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REFOCUS is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 12th May 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> May -> REFOCUS is In the Spotlight

Recently the Queensland government sought to appoint a suitable candidate to the newly created position of Executive Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families, within the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (DCCSDS). In announcing the position, the Department’s Director-General Michael Hogan said: “There is an urgent need to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system, and poor life outcomes are impacting too many vulnerable families, children and young people.”

This key leadership role for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child and Families Action Plan announced is part of the Supporting Families, Changing Futures strategy. Such a strategy is essential and only the beginning when noting issues and opportunities that arise whilst working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and families. It is important to bear in mind that in 2004, 22% of children and young people in care were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. In 2011, pre the latest Child Protection Inquiry and then the subsequent Report: Taking Responsibility: A Roadmap for Queensland Child Protection (June, 2013), that number increased to a staggering 37%. In 2014 a further increase took the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care to 41% of the overall population of children and young people in care in Queensland. We’re now sitting with a 43% over representation, forecast to be 50% of the children and young people in care by 2020. That’s a staggering number given that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland represent about 4% of the population. What we are saying is that in less than 4 years half of all children and young people in care will be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Clearly reform is needed.

REFOCUS is an organisation committed to ending this trajectory. They are one of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that work tirelessly with children, young people and families to keep them together, safe and well within community. REFOCUS provides domestic and family violence services and family support to children, young people and families through their program Kuwnakan Palan. Their support workers support families to reduce child protection concerns with the intent to empower families to become strong and reliable family and community networks. Families are linked with community supports to assist them in achieving the goals they set out in a family plan developed by the family in collaboration with support workers.

The REFOCUS Story:

REFOCUS was founded in 2010 by Ula Cavanagh, Milli Tuhakaraina and Darcy Cavanagh. They currently receive funding to deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family support to children, young people and families in the North Coast Region. This includes: Pine Rivers, Redcliffe, Caboolture, Sunshine Coast and Gympie areas. REFOCUS pride themselves on creating great working relationships with other organisations and families. They are always striving to support cultural knowledge and practices with both government and non-government organisations to ensure families are supported in the best way for them.

Co-founder and Manager, Darcy Cavanagh, explains why he and significant others established REFOCUS: “The aim was to support families, children and young people to become the fullest expression of themselves and be the best they can be at life and as brothers, sisters, children, parents, community members whilst having people support and guide them in their journey. Our main focus is our children and ensuring that they and their parents receive needed services to assist in creating resilient, safe and happy environments. REFOCUS aims to provide consistent, professional and meaningful supports and specialist services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.”

The organisation has a vision to be a self-sustaining organisation recognised for quality and culturally unique service delivery. Principles of respecting individual beliefs of how everyone came to be here and why we exist are central to this organisation. They neither enforce nor expect others to practice or conform to any belief structure: “REFOCUS encourages genuine and open discussion about individual beliefs and also encourages staff to be mindful of others. This allows for an open, professional and respectful team environment” says Darcy Cavanagh.

He further states that: “REFOCUS also aims to hold a high calibre of service delivery and integrity by aiming to ensure best practice is always adhered to and for servicedelivery practice to function without political or community influences and pressures, biases, rumours or nepotism.”

The values outlined by REFOCUS are:

  • Dedication…to promoting hope and opportunity for those in need of human services
  • Excellence…in our performance, exemplified by innovations and solutions that are anchored in available evidence, build knowledgeand transcend boundaries
  • Professionalism…in the manner in which we provide services, the attitude we bring, the relationships we build, and our commitment to the mission of REFOCUS
  • Integrity…REFOCUS as an organisation, personified in ethical conduct by each of us
  • Respect…for those we serve, with whom we workand with whom we partner

“Our Aboriginal staff are from all different areas of Australia and what is significant to one may not be for another. Workers are encouraged to be aware of such issues and are encouraged to work with that. There are many issues to navigate from being part of various ‘countries’ to being a part of family, kin and culture. All working at REFOCUS are asked to respect each other, the complexities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as well as working within mainstream society. It is all complicated. We ask all of our people to work with all these complex issues with the hope that they understand themselves and each other. That includes what they are bringing from their country and what others are bringing also from theirs. This enriches the REFOCUS working environment” says Darcy Cavanagh.

Referrals to Kuwnakan Palan come from: Education, Health, Aboriginal Health Services, Child Safety, Family and Child Connect, the Community and the Regional Intake Service. In the majority of cases consent of the family is required. However, referrals to Kuwnakan Palan sometimes come through with no consent from families and staff will endeavour to engage families to offer support.

To refer click here: referral form.

For more information on REFOCUS click here

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