Enabling change with Aboriginal families

Northern Connections, DCSI, SA

TACSI spent time with Aboriginal families in Adelaide's northen suburbs to identify new opportunities for services to enable change with Aboriginal families.

“Lots of goonyas [non-Aboriginal people] are too scared. You’ve got to go in with a good heart. You’ve got to get to know people, get in there. Don’t be so scared that you don’t start. Be upfront. Make mistakes, don’t think you know everything. Be honest. That’s showing respect.”

– Margaret, Aboriginal worker, State Government agency

Indigenous Australians experience poorer outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians across almost every aspect of life.

A challenge this big and this complex cannot be tackled through one initiative alone, but TACSI has chosen to start with something concrete that we ourselves can directly influence: the delivery of family services. Northern Connections, Department of Communities and Social Inclusion asked TACSI to spend time with Aboriginal families and services who work with them to understand the role services could play in enabling change for families.

Aboriginal families we met in this project had up to 15 different services involved in their lives. We believe that changing how services work with Aboriginal families is a key factor in improving outcomes.

Our own start-up, Family by Family, has had great success in supporting and creating change for non-Aboriginal children and families, but we felt that we weren’t having the same impact with Aboriginal families.

Urban Aboriginal families experience poorer wellbeing than remote Aboriginal families, so we spent time with 12 Aboriginal families and 15 family services in northern Adelaide to see what could change.

"They don’t understand us, we don’t understand them. We’re the same blood and organs, but we’re in different worlds.”

– Margaret, Aboriginal worker, State government agency

We learned that there are three big things getting in the way of thriving for these families:

  1. Not all Aboriginal people are the same, but services clumsily treat them as one.
  2. Family service workers are fearful of being seen as racist, so often do less with and for Aboriginal families.
  3. Both Aboriginal families and workers have come to expect that nothing will change, and have a low bar for what is possible.

The opportunities we developed with Aboriginal families and workers – are about Indigenous and non-Indigenous people getting real with each other, not papering over the hard stuff, and having concrete ways to change their beliefs, values and behaviours.

With the support of the DHS Local Solutions Fund TACSI has had an opportunity to prototype parts of these opportunities with Children’s Centres in the Playford area of Adelaide.

What we do: Developing Insight  Building Capability  Designing Solutions  Changing Systems 

Focus Areas: Families  Ageing  Disability 

Stages: Discover  Design  Trial  Spread 

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