QCOSS partnered with the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) in 2016 to build the capacity of local communities to lead and implement place-based responses to the increasing number of children entering the child protection system, and the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children. The initiative worked in two sites in Central Queensland – the Fraser Coast and Capricornia regions.
QCOSS and QFCC recognised the importance of placed-based work to bring together people in place to address entrenched disadvantage. Place-based approaches require the wisdom, expertise, resources and shared responsibility of many.
Both projects demonstrated just what can be achieved when community, a peak body and government collaborate effectively.
The Action Plan highlighted the need for supporting people to connect to community – intergenerationally and culturally, and connecting and supporting each other, with strong focus on intergenerational links.
The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), in their Strengthening our Sector Strategy (2016-2019), highlighted the need for collaboration across the sector to create a responsive and sustainable service system across the child and family support sector.
This pilot aimed to work with communities to empower local networks of services to prioritise initiatives in partnership with community to
- Build service capacity and capabilities.
- Strengthen workforce to respond to a changing service environment.
- Identify joint solutions and pilot collaborative partnerships to shift the way children and families experience interacting with professional across the sector.
This initiative was called Strengthening our Place.
Consultation within both areas indicated the need for individual approaches and so the two areas were separated. Hervey Bay became the centre of the work being undertaken on the Fraser Coast with Rockhampton being the Capricornia based area.
Through 2017 (Phase two), QCOSS and QFCC worked together to support the development of projects in Capricornia and Fraser Coast which supported the priorities of the communities in place. This project work allowed the understanding of collaborative practices to be clarified and provided a support platform for the testing of collaboration amongst the child and family support sector in place. Additionally, working with a leadership group in each place assisted us to further understand the challenges within the sector in Central Queensland, and gave insight into what expertise may be required to work through these challenges.
In 2018 Strengthening our Place entered its third and final phase. QCOSS’ work in this initiative supported system and professional cultural change for the benefit of Queensland’s children and families, through the strengthening of the child and family support sector. Of utmost importance during this work was establishing and growing trusting relationships amongst stakeholders – a prominent element of this work.
Throughout this phase we were mindful of the three values of the More than Safe initiative, which underpinned Strengthening our Place. We were committed to keeping children, families and communities at the heart of this work – better outcomes for children and families was the central purpose.
Our work in Capricornia
In 2017, the Capricornia Leadership Development Group worked with a facilitator to design what would be their Leadership Development Program. Through this process the Leadership Development Framework was designed, prioritising three key dimensions which formed the curriculum of the program. It was these three dimensions that the Capricornia Leadership Group prioritised as being critical for the child and family support sector to address to ensure families and children in their community can thrive.
- Collaboration – working in a sector that is genuinely seeking better outcomes by working together within the sector and across sectors
- Inclusion – including the voice of beneficiaries and funders in the design and delivery processes to ensure funding aligns with need
- Impact focus – designing programs and conducting evaluation with impact at the centre
In Capricornia, the focus in phase three was the continuing relationship development of child and family support services, while building on the content explored during the Leadership Development Program, assisting in skill development to assist collaborative efforts and identifying long and short-term actions to support their work together.
Our work in Fraser Coast
In October 2017, the place-based work being facilitated by QCOSS on the Fraser Coast was expanded to include a Queensland Mental Health Commission (QMHC) approach centring on good mental health toward older age.
Data gathered through the development of the Queensland Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention Action Plan 2015-17 showed that early intervention is imperative when supporting the wellbeing of our communities. The Action Plan highlighted the need for supporting people to connect to community – intergenerationally and culturally, and connecting and supporting each other, with strong focus on intergenerational links.
A synergy emerged from the purposes of the two approaches and that is: to build the capacity of the Hervey Bay community (individuals, community, industry, service providers and government agencies) to respond to local challenges and build on local relationships, strengths and opportunities.
From the QFCC perspective, the target group were children and families on the Fraser Coast, and the QMHC’s focus was for the wellbeing of older people and families in that area. A general theme that covered both cohorts was Living and Aging Well on Fraser Coast.
Identifying need in Hervey Bay
Since 2016 QCOSS has met regularly with individual community members, Aboriginal Elders and workers from the areas of Women’s Health, Family and Children’s services, Indigenous development organisations, Health and Community Care and Senior’s legal and support services.
The data gathered on the challenges of living and aging well in Hervey Bay emerged as
- recreational drug and alcohol abuse
- difficulty in engaging with other generations
- financial stress for older people and families
- lack of employment opportunities for all generations
- older generations forced to look after children (grandchildren, extended family and kinship caring).
Progress made in the place-based work in Hervey Bay
The work done so far has been a catalyst for continuing bodies of work to develop
- A Leadership Develop Program
- Emerging Leaders Community of Practice
- Forming of Rites of Passage Project Group
- Bringing and Keeping our Ghundus (children) home Initiative
- The Earlier the Better Initiative.
While place-based work is often complex, and our path often winds in multiple directions, we value the time and space place-based initiatives give for connection with people in place, and the opportunity for guiding them through the work they have prioritised for their communities.