Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 August 2021


Children's Ground

7:25 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise this evening to talk about an organisation that I've been following for a significant period. It's an innovative, exciting project that is taking a 25-year approach. Children's Ground is a not-for-profit organisation designed and led by First Nations people to end enduring injustice and disadvantage. The organisation is First Nations family and community led, driven and implemented at both board and community level. First Nations cultural governance is at the front and centre of delivery. Their governance system recognises the equal importance of cultural governance and corporate governance, and their community governance committees comprise 100 per cent local First Nations people.

The Children's Ground approach is a 25-year integrated and preventative one founded on systemic change across five service areas: education, health, economic independence, culture and community development. Children's Ground has developed and delivers an evidence based approach collecting data for every child, family and community, to measure, demonstrate and evaluate what is working and to learn by gathering evidence in order to drive systemic reform in government policy and service delivery. The Children's Ground approach is designed for long-term change. They have a 25-year strategy for change within communities and across the system and know that change will take time, so they will walk alongside each child for an entire generation. This is what I find so exciting. They are not a quick fix or program based model but are focused on outcomes, investing in prevention rather than responding to crisis.

Children's Ground is an organisation working towards not only changing the lives of the communities they work with but completely changing the systems that have failed First Nations people since colonisation. They are doing this through practice leadership and evidence. Each community has agency and control over their project and is governed in their operations by the local community and traditional owners. For example, in Central Australia, they have Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe, which is the Arrernte name for Children's Ground, and they follow the direction of their Central Australia governance committee. In West Arnhem, they are called—and I apologise for my mangled pronunciation—Wurdurd Garriyigarrmerren, which means, 'We are all standing together as one family, walking the path with our children.'

Despite their community integrated approach, Children's Ground is struggling to get long-term funding commitments from the government in key areas of education and health. Children's Ground is working in nine communities and receiving limited funding for only three. To meet the government's Closing the Gap measures, we need to have community led solutions backed by government. We cannot keep starting wonderful projects like Children's Ground and then have them peter out or end abruptly because funding has ceased. We know this organisation is there for the long term. Children's Ground will continue to grow as more First Nations communities hear and see the results and seek their services. Continued support from the Australian government to maintain health and education activities that privilege First Nations language, culture and connection to country, to maintain First Nations leadership and decision-making, will make the change that the next generation are wanting.

I urge the government to please work with and support Children's Ground to meet their aspirations in the next few years. This is truly such an important—in fact, groundbreaking—program that I really urge the government to get on board with this group. They are doing amazing work and they need support. I urge everybody here to go and have a look at their website, to talk to them and to learn about what they're trying to achieve in their 25-year vision, which, as I articulated, is about achieving true generational change.


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