The Director of our SafeKIDS Program, Kieran Smith, has received a Child Protection Week Award for his enormous contribution to child protection in Far North Queensland.
Our SafeKIDS Program operates safe houses in remote Indigenous communities along the West Cape York Peninsula and south in Doomadgee. Kieran was instrumental in the effective establishment of the house in Doomadgee and his approach has become ACT for Kids blueprint for establishing other houses.
The safe houses in Doomadgee, Aurukun, Napranum, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw provide short term care for children while Child Safety Services investigate concerns about their safety and wellbeing. Before the safe houses these children were often removed from community, living as far away as Cairns or Mt Isa, where they had no contact with their family, local culture or community.
The houses also provide a safe place for children who have been in outofhome care outside community to stay so they can visit their family and reconnect with their culture and community.
Kieran was honoured and humbled by the award and said it was his desire to keep kids in community while ensuring their safety and wellbeing that led him to relocate his family over 1,000km to Doomadgee for six months so he could offer his full commitment to the community.
Im proud of the team and Reference Groups I work with and what weve achieved. Our goal has always been to keep kids in community and connected to family, culture and country, and were doing that.
“They love their kids, and now they know its possible to keep their kids close and connected while they work with our Family Intensive Support Service to address safety and wellbeing concerns so their kids can come home, Kieran said.
With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people still overrepresented in child protection statistics, its a step in the right direction. At 30 June 2011, the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care was 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
The SafeKIDS Program aims to minimise the trauma for children who would previously have been removed into care far from their family, while supporting their parents to address problems, effectively preventing children falling through the cracks to be left in long-term care.
As Program Manager for the Doomadgee safe house, Kieran prepared the house to accommodate up to six children in a safe, welcoming home environment and hired and trained local staff. He engaged local Elders and the community, explaining the role of the house and ACT for Kids, and developing a shared vision and responsibility for the protection and wellbeing of children.
Because of Kierans community engagement and genuine care for Indigenous children and culture, the Doomadgee safe house has become a source of pride and achievement for the community theyve named it NgulawandaGoonawoonaNathara, Our Childrens Home.