BENDIGO and District Aboriginal Co-operative is seeking to double its capacity to run an innovative program enabling it to manage Aboriginal children and families subject to child protection orders.
It comes after BDAC last year became Australia's second Aboriginal organisation authorised to exercise powers which have existed for years, but were tied up in legislative difficulties.
The technicalities meant Aboriginal organisations were unable to use those powers to respond to the rising number of Aboriginal families involved in the child protection system.
BDAC was authorised in December to assume legal responsibility for the welfare of 36 Aboriginal children subject to Children's Court protection orders.
It will be funded to support a further 36 children in the new financial year.
The organisation is seeking to recruit a second team of staffers to deliver the program.
Program manager Dion Sing said Mutjang bupuwingarrak mukman - 'keeping our kids safe' - was making a significant and positive difference to outcomes for Aboriginal children.
"Children are better connected to their families and culture," he said.
"Even when they're not able to live at home there is a big emphasis on keeping them with family and connected to community."
He said there was a high emphasis on relationships in all the organisation's work.
"The feedback from our families is they're feeling heard and supported," Mr Sing said.
The program links families in with the suite of services available at BDAC.
It also works towards self-determination by empowering an Aboriginal organisation to make decisions for Aboriginal children, and to deliver services in a way that works for Aboriginal children and their families.
"It's really challenging work, but at the same time the outcomes are significantly different from what they would have been," Mr Sing said.
He said the six positions the organisation would seek to fill for the second team would be highly specialised.
"It's a very unique role," Mr Sing said.
Working in the Mutjang bupuwingarrak mukman program was a different space, even for those who had previously worked for child protection services or Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
Getting the new team ready to roll would involve training.
Mr Sing said being able to work with up to 72 children was significant, but there was still a long way to go to address the over-representation of Aboriginal families involved in the Children's Court.
"The work we're doing is really to try to break that cycle - to stop children and their children's children coming back through the system," he said.
"The fact those children are connected with culture, with family, will hopefully circumvent them from coming back into system and further venturing into the criminal system in future."
The pilot program that led to the Mutjang bupuwingarrak mukman program is also being expanded into Echuca and Ballarat, with new organisations based in each location getting involved.
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