From the CEO’s Desk

One of my key areas of focus since joining ACWA in February, has been to work with the Board on reviewing and clarifying ACWA’s strategic directions to ensure that our priorities as a peak body reflect the needs of our member organisations, the sector and, most importantly, the wider community.

As a consequence of this review, ACWA has broadened our Purpose to now read:  

To advocate for and strengthen the capacity of the community service system to bring about effective reform to achieve better outcomes for communities, families, children and young people, particularly vulnerable children, families and communities.

This broadening of ACWA’s Purpose acknowledges the need for ACWA to work more closely and collaboratively with both government and non-government stakeholders, to bring about systemic changes to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our community.

On this note, I am pleased to report on some of the sector development initiatives that ACWA has recently pursued that reflect our commitment to a collaborative-focused approach that achieves outcomes.

Bringing NGOs to the table on major reform initiatives

Their Futures Matter 
ACWA has been involved in discussions with Their Futures Matter (TFM) and other stakeholders in regard to enhancing the non-government sector’s participation in this significant government initiative. 

ACWA believes that TFM’s access service redesign work provides the government and non-government sectors with an opportunity to co-design a system that is better focused on providing an early response to those who are vulnerable, as well as develop more effective collaborative practice models for responding to families across the whole spectrum of need (including in the ROSH sphere). In this regard, ACWA is eager to explore the potential for breaking down the Helpline, Wellbeing Unit and Family Referral Services silos, via the design of genuinely integrated, placed-based service systems. In terms of this type of reform, we believe that the non-government sector has already shown that it is ready to collaborate with government on ‘whole of service system’ pilot initiatives that are targeted at the local community level.

Permanency Support Program 
ACWA acknowledges that the frontline experience and knowledge of the non-government sector is absolutely critical to the successful implementation of the new permanency reforms. Consistent with the sector’s desire to form strong, reform-focused, partnerships with government agencies, ACWA has flagged with FACS the need for a joint government/NGO taskforce in a bid to ensure that implementation of this major reform initiative is informed by, and based on, the collective wisdom and expertise of both the non-government and government sectors. Our proposal has been well received by FACS and discussions are progressing.

Working together to find solutions for children in Alternative Care Arrangements 

ACWA has joined with AbSec and FACS in co-chairing the Alternative Care Arrangements Taskforce. The Taskforce has been established to tackle the core issues that have given rise to the unacceptable number of children in these care arrangements.

From this Taskforce, a number of working groups have been established. For example, ACWA and My Forever Family are co-chairing a Carer Mapping Working Group that is looking at carer recruitment processes and support, because this is one area that needs to be examined in seeking to lower the number of children in Alternative Care Arrangements. On July 3, ACWA will be hosting a consultation workshop, Carer Journey Mapping: What’s working and can we do better, as part of gathering the views of our member agencies on this issue. 

Strengthening our work with Aboriginal communities  

ACWA is committed to strengthening our involvement in matters affecting Aboriginal communities. This is illustrated in ACWA’s recent appointment to the senior leadership team of the Bourke Aboriginal community’s Maranguka initiative. Maranguka holds great significance as an Aboriginal-led, place-based initiative, and was recently awarded a grant of around $700,000 per annum under the Federal Government’s Stronger People, Stronger Places program (DSS initially awarded grants under this program to two communities across Australia – the other being Logan in Queensland). Importantly, the Bourke initiative also has very strong NSW Government ‘buy in’, and enjoys strong corporate philanthropic support, including the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, the Dusseldorf Foundation and Lendlease. 

Critical to our goal of better serving Aboriginal communities, ACWA has also been involved in discussions with AbSec about how we can work more closely together on service system initiatives that will deliver improved outcomes for Aboriginal families. We wish to acknowledge AbSec’s strong leadership and guidance in this sphere.

Collaborative approaches to working with at-risk youth

ACWA has been exploring the potential benefits that NGOs can bring to youth diversionary initiatives, such as the NSW Police Force Commissioner’s RISEUP strategy. This early intervention program is a collaborative endeavour between NSW Police, Police Citizen Youth Clubs and industry leaders, that seeks to achieve positive outcomes for young people, including diverting certain ‘at risk’ young people from the criminal justice system. Given the significant synergies between the goals behind RISEUP and the work carried out by many of our member agencies (particularly those working with young people), ACWA believes there is scope for NGOs to play an active role in supporting young people involved in this program, and in other innovative initiatives like it. However, ACWA is keen to ensure that any work we carry out in this sphere includes consultation with Youth Action and, where relevant, other peak youth agencies.

On a related note, ACWA is also co-chairing the statewide joint protocol steering committee meetings with FACS. The protocol aims to reduce the incidence of unnecessary police interventions in the lives of young people living in residential care (as well as to improve the nature of the interventions when they do occur). The committee is currently planning on carrying out more intensive work in this area across several locations in the state. ACWA is keen to explore with FACS, along with involved member and other agencies, the scope for leveraging off this work to build momentum for enhanced collaborative practice aimed at supporting a broader range of vulnerable young people within specific locations.

Addressing workforce training needs  

ACWA is acutely aware of the significant workforce development challenges faced by the sector, related to the reforms over recent years. It is critical that the training services that ACWA delivers, through our Centre for Community Welfare Training (CCWT), are assisting our sector to equip workers with the skills they need to meet the changing landscape. 

In seeking to effectively serve our sector in this area, ACWA is currently undertaking consultations with our member agencies, FACS, and other stakeholders, in order to develop a more fulsome picture of the sector’s training needs, including seeking to identify the core areas where there is a critical need to target training, and the optimal ways for the training to be provided.

We will keep you advised as this training needs analysis work unfolds. In the meantime, we are very keen to receive your ideas on this issue – our CCWT Director, Linda Watson, looks forward to hearing from you:

Online compliance and best practice tool proposal 

ACWA has been busy laying the groundwork for the production of an industry-led online child safety compliance and best practice tool, together with detailed policy and practice guidance, to help in delivering a high quality, whole of sector, response to the need to create child safe organisations. We are also very pleased to announce that AbSec has recently advised ACWA that it is keen to partner with us in relation to this initiative.

If we are able to successfully land this proposal, we would ensure that the development of this tool would be informed by the expertise of a child safe steering committee made up of representatives from across our sector. 

As part of our preliminary work on this initiative, we have held discussions with representatives of both member and non-member organisations about their interest in the proposed tool, which would house the advice and supporting resources to assist agencies in complying with the child safe regulatory requirements. All of these representatives have endorsed the benefit of an industry-led response to the need for high quality and consistent child safe practice across the sector, and a number of agencies have already offered to make a significant contribution to the cost.

ACWA fully recognises that for national NGOs that would be utilising our proposed child safe tools, policies and procedures, the information and advice that we would be providing would need to be endorsed by all relevant regulators from across the country. However, from our discussions with a number of these regulators, we are confident that they would be keen for a product of this kind to be available in the market. 

Regarding the cost, discussions have taken place with a well-credentialed IT developer, as well as experienced individuals who would lead the development of the content, in consultation with involved agencies. 

As a result of these discussions, ACWA has sought, and been provided with, a commercial-in-confidence combined quote (IT and content). This quote relates to the tool being fully developed and rolled out across the following service areas: home-based and residential out-of-home care and child protection services (including family support services). 

Apart from the initial development costs, there would be a minimal ongoing cost for hosting the tool and for necessary content updates – this would be accommodated by a small annual participants’ contribution levy.

Our preliminary work leads ACWA to believe that there is a compelling business case to support this ‘product’, and we have written to our member agencies to gauge their interest in contributing to the cost. We look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of this key sector initiative. Should you have any questions relating to this initiative, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0409 782 614.

All the best

Steve Kinmond