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Framing Remote and Indigenous Health

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Assignment 2--Framing remote and Indigenous health

Option C-- Indigenous child protection

As a social worker and a child protection worker, my role in 'closing the gap' in inequalities of remote Indigenous Australians, is ?

Identify what you believe your role to be in remote child protection, provide rationales for your suggested role and present evidence of why such role is necessary in relation to Indigenous populations.

Also describe how you will or have prepared for such as role and the supports and resources that will enable you to effectively practice in remote Indigenous child protection contexts.

Across Canada, Australia, America and New Zealand child abuse and neglect in Indigenous communities has been closely linked to experiences of colonisation (Libesman, 2004).The philosophy behind the "closing the gap" is about recognising and working to reduce the massive inequalities that exist between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the population. This inequality is reflected in the child protection statistics. In the Northern Territory 75% of all children and young people in the child protection system are Aboriginal (Safe Children, Bright Futures, 2011). Australia wide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are two times more likely to be hospitalised for mental health and behavioural disorders (Binan Goonj, 2010). In the education sphere, 4% of all Aboriginal students in remote communities reach the national reading benchmarks at 5th grade level compared to 80 % for non Aboriginal students (Gruen, 2005).There needs to be a commitment to viewing child protection from a social justice framework as the above statistics show many of the issues that are faced in child protection are based on long term structural disadvantage (Korbin, 2005) The child protection role in remote communities has to undertake a flexible and holistic, community driven approach to dealing with child abuse and neglect.

The context of child protection in remote communities differs immensely from that of mainstream urban work. Remote Aboriginal communities are very limited in what services and support they can access. Child protection offices in the Northern Territory are based in remote town centres and then workers drive in or fly out to communities and may only be able to stay in a community for a couple of days at a time. Long distances, weather and staff shortages can inhibits workers ability to follow up notifications and concerns in a timely manner. There is not the same scope for workers to provide intensive support as they would within an urban setting. The traditional deficit based model which responds primarily to the individuals and family psychological deficits does not fit within a remote community context. (Korbin, 2005, p122). Therefore the role of the child protection worker is to recognise and work within the Indigenous worldview where community is considered essential to ones sense of self (Eckerman, 2010). Child protection must focus on canvassing extended family and the collective communities approach to problem solving issues.

The role of the child protection worker in remote communities needs to focus on prevention, investigation and dealing with child abuse and neglect in a culturally safe and progressive manner. Cultural safety is about ensuring that solutions and strategies are based on Indigenous definitions and articulation of problems(Social Justice report, 2005).It is important for the worker to ensure that children, families and communities fully understand the role of the worker in the community and what they are investigating(Trudgen, 2000). The recent board inquiry into child protection in the NT found that a large percentage of Aboriginal families don't see a distinction between what happened with the Stolen Generations and what is currently happening now (Bright Futures, 2011). Practitioners need to become aware of the local language usage and issues that may affect communication. Clinical skills are limited if there is an inability to communicate (Trudgen, 2000). It is important for practitioners to take the time to establish empathy and trust with families

Workers need to ensure that families are educated around what their legal rights and responsibilities are within the system. They need to understand from their own worldview what is considered child abuse/neglect, who reports it and receive education about the effects that it has their children in the long term (Trudgen, 2000). Workers need to be aware of how communities and families might conceptualise child protection issue and rights to information and decision-making in terms of their particular family structure (Papps, 1996). The ability to be able to distinguish cultural difference, from child maltreatment is required. This is where networks with cultural brokers is vital as it increases workers familiarity with the range of intra cultural variability within a community (Korbin, 2005). Cultural brokers in communities may be through Aboriginal Police Liaison officers, Aboriginal health worker, remote aboriginal community welfare worker or other community members. Effective communication and a cultural safety model is paramount to ensuring that meaningful changes occur in remote communities

Child protection workers have to be particularly sensitive to issues around mistrust in the "welfare" and encouraging open discussion by family member around their concerns and fears about government involvement in their lives. Acknowledging the power difference and the statutory nature of the child protection role is also important. Workers must balance the desire to advocate for change for improvements in service provision and family preservation whilst ensuring that children's safety is paramount. "We need to have an ability to advocate for change, highlight the problems and refuse to be passive about hardship, sufferance and invisibility" (Gruen, 2005).

The primary health care values of social justice, equity, community participation, social acceptability, trust, cultural safety, holistic approach, equity and accountability fit comfortably alongside the best practice approach for child protection work in remote communities (Eckerman et al, 2010). In 2004 in the Child Abuse Prevention Journal Terri Libesman compared child welfare approaches with Indigenous communities from Australia, New Zeland, America and Canada. Evidence suggests that child protection in remote communities should focus on ensuring cultural safety and using a strengths and family preservation approach to interventions with families.

"There needs to be an emphasis on developing resilience of 1st nation people



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