VACCHO Calls for Failing Child Protection System to be “turned on its head” at Summit 

Jun 20, 2024

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)’s Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal Families Wellbeing was honoured to sponsor the Ngaweeyan Maar-oo Victorian Aboriginal Early Years summit held on beautiful Dja Dja Wurrung Country last week.

The summit saw some energetic and robust conversations and provided a platform for key stakeholders from diverse sectors to strategise and collaborate on a shared strength-based definition of ‘Aboriginal Early Years in Victoria.’

VACCHO representatives delivered a compelling message to the summit, outlining the vital role Aboriginal families play in building strong Communities. VACCHO called for Aboriginal organisations to be empowered so they can shape policies and practices that promote the social wellbeing, self-determination, and prosperity of Aboriginal families and Communities.  

Twenty-seven years since the release of the Bringing Them Home Report, Aboriginal children in Victoria continue to be placed into out of home care at some of the highest rates in the world. Citing a clear lack of progress, VACCHO called for reflection on the outcomes provided by a tertiary only focus in “child protection” and instead called for an increased focus on prevention and early intervention by empowering the Aboriginal family as a whole.  

VACCHO CEO Dr. Jill Gallagher AO delivered a compelling keynote that outlined the impact of traditional Aboriginal models of caring for family members on holistic health, cultural resistance, and Community identity. Dr. Gallagher called for systems that were created to “separate, displace, and break” Aboriginal families to be turned on their head, and for ACCOs to be empowered and funded to deliver more of the outstanding learning, development, health and wellbeing services in the prevention space that led to better outcomes for Aboriginal families.  

Executive Director of VACCHO’s Balit Durn Durn Centre Sheree Lowe outlined the vision of the Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal Families Wellbeing where Aboriginal families are emotionally, spiritually and culturally strong, live in safe and caring environments within their Communities, and are afforded the same life opportunities available to all Australians to achieve their full potential.

Another standout moment was a captivating Language Revitalisation session led by Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages’ Dr Vicki Couzens.  Aboriginal language revival and revitalisation in Victoria is significantly underfunded, but vital for enhancing health and wellbeing outcomes and is a key component for fostering and maintaining Aboriginal people’s strength in identity. 

The models of care in early years plenary sessions added another layer of depth to the conversations, exploring innovative approaches on how to empower individuals to support thriving, healthy Aboriginal families. The panel explored the remarkable outcomes achieved though Bubup Wilam’s Community-driven approach that strengthens Aboriginal children’s connections to identity and ancestors while fostering learning through sovereignty, Treaty, and solidarity.   

Other highlights of the event included insightful presentations courtesy of Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Meena Singh, Co-Chairs of the First People’s Assembly Victoria Rueben Berg and Ngarra Murray, SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle and Bubup Wilam’s Lisa Thorpe. 

VACCHO’s Centre of Excellence for Aboriginal Families Wellbeing pays tribute to attendees for their enthusiasm and engagement and looks forward to working in partnership with sector leaders to build the strength and resilience of Aboriginal families and leave a legacy of empowerment for generations to come. 

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.