Territory Stories

Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review



Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review

Other title

Adam M. Tomison.


Tomison, Adam M; National Child Protection Clearing House (Australia)


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).


Date:2004-02; Cover title. Written for the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services.

Table of contents

Child protection and family support services -- Developments in child protection practice -- Responding to child abuse and neglect in Indigenous and rural-remote communities -- Evidence-based practice in child protection – How do we better inform practice -- Conclusion: child protection and family support in the 21st Century.




Child abuse -- Australia -- Prevention

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National Child Protection Clearing House

Place of publication



v, 89 ; 30 cm.

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Check within Publication or with content Publisher.

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Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services 27 CURRENT ISSUES IN CHILD PROTECTION POLICY AND PRACTICE families where a parent or child is affected by a mental disorder; and rural and remote populations (the latter is discussed in Rural and Remote Communities below). Each sub-population brings with it particular engagement and access issues. For example, the development of culturally-sensitive prevention programs specifically targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities appears to be necessary to ensure access to services (Tomison & Poole 2000). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples often prefer to attend services that offer culturally-relevant programs staffed and managed by their own communities (Wilson 1995; Tomison 1996b). Where there is inadequate access to such Indigenous services, families are more likely to fail to seek assistance. Unfortunately, the availability and number of culturally-appropriate services is relatively low. In the Australian audit of prevention programs carried out by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse, Tomison and Poole (2000) reported that although 16 per cent (296) of the 1814 prevention programs collected were reported to target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, only 23 per cent of these programs (68 of the 296) appeared to have been specifically developed or tailored for the Indigenous population. In order to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to culturally appropriate services, a number of approaches have been put into place (Tomison & Poole 2000). First, there has been much work done around the provision of cross-cultural awareness training (for example, Deemal-Hall & McDonald 1998; Firebrace 1998), to ensure that non-Indigenous workers are sensitive to the needs of their Indigenous clients. Second, cultural issues and sensitivities (for Indigenous and non-English-speaking communities) have been incorporated into a variety of programs, such as the Barnardos Family Work program that operates in a number of centres across New South Wales. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have also been given a voice in the development of culturally-appropriate materials via representation on a range of decision-making bodies. Finally, in an attempt to develop more Indigenous services, a number of government and nongovernment agencies have developed Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander teams, or employed Indigenous workers to work with local communities. The Commonwealth, for example, as part of the National Rural Health Strategy (Department of Health and Aged Care 1996), has funded initiatives that support the funding and training of Aboriginal health education officers and other means of increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in the delivery of culturally-appropriate services and in the management of health services. The Government has also undertaken to accelerate the development of education programs for Aboriginal health workers, and to pilot various service delivery models to encourage and support nurses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers operating in rural and remote areas that are under-supplied with medical services. Tailoring support to family needs Just as attempts to engage with the range of Australian families requires the development of tailored solutions, any understanding of family support needs to be: informed by an awareness of the diversity of family forms and recognition of the different responses of family members to challenges along their life course (McGurk 1997:v). It therefore follows that an effective family support system requires the flexibility to meet families needs (both therapeutic and physical), particularly if a collaborative, solution-focused approach is to be effective. Further, the adoption of a systems approach to family issues needs to be balanced against meeting the needs both of individual families, and individuals within families. This is clearest when considering the provision of support to children and young people. Addressing childrens issues A traditional assumption made in western societies (and thus, in western family policies) is that childrens needs will be met as dependants within the family context, with adults mediating their needs (Makrinoti 1994). While this may broadly be a correct assumption, there will often be times when the needs of the individual child or young person will require a tailored response (e.g. child abuse trauma; bullying; post-family breakdown) (Tomison 1997). A number of authors, such as Makrinoti (1994) and Mason and Steadman (1997), refer to the ideology of familism and its relationship to the oppression of children. The term familism is used to describe the

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