27 September 2023

Our carers and staff led four sessions in front of a record number of delegates.

Image: Life Without Barriers carers and staff standing together at the National Foster and Kinship Carer Conference 2023, Hobart.

Life Without Barriers was pleased to welcome 31 carers from across the country, together with support staff and presenters to the National Foster and Kinship Carer Conference 2023 held in Hobart, Lutruwita (Tasmania) over the weekend.

The conference provided a wonderful opportunity to network with sector colleagues, carers, and Life Without Barriers staff and be inspired by sector experts to deliver great services to the children and young people in care, their carers and the families that we support. Our carers, together with staff from our Child, Youth and Family (CYF) team, led four sessions in front of a record number of delegates. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we have recapped them below.

  • Yarning together: led by Leoni Lippitt, Michelle Watson, Grant Williams, Veronica Marin, Angela and Mathew Gownes.

  • Wellbeing and Culture: led by Tanisha Nair.

  • Trauma: led by Tracey Ashton, Rachael Dean and Deb Bills.

  • Mental Health: Fostering better mental health led by Róisín Tanzey, Nicky Osborne and Rebecca Pettit.

Yarning Together: Embracing Culture and Connection

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation titled Yarning Together. The dynamic team from CYF QLD, including Leoni Lippitt, Michelle Watson, Grant Williams, and Veronica Marin, alongside carers Angela and Mathew Gownes, took the stage. Their presentation revolved around the importance of enhancing staff and carer capacity to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Leoni Lippitt, a proud Torres Strait Islander woman, spoke to the importance of cultural education and her role as the Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement & Development Coordinator in Queensland for Life Without Barriers.

Grant Williams, a Kombumerri and Mununjai man, shared his nearly two decades of experience in the Child Protection field, emphasising the significance of cultural support.

Michelle Watson, a proud Kamilaroi Woman, discussed her journey and the importance of community engagement.

The Gownes, foster carers who have been caring for a young child for three years with Life Without Barriers, highlighted the importance of building strong relationships with families and learning from their culture.

Veronica Marin, the Manager of Program Implementation for the CARE model at Life Without Barriers, brought her extensive experience to the table.

Their collective message was clear: cultural respect and understanding are essential when caring for children from diverse backgrounds. They showcased the CARE practice model and the need to adapt and co-design resources that promote culturally respectful relationships.

Image: From the left: Grant, Michelle, Veronica, Leoni, Matthew and Ange stand together after their Yarning session

Wellbeing and Culture: Fostering Inclusivity

Tanisha Nair, a Child and Family Practitioner with Life Without Barriers in Logan, Southeast Queensland, spoke to Wellbeing and Culture. She emphasised the significance of caring for children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Tanisha, herself from a CALD background, drew attention to the lack of readily available statistics and facts regarding these children's cultural needs.

Her presentation provided valuable insights into what foster and kinship carers can do to create a positive cultural experience for children from CALD backgrounds. She also stressed the importance of departmental and agency staff's role in assisting carers in meeting these needs and addressing unconscious bias.

"I presented on caring for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children and have loved connecting with workers and carers from across the country down here in Hobart," Tanisha said.

"It’s been amazing to hear everyone’s stories and share my knowledge!"

Tanisha's personal journey and expertise in assisting carers in embracing elements of culture resonated with the audience. Her words were met with appreciation and applause, and participants left with a renewed commitment to inclusivity in their caregiving roles.

Image: Tanisha is wearing a light blue dress and stands in front of a board that says 'Culturally Caring'

Strengthening Family Relationships with Family Time Coaching

The power of family time coaching was showcased in a presentation by Tracey Ashton, Rachael Dean, and Mara Penna. This facilitated panel discussion was titled Strengthening Family Relationships with Family Time Coaching. Panel members Rachael Dean, and Mara Penna shared their insights and experiences of family time coaching and emphasised its importance for children in care.

Life Without Barriers' Family Time Coaching Program, grounded in evidence and co-designed with input from staff, parents, and carers, challenges traditional practices and prioritises the well-being and safety of children during family time.

With over a decade of experience as the chairperson for the Family Inclusion Network of South Australia and currently employed as a Parent Peer Worker with Life Without Barriers, Rachael Dean provided valuable insights into why parents and children benefit from a coached and supported approach to family time.

“I was nervous being a parent with lived experience of the child protection system around all the foster carers at the conference." Said Rachael.

"However, they received our presentation well. Overall I think it was a very positive response to our message on family time coaching.”

Mara Penna, the Operations Manager of Life Without Barriers, Family Reunification Service, described the current implementation of the Family Time Coaching Program in the service.

Tracey Ashton, a Senior Project Officer in Stride at Life Without Barriers, provided the audience with the background for developing Family Time Coaching and facilitated the 30-minute panel discussion.

Image: Tracey Ashton, Rachael Dean, Deb Bills, and Mara Penna stand together after their presentation.

Fostering Better Mental Health

'Mental Health: Fostering Better Mental Health' was led by Róisín Tanzey, Nicky Osborne, and Rebecca Pettit from the Youth and Family Mental Health Services team at CYF TAS. They discussed the Fostering Better Mental Health project, which aimed to equip Tasmanian Foster and Kinship Carers with specialist knowledge and skills to support children and young people's mental health and well-being.

Nicky Osborne, with 20 years of experience, leads the Tasmanian Youth and Family Mental Health Services teams at Life Without Barriers. Róisín Tanzey, with 7 years of experience, spearheaded the Fostering Better Mental Health project. Rebecca Pettit spoke about her expertise as a clinician in the #synergy Youth Mental Health service at Life Without Barriers.

The project focused on providing tailored training for carers, covering topics such as trauma, self-harm, and burnout. It also introduced Emotion Coaching as a strategy for positive mental health and well-being. The results were outstanding, with 70% of carers reporting improvement in their mental health and well-being skills, knowledge, or confidence.

Image: Róisín Tanzey, Nicky Osborne and Rebecca Pettit presenting.

As well as hearing from Life Without Barriers staff and carers, attendees met with National Children's Commissioner, Anne Holland who spoke about the importance of recognising the need for continued focus of support to foster and kinship carers.

She also shared her thoughts on the importance of the voice of the child in all that we do.

"It is of vital importance that we take action on the voice and insights of children and young people, who often report to me in my role as Commissioner, that the one thing they ask of the Prime Minister is 'to do something with what we've told you."

Image: Paul Cairn, Life Without Barriers, stands with The Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, centre at the Gala Dinner

The conference ended on a fun note with a Gala Dinner, a heartwarming celebration of foster and kinship carers from across Australia. It provided an opportunity for attendees to mingle, enjoy performances, and build stronger connections.

Life Without Barriers was proud to be a Silver Sponsor of this remarkable event, and we were honoured to have sponsored a space at the National Foster and Kinship Carer Conference. It was a chance to connect with hundreds of carers and workers from around the country, all dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children and young people. The sense of unity and shared purpose that permeated the conference left everyone inspired and motivated to continue their crucial work.

Image: Life Without Barriers staff and carers at the Gala Dinner.

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