What’s New at ACWA: August Update

Welcome to our latest ‘What's New at ACWA’ newsletter.

It's been a while since we provided a full update on what's been happening at ACWA. The first half of the year has proved to be both productive and challenging on a number of fronts with much achieved and some exciting initiatives in the wings! Read on to learn more, including about us moving into our new CBD premises!

Launch of online safety resources

ACWA recently announced the completion of its national project — funded by an online safety grant from the eSafety Commissioner — to co-design and develop resources aimed at raising awareness of online safety among children and young people in care and their caregivers.

The resources include a series of short videos for children and young people in out-of-home care, as well fact sheets and an online training course for caregivers, which we are pleased to share.

The direct involvement of children and carers in the content development and creative design process means the advice provided is both real and relevant. ACWA is grateful to SNAICC, the national non-government peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, for leading the development of the videos created for Aboriginal children and young people. ACWA are thankful to the Child and Family Wellbeing Association of Australia (CAFWAA), the national peak for this sector, its state and territory member peaks across the country, and their member agencies as well as the CREATE Foundation for actively supporting this project and helping bring together a substantial number of children and young people in care, their carers, care leavers and practitioners — more than 300 overall — to contribute to the co-design and development of the resources.

If you're interested in hosting the online course for carers on your agency’s LMS and/or intranet, please contact us directly and we can send you the appropriate file package. Similarly, if you would like to share these videos on your social media platforms, please contact us and we will send you the most appropriate versions of the videos for social media.

As part of the project, we are seeking feedback on the videos and the online course from children and young people in care, carers, and workers in the OOHC sector. Feedback helps us understand what works and what doesn't work for resources like this. We would be grateful for your feedback at the link below.

Submit Feedback

ACWA's new space is your space

ACWA is pleased to announce that we have moved into our new, permanent home at Level 9, 110 Sussex Street, Sydney.

We are excited to be able to share our new space! Our office layout incorporates a shared workspace with up to 10 desks available now for casual bookings for half or full day use. We also have a 'hub' room that can be booked for small groups of 3-6.

The space has high speed internet to allow for a seamless hot desk experience. There is no cost but you have a choice about whether you wish to make a donation is required prior to booking the space.

All donations will go directly to supporting our advocacy and sector development work for the benefit of the sector. Easy online booking will be available shortly, but if you would like to book a space in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us via acwa@acwa.asn.au or 02 9281 8822 — 24 hrs notice is required.

We look forward to sharing our new space and growing the ACWA community with you.

PSP Recontracting Advocacy

Over the past few months, ACWA has undertaken extensive advocacy on behalf of the sector in relation to PSP recommissioning. Following briefings held by DCJ in March on proposed changes to the PSP, some of which had not been flagged at earlier consultations, ACWA provided input into a 'Statement of Concern' tabled by a group of providers and drafted our own ITC Issues Paper, both of which were sent to the Minister ahead of a meeting with her to discuss the sector's concerns.

After draft contracts were issued to the sector in May and further consultation with providers, ACWA provided DCJ with consolidated sector feedback via two more papers (one on PSP Family Preservation and Foster Care and one on ITC).

Through this process, there have been some small wins for the sector, including the extension of current contracts by 3 months to allow for further consultation; the rollover of funds from year to year within the 5-year contract period; adjustments to reporting requirements in relation to the Joint Protocol and certain qualification requirements in ITC; as well as the application of 5.5% indexation to the whole funding amount.

Most recently, after receiving clear direction from our providers, ACWA submitted a final PSP Contracting Feedback document to the Minister, the Secretary and DCJ outlining providers' disappointment with the contracting process and requesting a response from the Secretary acknowledging certain challenges within the program, as identified by the sector.

In response, DCJ and the Secretary have reached out to continue dialogue with ACWA in relation to a workable way forward, including the identification of critical systems issues that should be the subject of joint workshops post the contract negotiation phase. We will continue to keep our members updated on any further progress.

PSP Data Roadmap

We’re pleased to advise that the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) has now completed its final report — Permanency Support Plan Data Roadmap; the report was jointly commissioned by ACWA, AbSec and DCJ to undertake a review of data collection in the Permanency Support Program (PSP).

ACCP undertook this task as a three-stage process:

  1. An analysis of program documentation and consults with DCJ to develop a program and outcomes logic to identify the key constructs and assumptions about how the PSP would influence outcomes.
  2. Development of a set of indicators for these constructs and assumptions and options for collecting data.
  3. A consultation process to examine the importance of the identified indicators to the wider sector and the ease of collection of data.

The proposed data road map for the PSP outlines a set of approaches to the included data: 1) A PSP dashboard; 2) A minimum data set; 3) An audit and contract management mechanism; and 4) Evaluation or linked data analysis. The Dashboard and Minimum Data Set is a proposed two-page overview of critical information for monitoring the delivery and outcomes of the PSP. The proposed dashboard is detailed in the report which can be found here.

Update on COVID-19: Release of revised guidelines for OOHC and SHS

This winter, a resurgence of COVID-19 continues to place additional pressure on our sector. ACWA was on the advisory group to Rebbeck for the development of revised guidelines for the response of ITC and SHS providers to the pandemic, which were released in April this year. The update includes:

The release of these comprehensive guidelines provides a valuable resource that can support providers through ongoing challenges and changes.

ACWA has also updated its own COVID-19 protocols for attending training and visiting our offices — which can be found here by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Advocacy on Insurance Market Failure

Late last year, the NSW Government made a decision to provide a temporary financial indemnity for OOHC and youth homelessness providers contracted by DCJ that are unable to secure insurance to cover claims for alleged incidents of sexual and physical abuse.

While welcoming this development, ACWA had concerns about the short-term indemnity scheme and advocated for Government to look at an inter-jurisdictional long-term solution. This view, supported by Minister Maclaren-Jones, has come to fruition following an extensive procurement process, whereby Finity Consulting Pty Limited (Finity) has been selected to support the work of the Inter-Jurisdictional Working Group (IJWG), and a Non-Government Advisory Group (Advisory Group) has also been established to provide strategic and technical advice to the IJWG. This group met for the first time on 9 June 2022 and is is comprised of NGO service provider and insurance sector representatives from across the country as well as representatives from the IJWG. The Advisory Group will operate in addition to wider service provider consultations which Finity will facilitate to support the work of the IJWG.

Further information on the IJWG’s current progress is available via the dedicated insurance page on the DCJ website, which can be accessed here.

Disability Project

In recent months, ACWA has undertaken a number of activities in line with our Disability Action Plan, including:

Community of Practice
In partnership with AbSec and DCJ, ACWA has convened a Community of Practice to support a response to ACWA’s Project: Falling through the gaps? Delivering the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and young people with disability.” The project identified that there is a significant number of vulnerable children with disability across our services who may not be accessing the supports they need to thrive, and that many practitioners feel they do not have adequate knowledge of disability and the available support systems. Read the full Report here. The focus area for the first meeting in April was: “Supporting young children with a developmental concern or disability—The NDIS Early Childhood Approach—an overview, tips and challenges”. We were supported by guest presenters from LifeStart and DCJ. More than 100 people participated in the session.

Following the meeting, we sought feedback from participants on how we can improve the format of the meetings, especially given the large numbers, and potential topics for future meetings. We are grateful to those who provided positive and constructive feedback which we have incorporated into planning for our next meeting. Advance information on our next meeting will be circulated shortly with the date likely to be mid-September to accommodate availability of guest speakers. As requested by members, this meeting will help us start the important conversations about how we can best support First Nations children and young people in culturally appropriate and inclusive ways. This meeting will be hosted by AbSec with support from the First Nations Disability Network.

NDIS Webinars
During May, ACWA hosted two webinars presented by senior staff from the National Disability Insurance Agency. More than 200 people registered for each. The first webinar focused on some NDIS basics, while the second looked at key elements of casework practice. Melissa Shina from DCJ provided casework studies for each webinar. Feedback was that these were the most engaging and interactive sessions that NDIA has provided, reflecting the commitment of our teams to improving their knowledge and practice for the benefit of children and young people with a disability. We are currently in discussion with NDIA to repeat the webinars in forthcoming months for those who were unable to attend.

ACWA was pleased to host a group of 9 CREATE Youth Ambassadors at the new office on 16 June. The young people, all aged in their twenties, have lived experience of disability and have transitioned to independence from out of home care. The round table was an opportunity to hear directly from young people about their experience and their ideas. Two key questions were considered:

a) What are some of the challenges faced by a child/young person living with disability who is in out of home care?
b) What could be done to improve the system for children/young people with disability in out of home care?

The participants were generous in sharing their personal experiences which included stories of discrimination, exclusion, bullying and abuse — perpetrated by staff, other children and broader community settings such as schools and clubs. They were also concerned that in many cases there had been no attention and support for their disability until there was a crisis. They were equally robust in presenting their ideas for change.

Some key messages that came from the meeting included:

  • The system only acts when a person speaks out — but in many instances a young person with disability is unable to speak out and has no-one to do that for them. They identified the need for more advocates for young people.
  • There is a lack of interaction and cohesion across the matrix of systems in which the young person needs to operate: child protection, courts, education, health. Being part of multiple systems means "you are treated as a number and as though it's all about money". The engagement with the individual is superficial — “they don’t really care”.
  • Different types of disability can't be lumped together. An individualised approach is required.
  • Listen to us, reply and act.
  • Need for greater support post 18 — until a young person is settled.

ACWA is grateful to Mohita Kapoor, NSW State Coordinator for CREATE, for bringing the young people together for the Roundtable.

ACWA was represented at two important policy forums in June:

  1. Families Australia Policy Forum: "Supporting Children and Young People with Disability in Challenging Times." Keynote speaker, Professor Sally Robinson, who is a renowned advocate for the rights of children and young people with a disability, presented a powerful human rights position.
  2. DSC Consulting Conference: "Where to from here for the NDIS". Presenters included the new Minister for NDIS, Bill Shorten, who noted that the NDIS is "incomplete and it is a journey" and that it is his Government's intention to "return to the original intent" of the scheme, with a focus on "effectiveness and empathy", with participants at the centre, engaged in co-designing improvements. Other presentations included First Nations Disability Network on resources they are developing, and Plumtree who presented an innovative model of family support — family peer leadership — which could well be adapted to support carers and enhance family preservation work.

Research & Networking
ACWA has been engaged in consultation and discussion around the broader research agenda in this area, with Professor Ilan Katz of UNSW. We have also been in discussion with the Children's Disability Association in Victoria who have identified similar issues for children with disability in out of home care and are keen to expand the discussion to a national level.

For more information or the link for meeting attendance please contact lyn@acwa.asn.au

Better integration of the child protection and domestic violence systems

Facilitated by ACWA's involvement in the Minister’s Child Wellbeing Taskforce, we have been able to have important discussions with Absec, DVNSW, and NSW Ministry of Health regarding the scope for bringing together the government and NGO sectors to work on various initiatives aimed at better integrating practice across both DV and child protection services. This work would be informed by similar initiatives that have been undertaken over the past few years in both Victoria and Queensland.

Under the title of Domestic and Family Violence and Child Protection Integration Project, work is progressing with the establishment of the Project Leadership Group and a collaboration network in June. The project consultants have also been reviewing literature and engaging with service providers, NGO partners and Government to identify good practice initiatives, and areas of need and opportunity for integrated DFV and child protection practice. There has been strong support for the need to work more closely to support victims and children, and to strengthen the focus on perpetrator responsibility within a whole family approach. There is also strong support for development of the Aboriginal Community controlled sector to ensure the positive engagement of families in early intervention. Consultation and engagement are continuing, working in partnership with DVNSW, AbSec, DCJ, NSW Health and leaders from a range of service providers across the sector.

Workforce Skills Strategy

ACWA has engaged a consortium to carry out a scan of the child and family welfare sector workforce in order to identify common work roles and the skills needed for quality practice in the PSP, TEI and ITC funded programs. There are two opportunities for you to get involved with this project.

  1. You are invited to an online meeting (via MS Teams) on Monday 15 August 12-1pm that will cover:
  • Overview of the aims and partners on the Workforce Skills Strategy project (document sent in advance)
  • Discussion of recruitment and onboarding materials
    • Unpack common terms in these materials: e.g., cultural competence, familiarity with trauma-informed practice. How is knowledge/skills assessed? What are the core minimum competencies for these terms? Is there a common understanding within agencies and across the sector?
    • Request to continue to send job advertisements, position descriptions, recruitment assessment criteria and onboarding protocols to the Research Centre for Children and Families, rccf.research@sydney.edu.au
  • Opportunities to contribute to the workforce skills strategy development
    • Survey — for manager-level positions (within TEI, PSP and ITC programs)
    • Roundtables — for agency leaders
    • Written responses to draft blueprint

Email the Research Centre for Children and Families, rccf.research@sydney.edu.au, to register your interest. A calendar invite will be sent as confirmation, with background paper. The event will be recorded for those unable to attend.

2. The project consortium is requesting organisations funded under PSP, ITC and TEI share the following types of documentation to rccf.research@sydney.edu.au:

  • Job advertisements
  • Position descriptions
  • Recruitment assessment criteria including qualification requirements
  • Onboarding protocols including induction programs and training

This information will be analysed and aggregated and no identifying information about organisations will be noted in the report. By sharing these documents, your organisation will contribute to building an understanding of the current workforce needs for the PSP, ITC and TEI programs. Feel free to contact Prof Amy Conley Wright and the project team at rccf.research@sydney.edu.au with any questions.

CCWT training update

CCWT Calendar

CCWT is continuing to run our Calendar program online due to the positive feedback we received last year on the value of being able to access training from your own home, however we are also pleased to be able to bring back some face to face training into the mix.

Keep checking our website and if the course you want is not there, add your name to the waiting list and when we have sufficient numbers we will be in contact with you.

New courses in Jul—Dec include:

Unpacking the Complexity of Hoarding and Squalor
31 Aug-1 Sept, via Virtual Classroom

Trauma and Addictions
19 Sept, via Zoom

Assessing Children: Autism, ADHD or Trauma?
23 Sept, face to face

Child Protection – Identify and Respond to Children and Young People at Risk
2-3 Nov, face to face

Child Mental Health Toolkit: Assessment, Planning and Case Management for Children and Young People with Mental Health Issues
11-18 Nov, face to face

Domestic and Family Violence: Understanding the Impact on Children
22 Nov, via Zoom

Other news, reading & resources

Parenting Research Centre free event: Embedding evidence and practice frameworks

Creating impact and ensuring positive outcomes for children and their families is front of mind for every agency and practitioner in our sector. Learn what it takes to define outcomes, set up a measurement tool and manage data in a way that it is not a burden for your colleagues, your team or the families/children that you are working with at the free online training event on Thursday, August 11, 10am-11.30am AEST.

The forum is being hosted by the Centre for Community Welfare Training — the learning and development arm of ACWA. Parenting Research Centre CEO Warren Cann and Director Annette Michaux will share insights into implementing a new practice framework and approaches to continuous practice improvement. This interactive session will be useful to practitioners, managers and leaders who are keen to improve both their individual practice and embed tools and strategies supporting effective practice in their organisation. Find out more and enrol now at: https://www.ccwt.edu.au/course/MLG167

FACSIAR Lunch and Learn

FACSIAR would like to invite you to join their Lunch and Learn webinar: Tuesday 30 August 12-1pm AEST, online via MS Teams — Hosted by Family and Community Services Insights, Analysis and Research (FACSIAR) and DCJ.


The psychological well-being and resilience of carers has implications for the well-being and outcomes of children and young people in their care. Chaired by FACSIAR Executive Director Jessica Stewart, this FACSIAR Lunch and Learn webinar will provide insights into carers of children in out-of-home care, how to best support them and how to create positive caring experiences.


  • Carers: exploring the impact of child characteristics, resources, perceptions and life stressors on caregiving and well-being
    Associate Professor Rebecca Mitchell, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Macquarie University
  • Relative/kinship and foster care: A comparison of carer and child characteristicsfindings from the Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS)
    Marina Paxman, Project Manager POCLS, FACSIAR, DCJ
  • Followed by panel discussion with:
    Loren Dumbrell, Manager, Carer Support, My Forever Family NSW
    Melissa Pearce, Manager, Strategy, Policy and Commissioning, DCJ
    Ruth Smallwood, Relative/kinship carer
  • Q&A

Questions or comments?
Contact: ResearchPartnerships@facs.nsw.gov.au

Research Centre for Children and Families

The University of Sydney's Research Centre for Children and Families has released a range of useful new resources including the Practice and Policy Strategies for Permanency Planning Webinar Presentation by Professor Peter Pecora, University of Washington and Casey Family Programs. This Webinar was hosted by the Research Centre for Children and Families and ACWA.

Associate Professor Lynette Riley and her sister Diane Riley-McNaboe have created a series of 7 beautiful Wiradjuri language children’s workbooks, the first two of which have been launched, in print and online with SBS Learn. See the links below for the online versions (and here for further information):

My Family Time is Mine is a resource created by Bobby Hendry, Expert-by-Experience with the Fostering Lifelong Connections project. The book is aimed at young people aged 11+ in out-of-home care, guardianship or open adoption. It provides tips and tricks for navigating family time (contact).

Roar is a children’s picture book created by Billy Black, Expert-by-Experience with the Fostering Lifelong Connections project, aimed at younger children in out-of-home care or other legal orders and their families. It is about the big feelings that come up around family time (contact).

Foster the Future!

Foster the Future is a charity offering free, one-on-one tutoring for children who are in out of home care. The tutoring is available for all students from kindergarten to year 12!

The service is available both in person and online across NSW and Victoria. 93% of carers with students in the program would highly recommend Foster the Future to another carer.

Submit your student referrals for the remainder 2022 now! Visit our website at https://www.fosterthefuture.com.au/make-a-referral and apply today.

Resource will help reduce prejudice against parents with intellectual disability

The University of Sydney’s Research Centre for Children and Families has co-designed a good practice guide for child protection workers offering disability-informed practice guidance with relevance for every professional working in child protection and Children’s Courts.

The project was funded by the Attorney General through an Access to Justice Innovation Grant and concerned equity for parents with intellectual disability facing a parenting capacity assessment for the Children’s Court of NSW. It was done in partnership with the Children’s Court Clinic, Intellectual Disability Rights Service and the WASH House Inc, with the expertise of Children’s Court Magistrate, Tracy Sheedy, and Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Glendra Stubbs on the advisory group.

You can read more about the project here. The resource is freely available on the Research Centre for Children and Families website and you can find a link to it here.

SCROLL — eSafety's new youth campaign tackling what young Australians can do when things go wrong online

Running across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, SCROLL features real stories and examples of how young people can protect themselves, where to get help, and ways to support friends.

Led by a team of six young Gen Z content creators — Dante, Patience, Tobias, Nya, Elliot and Chloe — topics covered include cyberbullying, online consent, finding your community and how eSafety can help remove harmful content.

Through sharing their personal experiences, the campaign serves as a reminder that you should never feel shame or embarrassment if something happens to you online and that there is always support if you need help.

Sound like something you want to get involved in? Join the conversation on InstagramTikTok and YouTube.

Events and Resources

All of the below can be found on our Sector Clearinghouse webpage, but please check out a few highlights for your information:

Upcoming Event for your calendar
National Aboriginal Wellbeing Conference 2022: Aug 29-30

Resources, Research & Reports
For recently released resources and new research please visit our Sector Clearinghouse webpage.