“Aboriginal peoples, as individuals and within their families and communities, have been profoundly hurt across generations by layered historic, social and cultural (complex) trauma. ‘Closing the Gap’ on Aboriginal ‘disadvantage’, must acknowledge that where there is hurting, there has to be a healing. In healing, people’s Trauma Stories become the centrepiece for social healing action, where the storyteller is the teacher and the listener is the student or learner. We need to learn how to listen. We need to want to listen” Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson (2012).
Kinship Connections was developed when Ann saw the need to do more for her people whilst she was working for the then Department of Child Protection (DCP) (now Child Protection and Family Services CPFS). She was motivated by her passion to fully implement the Aboriginal Placement Principle – a legal requirement that Aboriginal children in care be placed in the most culturally-appropriate foster family. Such placements give the children the possibility of experiencing all the advantages of being brought up within their own culture, thus allowing their Aboriginal identity and sense of belonging to their community to become an important part of their healing journey.
Ann realised that providing the children with knowledge of their family and their cultural identity could encourage them to take control of their own spiritual healing. Out of this awareness, the program “Who’s My Mob” was developed with the help of the Aboriginal community. An extensive process of genealogical research and community based data gathering produces an individualised family history book. These family history books have been very well received, not only by the children, but also by their extended families.
The research and data gathering process that identifies the extended family has also enabled Ann to identify a much wider range of potential kin related foster placements for children than the CPFS system is able to produce. These potential placement families are then formally assessed by CPFS staff before placement is approved.
Ann has developed various other projects relating to her collaborative work with CPFS and other agencies such as Justice, and continues to plan social events that facilitate Community Development and her access to the genealogical data and resources that are held by the Aboriginal communities.
However, Ann’s underlying concern is the big picture – facilitating the healing of past damage, improving the effectiveness of present services and facilitating improvements in the Care and Fostering service of the future – at the individual, family and community levels. This involves working in a variety of ways to help people make peace with their past as well as to assist them to build hope and resilience for their future.