A message from our Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lisa J Griffiths
NAIDOC Week is a wonderful time for all Australians to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I am pleased to see the celebrations now taking place not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life, right across our beautiful country.
The theme of this year’s celebration is Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let's work together for a shared future. Voice. Treaty. Truth were three key elements to the reforms set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which represent the unified position of First Nations Australians.
With 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages, it gives us further cause to celebrate the unique and essential role Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the retelling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.
Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the Australian continent at the first European contact in the late eighteenth century. And if you consider several dialects for each language that means the total number would have run into the many hundreds.
In OzChild’s journey to cultural competence through our Reconciliation Action Plan as well as our Bridging Cultures Unit, Dhiiyaan Mirri, we are committed to working alongside our Aboriginal colleagues to learn all we can to support self-determination and ensure we develop our practices in line with these learnings to achieve better outcomes for Indigenous communities and reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being placed in Out-of-Home Care.
As an organisation we are committed to understanding and sharing the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities as we focus on ensuring those children who come into our care receive care that is both safe and culturally responsive.
Throughout NAIDOC week there are many events you can attend. Your participation not only demonstrates your support for reconciliation but support for those organisations and communities working hard to improve our understanding of the history of our Nation.
At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To foster positive race relations, our relationship must be grounded in a foundation of truth.
I encourage everyone to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
As an organisation it is important to learn from our mistakes as we are in a position to influence and make positive change for our Nation’s First Peoples.
I thoroughly enjoy celebrating NAIDOC Week each year, if you haven’t taken part in the celebrations before I urge you to do so. Immerse yourself in the culture, history and traditions, I personally gain so much from participating in these very special events and I hope you do too.
Carer Dinner 2019: A night to celebrate OzChild’s foster and kinship carers
On Wednesday 19 June we celebrated the positive outcomes being achieved for children and young people by thanking the people who are making an incredible difference in their lives – our foster and kinship carers.
Foster and kinship carers from Melbourne’s south joined with OzChild staff, board members and supporters to celebrate and get together for one of the most anticipated events of the year.
OzChild carers are extremely important to the organisation, their dedication to the role of carers sees them working 24/7 to ensure better outcomes for children in Out-of-Home Care. In fact, in their volunteer role, collectively OzChild foster carers contributed to almost one million volunteer hours given in 2018.
When you consider the time carers are investing in their roles as carers, it’s not surprising positive outcomes are being achieved for children and young people.
The annual carer dinner provides us with an opportunity to thank our foster and kinship carers and acknowledge the wonderful difference they are making. OzChild President, Helen Maxwell-Wright looks forward to catching up with OzChild carers at the dinner each year.
“It truly is a highlight on my calendar," said Helen. "I am encouraged and inspired by the stories I hear and know that our carers are really making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and young people.”
During the night long-time OzChild carers were also recognised with five-year kinship carers, 10 and 15 year foster carers acknowledged for their ongoing commitment and dedication.
Guests were treated to a presentation on Strengths Based Parenting by Dr Lea Waters, giving carers and parents alike a terrific insight into ways they can build resilience in children, helping them to thrive.
Also in attendance was The Hon. Luke Donnellan, Minister for Child Protection and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers. Minister Donnellan addressed guests and thanked the carers for their commitment to improving the lives of children and young people.
“More than anything else, I’d like to thank the 240 carers in the room," Minister Donnellan said. "Individually you make a marvellous contribution to our community. You’re beautiful, loving and caring individuals who do so much work for us as a community”.
Minister Donnellan went on to say, “You’re part of an organisation that is forward-thinking, and paving the way for new ways to work with families, carers children and young people”.
Nights like this not only provide an opportunity to thank and acknowledge our carers but to catchup with old friends and make new ones. We look forward to next year’s event.
2019 JC Butler Award Winner – Victoria Lolika
An unwavering commitment to the four siblings in her care has seen Victoria Lolika awarded OzChild’s JC Butler Award for 2019.
An active member of the Sudanese community, Victoria took on the siblings – aged eight to 18 years – five years ago.
A compassionate and selfless carer, Victoria has dedicated her time to raising the siblings and has helped them deal with significant trauma.
“Victoria is a very compassionate and humble carer,” says OzChild Kinship Case Manager, Paris Dalmau.
“She gives her time not only to the siblings, but also to her Sudanese community and in her job; working in aged care. She’s very caring and very loving and gives them a safe and stable home to live in”.
Victoria treats all four siblings as if they were her own and is committed to caring for them well beyond their 18th birthdays.
The JC Butler Award is awarded in honour of Mr JC Butler, one of the founders of OzChild who worked tirelessly to preserve families in times of hardship.
This award recognises a kinship carer who makes sure through their personal effort that kith and kin can be cared for by those closest to them.
We congratulate Victoria on her award.
2019 Elizabeth Tudor Award Winner – Andrea Elliot
A tireless advocate for foster carers and a dedication to caring for children and young people has seen Andrea Elliot awarded the Elizabeth Tudor Award for 2019.
A foster carer for 11 years, Andrea has shown unwavering commitment and dedication to the children and young people who have come into her care.
Andrea has been a fine ambassador for foster care, working tirelessly to raise the profile of foster carers as well as supporting other carers.
“Andrea is an amazing ambassador for carers generally and I know she does so much work promoting foster care and also supports the plight of kinship carers,” says Sharon McCrae, OzChild’s Recruitment and Retention Manager.
Andrea has also become an accredited carer in our specialised foster care program, Treatment Foster Care Oregon as well as being actively involved in organising foster family camps.
“I really want for Andrea to celebrate this award and I know she is incredibly deserving of it,” Sharon says.
The Elizabeth Tudor Award is awarded in honour of Elizabeth Tudor, who dedicated her life to community work – especially helping vulnerable women and children, and who was a Life Member of OzChild.
Nominations for the Elizabeth Tudor Award are received from case workers on behalf of OzChild foster and kinship carers and are judged based on the qualities displayed by Elizabeth, in her honour.
We congratulate Andrea on her award and thank her for sharing our vision, giving children and young people the chance to shine.
Volunteer Mentoring Program Changing Lives
Like many fathers are to their sons, Liam’s dad was his hero. He looked up to him, he loved him, he could never have imagined a time when he wouldn’t be around.
Four years ago, mum Sharon* had to tell Liam*, his dad wasn’t coming home. Sadly, he had passed away unexpectedly.
“Liam was devastated, as were all my kids, but he took it particularly hard. He is very emotional, he really understands things, and very deeply,” Sharon told us.
After dealing with the shock of suddenly losing their dad all three of Sharon’s kids reacted differently. “Liam found it hard to manage his emotions, he was angry and sad and would often just ‘blow up’,” remembers Sharon.
Do you know, along with providing foster and kinship care support we also provide family strengthening and prevention programs?
Keeping kids safe, out of harm’s way and nurtured to reach their full potential underpins the support programs we offer to vulnerable children, young people and their families. OzChild’s Positive Horizons mentoring program is one such program.
“Liam had lost his dad, he had no other positive male role models in his life, and I didn’t know what to do. I did know that something had to change as he was having trouble at school and at home things could become explosive at times,” said Sharon.
That’s when Max stepped in, an OzChild volunteer mentor who was able to give Liam emotional support, provide him with a one-on-one outlet and help him manage his emotions.
Our family services team deliver a range of programs which help keep families together, especially in times of crisis. We believe early intervention and prevention are key to tackling the growing number of children and young people being placed in foster or kinship care.
“The mentor program can make an incredible difference, not only for the child or young person, but for the whole family. Max had a calming effect on Liam, he worked with him to find ways to help him manage his emotions and anger and just take him out to have fun, something that had been missing since his dad passed away,” said Claire, the program coordinator.
While Max has been an enormous positive influence in Liam’s life, it didn’t stop there. Liam’s mum and siblings have also benefited from the program.
“Things at home have improved 100%, there are not as many fights, and Max would often take all three of the kids out, while Liam was his focus he made them all feel better, we all love him, I can’t tell you how glad I am that he came into our lives,” Sharon said.
Your support does make a difference to a child or young person like Liam, or a single mother struggling with a new baby, even families or parents who need guidance to provide a safe and loving home for their kids. And donations are tax-deductible.
Max’s role as volunteer mentor to Liam has now officially ended, but the two remain firm friends. And the family are slowly getting back on track.
“Liam is like a different kid now, his confidence has grown, he loves going to school, has 100% attendance rate and is getting straight A’s. Max still keeps in contact and takes Liam out or drops around to see us,” Sharon recently told us.
Prior to participating in the mentoring program things were spiraling out of control for Sharon and the kids, the difference additional support has made for this fragile family has been life changing.
With support from people like you Sharon's family can now focus on a brighter future.
Together, we are making a difference.DONATE NOW
Please, can you help us by sharing this with someone else who cares about children and young people as much as we do? Maybe your friends or family would like to make a difference too. Or perhaps you might like to get involved as a volunteer mentor?
If you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer mentor, please call our team on (03) 8796 0000.
*names have been changed - we thank Liam and his mum for permission to share their story.