Our shared commitment
All Aboriginal children and young people are safe, resilient, thriving and living in culturally rich, strong Aboriginal families and communities.
Families, communities, and Aboriginal child-rearing practices are fundamental to raising strong Aboriginal children and young people. Supporting Aboriginal families to access safe and effective services enables better outcomes.
Supporting Aboriginal children and families to be strong in culture and proud of their unique identity can ensure that every Aboriginal child has the best start in life.
This means ensuring Aboriginal children and families have access to culturally appropriate services throughout pregnancy and early childhood, and reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in care.
Goal 1: Aboriginal children are born healthy and thrive
Measures under Goal 1 have continued to improve
Attendance at both Koori Maternity Services increased after three years of declining attendance.
Significant gains have been made in immunisation rates for Aboriginal children over the past decade.
The number of Aboriginal children (0-5 years of age) in both Supported Playgroups and Koorie Supported Playgroups reduced in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.
The following measures rely on datasets that are infrequently collected. No new data was available at the time of reporting.
- Measure 1.1.1 Rate of low birth weight
- Measure 1.1.2 Rate of preterm birth
- Measure 1.1.3 Rate of perinatal mortality
- Measure 1.1.4 Smoking during pregnancy
- Measure 1.2.1 Participation rates for Maternal and Child Health Key Ages and Stages Consultations
Goal 1 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 2: Aboriginal Children are born healthy and strong
- Target 2: By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies with a healthy birthweight.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
In 2020, 89.0 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies born were of a healthy birthweight across Australia, compared to 89.5 per cent in Victoria.
Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the target shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since 2017 (the baseline year).
Objective 1.1 Improve maternal and infant health
Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Program
Established in 2017, the Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health (MCH) program improves access to, and participation in universal MCH services by Aboriginal children, mothers, and families.
The Aboriginal MCH program supports a network of 15 organisations across 17 locations in Victoria.
Aboriginal self-determination is embedded as a core principle of MCH service delivery and offers families choice and flexibility around how they access MCH services, recognising the importance of Aboriginal organisations in delivering services to meet the health, wellbeing, cultural and safety aspirations of their local Aboriginal communities.
Since 2017, there has been increased engagement with Aboriginal children and families through the universal MCH service. The 2022-23 Victorian State Budget has enabled ongoing funding to sustain the Aboriginal MCH program.
Objective 1.2 Children thrive in their first 1000 days
Measure 1.2.2 Attendance at Koori Maternity Service
The number of women attending Koori Maternity Services (KMS) increased from 405 in 2020-21 to 465 in 2021-22, after declining between 2018-19 and 2020-21.
Work continues with the VACCHO and KMS providers to best support the needs of clients and increase participation rates.
KMS providers deliver flexible, holistic, and culturally safe antenatal and postnatal care which is central to improving outcomes and increasing participation in maternity care for Aboriginal women, women having Aboriginal babies and their families.
Measure 1.2.3 Immunisation rates at 24 months and 60 months
Immunisation rates for Aboriginal Victorian children have slightly decreased in 2021 but are still at historically high levels. From 2012-13 to 2021-22 the proportion of Aboriginal 1 year old children who are fully immunised increased by 7 per cent. When comparing to the total population, Aboriginal Victorian children are behind immunisation rates for both the 1 and 2 year old cohorts but have achieved parity for the rate for all children in the 5 year old cohort at 95 per cent coverage (95.8 per cent for all children in Victoria). When comparing immunisation rates over the decade (2012 to 2021), immunisations rates for all 2 year old children reduced but increased for Aboriginal 2 year old children. The increases in immunisation rates, even through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, show that child health policy in this area is effective. This momentum needs to be built upon if Victoria is going to reach immunisation coverage parity.
Measure 1.2.4 Participation in facilitated playgroups (0–5 years)
The number of Aboriginal children (0-5 years of age) in both Supported Playgroups and Koorie Supported Playgroups reduced in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. Supported Playgroups did not operate for most of 2021.
Supported Playgroups use evidence-based strategies to assist parents to develop their skills and confidence to improve the quality of the early home learning environment. This includes improving the quality of everyday interactions between parents and children which promote their wellbeing, cognitive, social and emotional development.
Qualified and trained facilitators deliver smalltalk, an evidence-based curriculum, to parents in a facilitated playgroup setting as well as one-on-one through In Home Support.
Supported Playgroups are a targeted service and families must meet the eligibility criteria that includes:
- a family member in the household holds a Health Care Card or equivalent
- families in which a family member identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
- families looking after children in kinship care arrangements (out of home care)
- families referred from Child FIRST/Child Protection.
- families referred from or participating in Enhanced Maternal and Child Health Services
Supported Playgroups are available state-wide with local councils as the main providers. Almost $10 million per annum in ongoing funding is allocated to the delivery of Supported Playgroups, with implementation support provided by the Parenting Research Centre and Playgroup Victoria.
Koorie Supported Playgroups
Koorie Supported Playgroups is a prevention and early intervention initiative to improve the wellbeing and developmental outcomes of Aboriginal children by supporting their parents to improve their skills and confidence. Koorie Supported Playgroups are delivered by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), Mallee District Aboriginal Services and Rumbalara. The 2021-22 Budget allocated approximately $480,000 per annum ongoing funding for Koorie Supported Playgroups.
Goal 2: Aboriginal children are raised by Aboriginal families
Measures under Goal 2 have improved or remained stable
Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families and placed in the out-of-home care system at rates significantly higher than non-Aboriginal children. Although the number and rate of Aboriginal children in care has remained stable since the last reporting period, in 2021-22 the difference in rate between Aboriginal children and non-Aboriginal children in care increased.
Increasing the proportion of Aboriginal children and young people being placed with Aboriginal carers or relatives is a key focus. Legislation has also been introduced to expand the role of ACCOs in delivering children and family services. More needs to be done to prevent Aboriginal children from being removed from their families in the first place, building on early support for families through maternity services and healthy relationship programs.
All measures under this goal are reported on.
Goal 2 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 12: Aboriginal children are not overrepresented in the child protection system
- Target 12: By 2031, reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45%.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
In 2022, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-17 years in out-of-home care was 56.8 per 1,000 children across Australia, compared to 102.2 per 1,000 children in Victoria.
Nationally and in Victoria, these rates are worsening based on the baseline.
Objective 2.1 Eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care
Measure 2.1.1 Rate and number of children and young people in care
The number and rate of Aboriginal children and young people in care remain at historic highs. In 2021-22, 2,595 Aboriginal children and young people were in out of home care, while the rate per 1,000 population of children has remained stable in 2021-22 at 102.2.
Measure 2.1.2 Number of families engaged with family support and intensive family support services
The number of children engaged with intensive family support services has been stable in 2021-22 after large declines in 2020-21. Between 2020-21 and 2021-22 the number of children engaged with intensive family support services decreased by 50 people to 1,193. To keep family support services trending positively, more support for these services is needed. The reliability of this data may be impacted by data collection system issues that DFFH experienced in 2020-21 and 2021-22, resulting in under-reporting of the number of children commencing in intensive family support services.
Objective 2.2 Increase Aboriginal care, guardianship and management of Aboriginal children and young people in care
Measure 2.2.1 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care placed with i) relatives/kin and ii) other Aboriginal carers
The number and proportion of Aboriginal children in care with Aboriginal relatives or kin has remained stable in 2021-22. Promisingly, the vast majority of Aboriginal children in care are placed with relatives or kin. Over the longer term, there has been an increase in the number of Aboriginal children in non-Aboriginal residential care. An Aboriginal specific Keep Embracing Your Success model of residential care, operated by VACCA, has been developed to support children with mental health and complex needs to transition back home or to independent living. It is vital that Aboriginal children remain connected to their community and culture whilst in the care system. More needs to be done to ensure that Aboriginal children are in the care of their relatives and kin. The Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023 will facilitate this by expanding the circumstances in which authorised Aboriginal agencies deliver child and families services.
Measure 2.2.2 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care with a cultural plan
The proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care with a cultural plan has remained steady over a five year period (2017-18 to 2021-22) at 68-70 per cent. Cultural plans are a vital enabler for Aboriginal children in care to maintain and strengthen their Aboriginal identity and encourage their connection to their Aboriginal culture and community.
Measure 2.2.3 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care on contractible orders managed by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs)
The Aboriginal Children’s Forum set a target for the progressive increase in the proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in the care system on contractible orders to be case managed by an ACCO. In 2021-22, the proportion was 40.1 per cent, a decline from 42.6 per cent in 2020-21.
Measure 2.2.4 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people on protection orders under the direct authority of an ACCO (Section 18)
The proportion of Aboriginal children and young people on authorised to an Aboriginal agency has increased from 1.6 per cent of all Aboriginal children and young people in care to 8.6 per cent from 2017-18 to 2021-22. While it is positive to see the increase, there is still a significant amount of work required to transition the care system to a self-determined model.
Cultural Planning for Aboriginal Children
A cultural plan is one part of a holistic approach to planning for vulnerable children and young people in care.
The case plan for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care is required to address the child’s cultural support needs and reflect and be consistent with those needs. It contains significant decisions relating to the child. The child’s cultural plan includes various elements to promote and maintain cultural support for the child while they are in out-of-home care.
The new approach to cultural support planning for Aboriginal children now has ACCOs overseeing this process and endorsing the plans. This planning is supported by the cultural portal auspiced by VACCA and the recently funded Aboriginal kinship finding service.
ACCOs, funded by DFFH for the provision of cultural planning, are responsible for supporting care teams to develop cultural plans as well as checking and endorsing plans.
Aboriginal Cultural Support and Awareness Advisor Positions were established in early 2022 to work alongside child protection practitioners and senior managers. They provide advice and capacity building to improve outcomes and cultural connections for Aboriginal children.
Objective 2.3 Increase family reunifications for Aboriginal children and young people in care
Measure 2.3.1 Number of children and young people reunified with parent(s) within 12 months of admission to care as a proportion of all Aboriginal children and young people admitted to care
The number of Aboriginal children and young people reunified with parent(s) within 12 months of admission to care has increased steadily from 239 in 2008 to 470 in 2021. However, during that time the number of Aboriginal children and young people in care has almost tripled, and the reunification rate has not kept pace. In 2008, 64.2 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people were reunified with parent(s) within 12 months of admission to care. In 2021, the rate stood at 48.5 per cent.
Reforms to the child protection system to give ACCOs a greater role in the out-of-home care of Aboriginal children should make a difference to this rate over the next few years. For example, see case study on the Family Preservation and Reunification Response.
Measure 2.3.2 Number of Aboriginal children and young people who exit care and do not return to care within 12 months as a proportion of all Aboriginal children and young people who exit care
The proportion of Aboriginal children exiting care and not returning within 12 months has grown over recent years from 69.5 per cent in 2018-19 to 75.4 per cent in 2020-21. Over the same time, there have been small fluctuations in the rate for non-Aboriginal children. While the rate for non-Aboriginal children remains higher than that for Aboriginal children, the difference in the rate is very small and the trajectory for Aboriginal children is positive. It is clear that policies aimed towards ending repeat entrances to the care system have been effective, although more work is needed to further increase the proportion of Aboriginal children who do not return to care.
Aboriginal-led design of Cultural Practice Elements for strengths based programs
Cultural Practice Elements that capture best practice for working with Aboriginal children and families have been developed in an Aboriginal-led design process. These are used to guide practitioners in their delivery of the Family Preservation and Reunification Response (FPR Response) and Putting Families First (PFF) to Aboriginal families. These are two strengths-based programs that support families to stay together.
Practice Modules enable practitioners to deliver strengths-based, client centred practice in a flexible way that meets the needs of families requiring intensive and sustained support. During early consultations on culturally safe evidence-based approaches, ACCOs identified a need for cultural practice to be embedded in Practice Modules to support Aboriginal families.
VACCA was funded to develop Cultural Practice Elements with other ACCOs across Victoria and deliver a training and coaching model for implementation. Seven Cultural Practice Elements (including a standalone Aboriginal Healing Module) have now been fully integrated into the FPR Response and PFF service models. Three Cultural Practice Leads are funded to work directly with ACCOs to strengthen their coaching capability in these practices. Each ACCO tailors the approach to their context.
Family Preservation and Reunification Response
DFFH has implemented the Family Preservation and Reunification Response across the state. The Response is an evidence-based service model that aims to keep vulnerable children and families together safely where possible, and to support children in care to return home safely.
The initiative has enabled the earlier identification of children and families most at risk. The program is supporting strong engagement with families and providing the basis to build increased stability and parenting confidence.
The model has been implemented in all 17 DFFH Areas. The Response is delivered by 34 providers including 12 ACCOs, in partnership with Child Protection.
Uniquely, this practice approach embeds Aboriginal cultural practices known to support Aboriginal children and families. Development of this approach has been led by ACCOs and will ensure that services are culturally safe and inclusive for Aboriginal children and families.
Goal 3: Aboriginal families and households thrive
Measures under Goal 3 varied in performance
Family violence has a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal people in Victoria. Concerningly, reports of family violence incidents involving Aboriginal people have increased considerably in recent years.
The increase in family violence incident reports may not solely indicate increased prevalence of family violence and may in part reflect policy and practice changes as well as improved reporting and recording.
More promisingly, in 2021 the number of family violence child protection notifications involving Aboriginal children decreased.
In 2021, income disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal households was at its lowest point since 2006. Aboriginal household poverty is also at its lowest since 2006.
However, Aboriginal Victorians were far more likely than non-Aboriginal Victorians to access homelessness services in 2021-22.
All measures under this goal are reported on.
Goal 3 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets
Outcome 9: Aboriginal people secure appropriate, affordable housing that is aligned with their priorities and needs.
- Target 9: By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) housing to 88%.
Outcome 13: Aboriginal families and households are safe
- Target 13: By 2031, the rate of all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is reduced at least by 50%, as progress towards 0.
Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally
- Target 9:
In 2021, 81.4 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) housing across Australia, compared to 88.8 per cent in Victoria.
Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, target 9A shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since 2016 (the baseline year).
Target 9B is not able to be reported against as there is no data source currently available which includes all required data elements.
- Target 13:
In 2018-19, 8.4 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years and over experienced domestic physical or threatened physical harm across Australia, compared to 7.5 per cent in Victoria.
This target relies on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey data. No new data is available since the baseline year of 2018-19.
Objective 3.1 Reduce the incidence and impact of family violence affecting Aboriginal families
The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence report acknowledged the disproportionate impact of family violence on Aboriginal people and the lack of culturally appropriate service responses. The long-standing leadership of Aboriginal communities, Elders and ACCOs in Victoria in preventing and responding to family violence should be recognised. For example, Djirra delivers holistic, self-determined and culturally safe specialist family violence services and early intervention and prevention programs.
Measure 3.1.1 Number and proportion of family violence incident reports involving an Aboriginal other party, and proportion of those who were the subject of a previous family incident report
The number of family violence incidents involving an Aboriginal other party continued to grow in 2021 with 6,107 reports, representing 7.2 per cent of all incidents reported. 86.9 per cent of those were repeat incidents. The proportion of those incidents where charges were laid has remained stable at 37.6 per cent.
Measure 3.1.2 Number and proportion of family violence incident reports involving an Aboriginal affected family member; and proportion of those who were the subject of a previous family incident report
The number of affected family members in family violence incidents continues to increase with 4,966 reports in 2021. 83 per cent of incidents where there was an affected family member were repeat incidents. Similar to family violence incidents with other parties, incidents with affected family members are much higher than the proportion of the population that are Aboriginal with 5.45 per cent of family violence incidents with an affected family member.
Measure 3.1.3 Number and proportion of notifications to child protection for children and young people where family violence is identified
The number of notifications to Child Protection for children and young people where family violence is identified has reduced for 2021-22 to 4,639. This represents 41.1 per cent of all notifications involving Aboriginal Victorians.
Medium-term Perpetrator Accommodation Service
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL) has piloted a service for people who use family violence, in partnership with local service Haven Home Safe. People who use violence are excluded from the family home and provided with accommodation for up to six months whilst they are focusing on behavioural and attitudinal change.
Clients are supported through VACSAL’s case work and cultural programs to strengthen the family and bring responsibility to the individual using violence.
Provision of medium-term housing removes housing instability as a barrier to behaviour change. Partnership with a housing provider enables VACSAL to plan housing needs and reduces the risk to victim survivors. All rent paid by the tenant is provided back on exit of tenancy to assist with private rental.
The pilot is showing signs of success, with clients engaging in the program. This engagement supports long lasting behaviour change and victim survivor safety. An independent evaluation is due in 2023.
Strengthening cultural safety in The Orange Door
The Orange Door network provides a visible and accessible entry point for family violence services, child and family services and men’s/perpetrator services. Aboriginal people seeking support have the option to access an Aboriginal led service. Aboriginal Practice Leaders and Aboriginal Practitioners have been funded and recruited in each area.
Family Safety Victoria has been working with VACCA and local ACCOs to deliver the Strengthening Cultural Safety in The Orange Door project. Lead ACCOs in each area employ Cultural Safety Project Leaders to facilitate implementation of:
Foundational cultural awareness training for staff in The Orange Door network
Consistent cultural safety assessment process across The Orange Door network and development of local action plans
Learning processes to support both individual worker and organisational cultural safety learning and development.
Objective 3.2 Increase income and housing security for Aboriginal households
Measure 3.2.1 Proportion of adults who ran out of food in the previous 12 months and couldn't afford to buy more
The proportion of Aboriginal Victorians who ran out of food in the past 12 months has remained stable between 2017 and 2020 at 15.1 per cent. As the Victorian Population Health Survey (VPHS) has not asked this question regularly and the historical methodology of the survey has changed it is difficult to determine trend over time from this data. When comparing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal respondents; Aboriginal people were two and half times more likely to run out of food. This shows the need to have consistent and accurate data relating to food insecurity for Aboriginal Victorians.
Measure 3.2.2 Median weekly gross household income and proportion of households with less than 50 per cent median equivalised income
In 2021, income disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal households was at its lowest point since 2006. The median weekly gross household income of Aboriginal Victorians has increased by $407.74 between 2011 and 2021, to $1,565.00 per week. Aboriginal household poverty was also at its lowest since 2006. 22.1 per cent of Victorian Aboriginal households earned less than 50 per cent of the median income compared with 20.9 per cent of non-Aboriginal households. It is promising to see consistent increases in Aboriginal income. However, financial stress and hardship continue to affect many households, demonstrating the continuing unmet consumer, credit and debt needs of Victorian Aboriginal communities.
 This measure uses self-reported gross household income (pre-tax) and it may be inconsistent with other measures of household poverty.
 ‘Consumer Issues in Victorian Aboriginal Communities during 2020’ (Consumer Action Law Centre and Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, 2021).
Measure 3.2.3 Proportion of Aboriginal people in rental or mortgage stress
In 2021, the proportion of Aboriginal households in Victoria experiencing rental or mortgage stress were at their lowest since 2006. Only 14.7 per cent and 33.9 per cent of Aboriginal households were experiencing mortgage or rental stress respectively. This is either at parity or below the proportion of non-Aboriginal households. When analysing this against the tenure type of Aboriginal homes, the low level of mortgage stress can be partially explained through the increase in tenure types other than rented or owned.
Measure 3.2.4 Proportion of Victorians accessing homelessness services
The number of Aboriginal Victorians accessing homelessness services has continued to increase. In 2021-22, over 11,000 Aboriginal Victorians accessed homelessness services, a 38 per cent increase since 2015-16. The proportion of all Aboriginal Victorians accessing homelessness services was 16.9 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent for non-Aboriginal Victorians.
In 2021-22, of the 665 current and former Victorian-based Australian Defence Force members seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services in Victoria, 72 of those were Indigenous clients. This was up from 48 Indigenous clients in 2020-21.
Colonial dispossession of land continues to have repercussions today despite the positive economic outlook for Aboriginal Victorians analysed in Domain 3 of this report.
Measure 3.2.5 Proportion of Aboriginal Victorians living in over-crowded dwellings.
The proportion of Aboriginal households that are overcrowded has reduced in 2021 to 11.3 per cent. This is significantly higher than for non-Aboriginal households where 6.3 per cent of them are considered overcrowded. When analysing by person, 7.3 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians live in overcrowded households. There are many reasons why a household is overcrowded from short term financial instability, at home caring of family and kin, and preference for larger family groups under a single roof. Housing must be adequate to meet the needs of Aboriginal people and households. Investment in infrastructure is key to meet these needs.
Building Works Package – maintenance and refurbishment program
As part of the Building Works package, the Victorian Government is investing $35 million for upgrades and maintenance of properties for Victorian Aboriginal communities. This stream of funding is led by Aboriginal Housing Victoria working in partnership with 19 ACCOs. The program will look to deliver over 2,000 property upgrades including 28 new Kids Under Cover modular homes, Aboriginal hostel upgrades, energy efficiency upgrades and major property refurbishments. The Building Works package will also support the development of new community housing and funding upgrades for Aboriginal Housing Victoria properties as part of the Community Housing program delivery stream. This is an example of Aboriginal communities taking the lead role in delivering a housing stimulus program on behalf of the Victorian Government.
Domain 1: Victorian Government Investment and Action
The Victorian Government is working to drive improved outcomes for children and families.
The key Aboriginal Governance Forums for realising outcomes in this Domain are: the Aboriginal Children’s Forum, Aboriginal Strategic Governance Forum, Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum, and Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework Implementation Working Group.
Maternal Child Health and Early Parenting
The Department of Health is committed to delivering early intervention and prevention support to Aboriginal children and families. It funds initiatives that support Aboriginal self-determination in decision making to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for communities.
Early years health service for Aboriginal communities
In 2022-23, an Aboriginal-led design and participation process will shape a holistic early years health service for Aboriginal communities from pregnancy to starting school. This is supported by $0.7 million in the 2022-23 State Budget. An Aboriginal Advisory Group will inform the Department of Health on how an integrated approach across antenatal, maternal and child health, and early parenting services can best support Aboriginal children and families to thrive. ACCOs that work with Aboriginal children and their families understand, and already undertake, vital work in Aboriginal parenting approaches to achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole family. Some existing programs have proven successful for Aboriginal children and families.
Dhelk Dja - Safe Our Way: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families (‘Dhelk Dja’)
Dhelk Dja is a 10-year Aboriginal-led Victorian Agreement that commits the signatories – Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal services and government – to work together and be accountable for ensuring that Aboriginal people, families and communities are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from family violence. Dhelk Dja is built upon the foundation of Aboriginal self-determination.
The Dhelk Dja Second Three Year Action Plan (2023-2025) was endorsed at the October 2022 Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum. It sets an expectation that departments will work with the Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus and the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum members to commit to departmental plans to support implementation. The action plan also aligns strongly to Victoria’s commitment to deliver on Target 13 of the National Agreement.
The Victorian Government has boosted funding to ACCOs for family violence and sexual assault service delivery from approximately $5.2 million in 2017-18 to approximately $52.5 million in 2022-23. This includes new service delivery functions arising from reforms such as The Orange Door.
In line with the Aboriginal Funding Policy, at least 10 per cent of the family violence and sexual assault funding provided in the 2023/24 Budget will also be allocated to ACCOs.
Dhelk Dja Aboriginal Family Violence Fund (The Fund)
The Fund is a flexible pool of funding ($18.2 million over 2021–22 and 2022–23) for eligible Aboriginal organisations and community groups to enable a range of Aboriginal-led tailored responses for victim survivors and people who use violence. Support includes regionally based healing and change camps, weekly yarning sessions, financial counselling support, and therapeutic services and programs to support Aboriginal children. The fund provides Aboriginal organisations with funding over two years, giving them greater certainty in planning how they deliver family violence services.
Other family violence initiatives
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund, was boosted from $1.1 million in 2021-22 to $2.2 million in 2022-23. 42 culturally appropriate, place-based community-led projects dedicated to preventing and responding to family violence in Victorian Aboriginal communities will be delivered by more than 30 Aboriginal organisations and community groups across the state.
$3 million in scholarships have been administered through direct allocation to ACCOs to increase specialisation of Aboriginal workforce and support the implementation of Royal Commission into Family Violence Recommendation 209 under the Aboriginal Family Violence Industry Strategy.
Aboriginal Access Points are being established as a complementary service model to work alongside The Orange Door, providing a culturally safe referral pathway for Aboriginal people impacted by family violence. Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative and VACCA were the successful ACCO service delivery partners appointed in early 2022 to establish the service in Barwon and Bayside/Peninsula Area. A third AAP will be established in Mildura during 2023.
The Medium-term Perpetrator Accommodation Service (MPAS) is an accommodation-based case management response for people using violence. The 2022-23 budget provided $2.733 million to continue the MPAS initiative in 2022-23.
The Aboriginal Sexual Assault Trials deliver culturally sensitive support to Aboriginal victim survivors of sexual assault based on holistic healing principles and building on the Nargneit Birrang Framework. The trials are working with adult and child victim survivors of recent and/or historical sexual abuse and their families to provide holistic wrap around support for recovery.
Children and family services
Evidence to the Yoorrook Justice Commission
The Government made a submission in response to the Commission’s Issues Paper on systemic injustice experienced by First Peoples in the child protection system. The submission offered a government perspective on historic and current systemic injustice in the Child Protection system; the steps taken to date that seek to address systemic injustice; and the current approaches being undertaken to change the system in order to reduce over-representation. The Minister for Child Protection and senior Government executives also gave evidence.
The Government funds a range of family services, these include services specifically for Aboriginal people. Programs include:
- Early Help family services – embedding family services practitioners in universal settings for families experiencing disadvantage and with emerging needs. These services improve children’s wellbeing and developmental outcomes by supporting their parents to develop their skills and confidence.
- Integrated family services – providing case management support to families experiencing cumulative harm, or who have multiple, complex needs, to support child wellbeing and safety and build family resilience. Additionally, these services seek to connect families with the supports they require, for example mental health or family violence support.
- Intensive family services – maintaining children safely at home through holistic, strength-based, joined-up intensive case management supports, delivered in partnership, as appropriate, with Child Protection and other agencies.
- Family Preservation and Reunification Response – delivering evidence-based and intensive support to families where children are at risk of entering care or where children are in care and the aim is to safely reunify with their family.
Aboriginal Child Protection Diversion Trials
The Aboriginal Children and Families Innovation and Learning Fund is supporting a consortium consisting of VACCA, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative, Njernda Aboriginal Corporation and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-Operative to deliver child protection diversion trials.
Three different approaches are being trialled to test the hypothesis that by having an Aboriginal organisation involved in decision making will improve outcomes for children and families. An evaluation of the three approaches found that Aboriginal Led Case Conferencing had a 78 percent diversion success rate, and Unborn Reports (Garinga Bupup) had a 63 percent diversion success rate.
Transitioning Aboriginal Children to ACCOs
DFFH is working in partnership with ACCOs and Community Service Organisations to support the gradual transfer of case management and care of all Aboriginal children and young people on contractible protection orders to ACCOs.
The ‘Transition of Aboriginal Children to ACCOs: Rights and Aspirations’ project is being undertaken to identify the barriers and opportunities to transitioning Aboriginal children including a strategic plan to implement the aspirations of ACCOs in respect to services that support the transition.
Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC)
Section 18 of the Children, Youth, Families Act 2005 enables the Secretary of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to authorise the Principal Officer of an Aboriginal agency to perform specified functions and powers in relation to an Aboriginal child or young person subject to a protection order.
By placing the responsibility for the protection and care of Aboriginal children with Aboriginal agencies, including case planning and decision making ACAC allows ACCOs to do things differently and in culturally attuned ways to make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal children and families. VACCA and the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative are fully authorised ACAC providers and ACCOs are in the pre-authorisation phase.
Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort, Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home
The Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework (VAHHF) provides a 20-year plan to guide policy reform in responding to specific housing needs for Aboriginal Victorians.
Aboriginal Housing Victoria drafted a 20-year vision to articulate the role of the Aboriginal housing and homelessness sector in implementing the VAHHF. This will be guided by the 5-year implementation plan for the VAHHF which is currently being developed by the sector. The delivery of the VAHHF is monitored through the VAHHF Annual Report Card.
The VAHHF is the blueprint for government and the sector to work together. It provides the vehicle for government to deliver on Aboriginal self-determination by transitioning power and responsibility over to community to determine the approach required to address their own needs.
The Big Housing Build
Under the Big Housing Build, there is a target for 10 per cent of all the net growth of homes built to be for Aboriginal Victorians. This growth in housing for Aboriginal Victorians will be delivered by a combination of ACCOs and mainstream housing providers.
DTF, with Homes Victoria, is delivering the Homes for Aboriginal Victorians Round (HfAVR) of the Social Housing Growth Fund for new social housing located across Victoria. The HfAVR adopts a long-term procurement approach to support the development of an Aboriginal Housing sector and enables ACCOs to seek funding. Proposals must adhere to the Big Housing Build First Order Principles, using self-determination as the guiding principle. All social housing dwellings funded through this round will be owned (or the subject of a long-term lease to) and operated by ACCOs, or Community Housing Agencies in partnership with an ACCO and allocated to Aboriginal Victorians on the Victorian Housing Register.
The HfAVR will seek to deliver approximately 400 social housing dwellings supported by approximately $150 million of grant funding. ACCOs can submit proposals on their own or in partnership with a Registered Housing Association or Agency. The first round of the fund opened on 21 December 2021, with two further rounds over 2022. Additional rounds are planned for 2023 to support achievement of the target.
Victorian Public Tenancy Association, Aboriginal Advocacy roles
In 2022, two new Aboriginal Advocacy roles were created at the Victorian Public Tenancy Association (VPTA) to provide advice, assistance, and referrals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tenants. The roles provide advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those who are homeless, or otherwise in significant distress. The positions are responsible for advocating for the provision of a viable public housing system for those who need it, including the broad community.
Aboriginal Private Rental Access
Aboriginal Housing Victoria and the Commissioner for Residential Tenancies established a project group to examine discrimination and other access barriers affecting Aboriginal Victorians in the private rental market. The project partnership team included representatives of the Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV), Victoria Legal Aid and the Consumer Policy Research Centre.
The project partnership produced two reports that were officially launched by the Minister for Consumer Affairs in October 2022. Currently, five of the fourteen recommendations are underway with further actions planned for 2023.
Aboriginal Tenants at Risk Program
Aboriginal Housing Victoria delivers the Aboriginal Tenants at Risk program to help Aboriginal Victorians to keep and maintain their rented properties, including advocacy support.
Aboriginal Private Rental Assistance Program
ACCOs deliver the Aboriginal Private Rental Assistance Program in five areas across Victoria, including regional Victoria, which is being expanded to additional areas in 2023. The program provides private rental brokerage and holistic support to prevent or end homelessness, by rapidly rehousing people and supporting households to sustain affordable and appropriate housing in the private rental market.
Victorian Homebuyer Fund
The Victorian Homebuyer Fund is a shared equity scheme, making it easier for Victorians to enter homeownership. The Victorian Government contributes to the purchase price in exchange for an equivalent share in the property. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants only require a 3.5 per cent deposit and are eligible for a 35 per cent shared equity contribution. Homebuyers benefit from lower ongoing mortgage costs, making the loan more affordable.
Improving Aboriginal Cultural Safety
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Framework delivery plan aims to increase Homes Victoria’s ability to deliver culturally safe and responsive approaches to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Community Housing Industry Association Victoria and the Council to Homeless Persons have each developed a Cultural Safety Framework to support the housing and homelessness sectors in delivering responsive, culturally safe services.
More than a Landlord Program
The More than a Landlord program delivered by Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV) and funded by Homes Victoria, assists vulnerable Aboriginal tenants in northern metropolitan Melbourne to maintain stable housing. It also helps to achieve personal goals and improve overall wellbeing through life-coaching and pathways into education and employment. Homes Victoria commissioned the Centre for Evaluation and Research Evidence to undertake a rapid evaluation of the program. The evaluation analysed the program model, activity levels, outputs, and outcomes. It found that clients felt the program had a significant and enduring impact on their lives, with benefits extending to their children and family members.
Key investments include
- $1.16 million for three years to support the VAHHF implementation.
- $5.3 billion Big Housing Build investment with 10 per cent net of all new social housing allocated for Aboriginal Victorians. This includes 10 per cent ($1.38 billion) from the Social Housing Growth Fund which includes the Rapid Grants Round, Homes for Aboriginal Victorians Round, Mental Health Round and Regional Round.
- $75 million to transform services for Victorians experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This includes:
- funding for an Aboriginal-specific entry point to provide culturally appropriate responses to needs
- multidisciplinary support to maintain housing
- funding for Aboriginal Housing Victoria to lead work on the Blueprint for an Aboriginal-specific homelessness service system in Victoria.
- $528 million under Building Works package for maintenance, upgrades and new housing including:
- $5.8 million for Aboriginal Housing Victoria properties as part of the Community Housing Stream.
- $35 million for upgrades and maintenance of properties for Victorian Aboriginal communities.
- $3.3 million for the development of a new facility to support Aboriginal men exiting corrections facilities.
- $4.29 million to develop and deliver 12 new homes including two townhouses in Hampton and 10 low-rise apartments in Dandenong.
- $110 million to the Private Rental Assistance Program, including funding to expand the Aboriginal Private Rental Assistance Program to an additional four areas.
- $811,000 for the Community Housing Sector Development Fund to support the ACCO Feasibility Study and the partnerships brokerage supports for ACCOs and community housing providers.
- $510,000 to support the internal implementation of Aboriginal cultural safety initiatives across Homes Victoria.
- $425,000 for the Aboriginal Home Connect project to enable welfare and education checks on over 4,000 Aboriginal families in social housing.
$300,000 for the More Than a Landlord program.
$240,000 to implement the Victorian Public Tenants Association Aboriginal Advocacy Program.
Reviewed 26 June 2023