Supporting vulnerable families in the NT and SA
To improve the health and safety of children living in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and support their families to be happy, healthy, safe, strong and out of the child protection system.
Who we worked with
The Australian Government Department of Social Services funded us to develop the Intensive Family Support Service (IFSS) program. We delivered and evaluated this program with the following key agency partners:
- Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation
- CatholicCare NT
- Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
- Lutheran Community Care
- NPY Women’s Council
- Save the Children Australia
- Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
What we did
We designed the evidence-informed Intensive Family Support Service (IFSS) program for vulnerable Indigenous and non-Indigenous families with children aged 12 and under. We also designed a structure for how services under the program could be delivered.
The program was developed as part of a package of measures developed in response to the 2010 Report of the Board Inquiry into the NT child protection system.
This program helped families with basic child care, supervision and home safety, preventing and treating illnesses and parental healthcare skills. It also assisted with determining which learning environments children need at different ages, and developing positive and effective parent-child interactions.
Local, non-government providers delivered the program. The service was free and voluntary for NT families referred by their local child protection agency. In SA it was available in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyatjatjara (APY) Lands and to families based in Amata, Pukatja and Indulkana.
The service was based on a simple practice model that involved: engaging the family; assessment; selecting priority areas of focus; developing and implementing a family support plan; and closure. Drawing from social learning, behavioural, developmental and other theories, it included up to a year’s one-on-one support for each family.
The Yarning Mat
One key resource, central to the way the service engages families, was the Yarning Mat. The mat is based on an extensive understanding of Aboriginal kinship systems and family life. It enables Aboriginal families to talk about their lives and concerns for children in a safe, non-shaming, and culturally sensitive way.
It was developed by Faye Parriman, a Yamatji woman from the Nhanda clan in the wild flower country of the Western Desert area, who previously worked as a Parenting Research Centre implementation specialist and practice coach. Faye is also a Noongar woman from the Balladong clan in South Western Australia.
During this project, we produced an evidence-informed practice framework for use by IFSS teams, trained more than 70 agency-based staff in the practice framework across the Northern Territory, provided direct, on-site practice support to all trained staff and agencies, and chaired and participated in regular implementation support meetings within IFSS agencies.
We produced support resources for IFSS teams including a dedicated website with a moderated forum, a program manual, an IFSS content guide, assessment support tools, program planning documents, practice demonstration videos, and ‘Yarning Mat’ resource and support material.
We also produced parent support materials, including an illustrated book of all intervention strategies, demonstration videos, and links to evidence-based information sheets.
- For enquiries about this project, please contact the Northern Territory Office of Department of Social Services.