Seasons Greetings

With the year drawing to a close I just wanted to express my appreciation to all staff and volunteers for another outstanding effort in supporting the agency’s mission.

As I said at our Xmas lunch, the great reputation the agency enjoys is because of the work done by staff and volunteers, not only this year but the years preceding as well. Next year is shaping up to be a very exciting one with our building being completed (expected round August) our DHHS audit and Gala Ball in the same week in February (!) and the implementation of recommendations arising from some significant government reviews.

So, I hope you have an enjoyable and relaxing Xmas / New Year break, because from the 1/1/16, I sense we are going to find the twelve months racing by very quickly.

PS: I also hope Santa brings you what you want!

On the 30th November, Steve Thompson (Quality Systems Manager) and I attended a briefing by the Centre of Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, at DHHS in Wangaratta, on the forthcoming Child Safety Standards. These standards to which UMFC will be held accountable come into effect from the 1/1/16. You should also know that from this date it will be a criminal offence for any Victorian adult to fail to report any reasonable belief that a child has been sexually abused by another adult.

The standards however cover the full range of child abuse and UMFC will need to demonstrate documented compliance in protocols and practices. Our evidence also has to explicitly identify our understanding of the special vulnerability of aboriginal and CALD children, as well as children with a disability.

The evidence required relates to the 7 standards, which cover things like, our child safety statement, code of conduct, staff recruitment, training and supervision, risk assessment/ reduction/removal, identification and reporting and strategies for empowering children.

You will be aware that we have already amended our code of conduct and released a child safety statement in light of this legislation. We have other measures in place which meet these standards too. However the legislation is based on the assumption of continuous improvement, meaning we can’t rest on our laurels. So, expect to see and hear more about this from next year and beyond as we strive to make our agency as child safe as possible.

On the 12th and 13th of November I spent time with DHHS representatives and agency colleagues discussing the Victorian government’s Roadmap to Reform paper for our sector. Apart from the usual presentations there were speakers including young adults who once were in care as well as young parents who received support through the cradle to kinder program. Unsurprisingly their comments resonated the loudest to most of us. One young person shared that when they entered foster care at the age of 10 yrs, they were illiterate. Their foster parent taught them to read and write. Another said that given her childhood abuse she didn’t want any contact with her mum for 2 yrs, even though there was a lot of pressure to do so. The message was the importance of listening to the child.

The young mums were equally impressive sharing their personal stories. One said she was a heroin addict when DHHS removed her children. At the time she hated DHHS but now she could say that was the right thing to do. The message was that with the right support, change was possible. What counted was having a worker who stuck through thick and thin, allowing trust to develop.

There was very strong agreement about the broad policy directions we should move toward. The importance of early intervention, the reduction of children in OOHC, especially residential care, the prioritising of culturally appropriate practice, the adoption of evidence based services with measurable outcomes and the need for place based flexible models.

I am pleased that we have had these types of conversations and feel we are well placed to rise to the challenges and opportunities that these issues raise. I anticipate that next year we shall see the beginnings of service models that reflect these aspirations, like the complete move of kinship care from DHHS to our sector. I think there will be trials of intensive foster care models aimed at moving children from residential care. The Minister was very clear when she spoke to us that she wanted to see a reduction of children, especially young children, from residential care to home based care types.

So, I think next year is going to be very exciting with more change and forums, that if done well can be the foundation of excellent work for the families UMFC was established to serve.

From the 20th to the 27th of October, Maria and I had the privilege to participate in Taskforce 1000 when it met in Wodonga and Wangaratta.

The taskforce is a review of all Aboriginal children in OOHC in Victoria, chaired by Andrew Jackomos, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People.

It was a deeply moving experience hearing the life stories of some 50 children, 15 of whom were under UMFC OOHC.

I was very impressed by the professionalism and compassion demonstrated by our staff who were clearly committed to achieving the best outcomes possible.

Andrew will present his report to the Victorian Parliament when his review is completed, next month. I anticipate amongst his recommendations will be for much more effort put into exploring family networks for kinship placements. One of the parts of the process was for agencies to reflect on how we could support such placements better.

I suggested UMFC could conduct a cultural audit. I have spoken with one of our Board members, Liz Hetta, to assist us in this action. This action was prompted not only by the taskforce experience but also by a comment made at the Ministerial Committee on OOHC on the 23/10. Prof Murial Bamblett was cited as saying, “If we get it right for Aboriginal children we get it right for all children.” That sounds right to me and therefore clear about the work required to make sure we do.

Help Support Local Families During Times of Need. Donate Now or Volunteer.


UMFC acknowledges the First Peoples of Australia as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work. We acknowledge their culture is a living one, which relates to their ongoing connection to all things living and non-living on land, sea and sky. We pay our respect to their elders past and present. May our children of today lead us to a better tomorrow.


UMFC acknowledges the support of the Victorian and the Australian Governments

Commitment to Child Safety

All children and young people who access UMFC Services have a right to feel and be safe and to be treated with respect. We are committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment and working towards the best interests of children and young people at all times.