us anything it was that when children are not heard they are more vulnerable, unsafe and exposed to exploitation”
“VACCA believes that Aboriginal people will do the best for our own children when they have to be in care. Our services show we have better reunification rates for our children, are better able to connect them to their families and communities and therefore their culture”.
The Report’s focus on the particular needs of Aboriginal children and young people is very important because the institutional bias that has led to their continued over-representation needs special measures to address it.
For interviews with Muriel Bamblett CEO or more information contact Nigel D’Souza on 0400 978 015.
- VACCA expands services and celebrates official opening of new Ovens Murray office in Wangaratta
26 November 2019
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) has expanded its services within the Ovens Murray region with a new office in Wangaratta. To celebrate, the community is invited to the official office opening on Wednesday 27 November.
“Since setting up the office in Wangaratta late last year, we have been able to strengthen our engagement and connections within the Aboriginal community in the Ovens Murray region.” said VACCA Senior Program Manager, Hannah Clancy
“Alongside this engagement, the need for our services in the region continues to grow, and to support this, we continue to grow our team and offering – expanding from three to 15 staff members in less than twelve months.” adds Hannah
“We are excited about our work to date – and look forward to building new and meaningful connections within the community.”
VACCA provides a range of programs to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community within the Ovens Murray region in out-of-home care, better futures (post care), family services and family violence services – with a Family Violence Therapeutics Program due to commence in February 2020.
Established in 1977, VACCA has become Victoria’s leading state-wide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and family services organisation.
Employment opportunities are currently open in family violence, kinship care and Better Futures – as well as recruitment of foster carers within the region.
Information on our services, employment opportunities and foster care program will be available on the day.
A Welcome to Country and traditional smoking ceremony will be presented by local elder, Uncle Freddie.
For more information contact email@example.com.
10:30am on Wednesday 27 November 2019
Lloyd Building, Suite 3, 27-29 Faithful Street, Wangaratta
Light refreshments provided.
- Over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people revealed in new report on suicide amongst children and young people in Victoria
14 November 2019
Over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people revealed in distressing new report on suicide amongst children and young people in Victoria.
A distressing new report ‘Lost, not forgotten’ from the Commission for Children and Young People revealed that 35 young people and children took their lives within 12 months of their involvement with Child Protection, six of which were Aboriginal.
With Aboriginal children and young people disproportionately over-represented in out-of-home care, and many having experienced significant trauma, they are particularly vulnerable to mental illness and suicide.
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) CEO Muriel Bamblett said “It is heartbreaking that the systems we expect to protect our children, failed to serve them.”
“All Aboriginal children reviewed in the report experienced the pain of intergenerational trauma and grief. Cultural healing is integral to healing intergenerational trauma for our children and young people.”
“A trauma-informed approach is required to understand the intergenerational trauma experienced by our people – and the impacts of history on Aboriginal people over centuries.”
High rates of suicide and psychological distress of Aboriginal children and young people has become nationally known – and tragically the report highlights suicide as the leading cause of death for Aboriginal people aged between five and 17 years.
VACCA supports the report’s six recommendations including more funding for prevention and early intervention service models.
Contents of the report may be distressing.
For all VACCA media queries contact VACCA Communications Manager Vanessa Morris on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Statement regarding Helena Broadbent - VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett
4 October 2019
I wanted to write to you in the wake of the devastating loss of Aboriginal woman, Helena Broadbent, and the heartbreaking circumstances which led her newborn baby to be in a critical condition. Helena was killed in an incident after she was thrown or fell from her car in an incident with her partner – which is being investigated by Victoria Police.
Helena was a mother, daughter, sister, and valued in the Victorian Aboriginal community – and I am deeply saddened by her loss and extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.
The circumstances of Helena’s death require thorough investigation and to do this, circumstances of her life and how our justice, family violence and child protection service systems might have done more to prevent her violent death, need to be reviewed.
Women die every week in Australia at the hands of their intimate partner – and it is disturbing that it takes the loss of an Aboriginal women to recognise that we need to explore and learn from how the system has been unable to respond to the needs of those who suffer from family violence. We must assess and improve current approaches to addressing family violence and holding perpetrators to account.
Such incidents don’t occur in isolation, they typically come at the end of a pattern of disrespecting women, of coercion and control, and of physical and other forms of violence. The circumstances surrounding this violent incident are a sobering reminder of the severe impacts of domestic and family violence.
We all have a part to play in ending family violence and it is crucial that within our community we look out for one another and call out domestic and family violence.
Nothing is more important at VACCA than keeping our children, young people and families safe from family violence and other forms of harm.
- Muriel Bamblett AO, VACCA CEO
- VACCA partner with Food Ladder and ACAH to launch new community development program
Friday 3 October 2019
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) has partnered with not-for-profit organisation Food Ladder and the Australian College of Agriculture and Horticulture (ACAH) to launch a new community development program in Melbourne on 12 October 2019.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO says “We are very excited to partner with Food Ladder and the Australia College of Agriculture and Horticulture over the next twelve months to upskill members of our community through this exciting new program.”
The program will provide nutritional food and job-ready skills to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people using the new Food Ladder system, which is based inside a quarter acre hydroponic food growing system in Werribee South. It will have the capacity to harvest 3,600 crops every three weeks.
Produce grown during from the program will provide much needed food security to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families, as well as help fund the program, with the fruit and vegetables being made available to local restaurants and distributors, and at a pop-up store onsite.
The program will provide the Aboriginal community an opportunity to be involved in a bush food scheme through its focus on growing foods native to the region within the Werribee system and surrounding grounds.
Food Ladder CEO Kelly McJannett is proud to participate and believes that “Not only will it provide the local community with nutritional produce, it will also give Aboriginal participants hands on business experience, from growing and harvesting produce to selling and distributing goods.”
As part of the Food Ladder program, weekly accredited and non-accredited classes will be offered to community members where they can receive a certification in horticulture, as well gain job-ready skills in the agriculture industry.
“Horticulture is both an art and science that embraces technology and sustainability,” Aboriginal people have practiced land use, have an innate understanding of native plants and gardens, land management and regeneration and bring to this partnership an Aboriginal knowledge about and use of native plants of various kinds says ACAH CEO Alvin Gopal.
“This program will provide students with an understanding of basic horticultural practices and an opportunity to learn essential skills such as being able to grow and harvest their own produce sustainably. Graduates can also expect to find employment in entry level roles as a horticultural tradesperson within a nursery, farm or other horticultural enterprise.” adds Alvin.
Participants will be provided with appropriate clothing and equipment to undertake the program, and volunteer drivers will be available to transport participants to and from class, ensuring the initiative is helping those who need it most.
VACCA, Food Ladder and ACAH are committed in their efforts to implement and deliver this initiative as part of VACCA’s Koorie Wellbeing Ways community development project over the next 12 months, as it embodies the principle of Aboriginal self-determination in improving health, wellbeing and safety.
The Food Ladder system in Werribee South, a suburb 32km south-west of Melbourne’s CBD, will be Food Ladder’s first iteration in Victoria, following on from its success in the Northern Territory, India, Uganda and soon Bhutan.
For enquiries, please email email@example.com
- VACCA recognised in 2019 Victorian Protecting Children Awards
Date: Tuesday 27 August 2019
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) proudly announces that our Nugel (Aboriginal Guardianship) program and much respected employee Sue-Anne Hunter have been announced as finalists in the 2019 Victorian Protecting Children Awards.
Hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services, these awards recognise excellence, innovation and leadership at the highest standard, and VACCA is honoured to have the work of Nugel and leadership of Sue Anne Hunter recognised.
VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett AO said ‘I am incredibly proud of the two finalists in the Victorian Protecting Children Awards, as this is recognition of the invaluable contributions of our staff both individually and collectively in their work with vulnerable and at-risk children.'
‘Our Nugel program has been an historic achievement for Aboriginal people, and at the forefront of child welfare in Australia, because it establishes a benchmark around the application of the principle of the right of self-determination for Aboriginal people – which justifies its inclusion in this category and being a finalist.’
Nugel was nominated for the Minister’s Awards for Innovation in Protecting Children.
In 2017, Nugel became the first of its kind in Australia, following a landmark transfer of guardianship of Aboriginal children on Children’s Court Orders to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
Since its inception, Nugel has led the way in developing a new model of child protection practice premised on Aboriginal organisations working in partnership with Aboriginal families.
Nugel works to support children in out-of-home care to be safe and to connect – or stay connected – to their culture.
Muriel adds ‘Sue Anne Hunter, a Wurundjeri woman, has always displayed a genuine passion, commitment and drive to bring about better outcomes for her people throughout her working career at VACCA and is someone who has contributed so much to the sector – I have no doubt she will continue to make important contributions in the future.’
Sue Anne Hunter, who worked with VACCA for 18 years, was announced as a finalist for the Robin Clark Leadership Award.
Inspiring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal practitioners across the sector, Sue Anne led the development of the Cultural Therapeutic Ways program.
Cultural Therapeutic Ways is an approach to practice which embeds connection and reconnection to culture in all interventions for vulnerable children and families.
Winners of the 2019 Victorian Protecting Children Awards will be announced during National Child Protection Week on 3 September 2019.
Contact: For enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inaugural Mollie Dyer Awards Winners Announced
The winners of the inaugural Mollie Dyer Awards were announced today in Melbourne.
Date: 30th November, 2018
In honour of its extraordinary founder, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) launched three new annual awards honouring an Aboriginal community member, and Aboriginal employee in the sector, and an Aboriginal young person and for their contribution to Aboriginal child and family welfare, particularly children in out-of-home care.
VACCA’s CEO Prof. Muriel Bamblett AM says the awards are a highly positive step for the Aboriginal community: “we established the Mollie Dyer Awards to celebrate Aboriginal people’s excellent work in supporting Aboriginal children, young people and families to feel safe, be strong in their identity and connected to culture and their community across Victoria”.
Presenting the awards to the winners listed below were members of the judging panel including; CEO of VACCA Muriel Bamblett AM, James Atkinson, CEO Rumbalara and Chairperson of VACCA, Justin Mohammed Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People of Victoria, Josh Smith Executive Director of Aboriginal Victoria with the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Aunty Melva Johnson, Winner of the Community Award - is a Yorta Yorta and Wemba Wemba Elder, and a champion of Aboriginal education and health. She has taken a leading role in setting up community services around Echuca.
Aunty Laura Bell, Winner of the Community Award - a Gunditjmara Elder who works tirelessly for Aboriginal communities across Victoria. Through her ability to inspire and enlighten, she has helped implement educational, legal and cultural initiatives that have improved lives and created opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Aunty Elaine Taylor, Winner of the Community Regional Award – a proud Wemba-Wemba Bunurong woman and foster grandmother, she has been a Director of the Aboriginal Child Care Agency and the Aboriginal Youth Support & Recreation for four years. Aunty Eliane is also a Director of Dandenong & District Aborigines Co-operative. She has a special interest in Family Services and Mental Health.
Lowana Moore, Winner of the Community Regional Award - a proud Wamba Wamba woman. Lowana is the Programs Manager at Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI), where she has worked for over 20 years. Lowana has worked tirelessly in connecting her family who have been part of the OOHC system, through the return to country program.
Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, Winner of the Community Regional Award - A proud Bangerang and Wiradjuri woman, Geraldine has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available for Koorie people through education. Geraldine has been the President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association since 1999.
Emma Bamblett, Winner of the Employee Award and a proud Wemba Wemba woman raised in Echuca and living in Melbourne. Emma is the State-Wide Aboriginal Cultural Planning Coordinator. Emma has worked at VACCA for many years, is an acclaimed artist and a strong advocate for the cultural rights of Aboriginal children and young people in Out-of-Home Care.
Nikayla Bamblett, runner up of the Employee Award, works at VACSAL and has spent over a decade working at Aboriginal Community controlled organisations. Nikayla has been a strong advocate for young people her whole life. At 17, she joined the Koorie Youth Council. She strongly believes in giving Aboriginal youth a voice and helping them find their inner power.
Phyllis Rose, runner up of the Employee Award and a proud Gunditjmara and Mutti - Mutti woman. For the last 15 years Phyllis Rose has worked tirelessly for her community within community services to ensure that her community get the supports they need for a better future. Her career began at the League and she has worked at VACCA for five years, she is the Acting Senior Manager for Family Services and Family Violence Program.
The Youth Award winner will not be announced publicly however, we are very proud of their inspirational leadership.
Aunty Mollie Dyer worked tirelessly for the Aboriginal community and in 1976 Mollie, with other Victorian Aboriginal community members founded VACCA, the first Aboriginal-run agency to support Aboriginal children and families. Read more about Mollie’s lifelong achievements here.
- VACCA calls on Victorian Parliament
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) calls on Victorian Parliament to pass the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill
Date: 31st May 2018
VACCA is an Aboriginal community controlled organisation with forty years of working in the field of child and family services. During this time we have continually advocated for our right to self-determination. Many of our staff, members and Board are Aboriginal and traditional owners in Victoria which is why we support the inclusive nature of the treaty process underway.
"VACCA sees the current Treaty process as a critical step towards achieving self-determination for our communities. The current Bill before Parliament while not a treaty, is an essential step that will set up the representative body, Treaty Authority and self-determination fund. The process will be long and demanding. We must be engaged in this once-in-lifetime opportunity and I urge all Aboriginal people to get involved and be part of the process." - Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO.
In February 2016, the Andrews Government, based on its policy of support for Aboriginal self-determination listened to the calls of the Victorian Aboriginal community and committed to working towards a treaty. These calls have echoed through our community since 1788 and this process is long overdue.
The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 that is to be debated in Parliament next week is a significant step towards achieving self-determination. However, it only maps the process of setting up a representative Aboriginal body. We believe the current Bill is inclusive and a positive statement of intent towards negotiations with Victorian Aboriginal Communities. To date thousands of our people have contributed to the process. The Treaty Advancement Commission has been charged with establishing the Aboriginal Representative Body, and is currently conducting state wide community gatherings. We encourage all Aboriginal Victorians to attend and engage with these important discussions. VACCA recognises and supports the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council as the representative Elders body for Victoria.
When negotiated and settled a treaty will improve the lives of all Victorian Aboriginal people by recognising the past and by providing tangible outcomes to secure a better future. It is about resetting the relationship between Aboriginal people and the wider Victorian community thereby creating a stronger, more unified community. It is about justice and truth telling. As we celebrate Reconciliation Week with the theme of “Don’t keep history a mystery”, our community is reminded of the determination and struggle our Elders, community members and ancestors have fought to get us here today.
Muriel Bamblett, Adjunct Professor AM
- It's What You Don't See
It’s What You Don’t See – Awareness raising videos about family violence and it’s impact on Aboriginal children
To be launched by the Hin Jenny Mikakos, Minister for Children and Familiesand CEO of VACCA, Muriel Bamblett
Date: Tuesday 20th of March 2018 at 9.15am for a 9.30am Start
Venue: Arts Centre - Amcor Lounge 100 St Kilda Rd Melbourne VIC 3004
The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is proud launch X new videos about family violence and its impact on children. These videos seek to raise awareness within our community about the affect that violence has on children even when they are not the victims and offers help to families and children.
The videos will be launched by the Minister for Children and Families, the Hon Jenny Mikakos and the VACCA CEO Muriel Bamblett.
As a child welfare agency we know that almost ninety percent of Aboriginal children are in care because of family violence.
Sadly, there are many others who are not in care who nevertheless see and feel violence around them.
The impacts of family violence on children and young people are complex.
It can affect their behaviour, their development, their relationships, their emotions, their learning, their thoughts and their physical health.
Some things you might notice in a child or young person could be:
- Poor concentration, aggression, hyperactivity, disobedience, disturbed sleep/nightmares, withdrawal, low self-esteem, showing no emotion (spaced out), always on edge, wary, fantasize about normal home life, pessimism about the future and physical symptoms
- Self-blame, helplessness, grief, fear, dread, terror, worry, sadness, shame, anger & numbness
- Depression, anxiety & withdrawal Experiencing violence in childhood is a significant risk factor for being both a victim and a perpetrator of violence in adulthood
The videos are available on our VACCA youtube channel.
- 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations
We Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations
13th February 2018
Ten years after the release of “Bringing Them Home” (1997) the Human Rights Commission Report of its Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, in 2008, Kevin Rudd, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia apologized to those who were affected by the removal policies, saying,
"To the Stolen Generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry. On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry. I offer you this apology without qualification.
We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted. We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied.
We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments. "
(Extract from the speech made by Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2008)
This apology, part of a package of recommended responses in cases of gross violations of human rights (the van Boven principles1), was acknowledgement for the deliberate destruction caused by successive governments to our peoples and cultures across the nation. It was affirmation to all the Stolen Generations, both living and passed for the hurt and the damage caused to them and their families just because of the color of their skin. It was, we believe the start of a new beginning in race relations in this country. A beginning that was now based on the truth about what happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families, communities across Australia from the mid 1800’s to the 1970’s.
Regrettably, the apology was the only one of a small number of the 54 recommendations in “Bringing Them Home” that has been implemented in the 20 years since its publication. In commemorating this 10th anniversary we call on governments to address this glaring neglect. We pay our respects to the Stolen Generations and their families, to those that made it home, to those still searching and to those who rest in the Dreaming with their Ancestors and families.
1 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law