Supporting Families – Shared Core Competencies

Loddon’s Children and Youth Area Partnership (CYAP) program finished on June 30, 2019. St Luke’s Innovative Resources is pleased to continue to make available the great work and thinking that took place developing core competencies to drive better outcomes for children, families and young people.

Loddon’s commitment to supporting families

Breaking the link between disadvantage and outcomes for children is complex.  Having high quality, accessible and culturally safe services is key to responding to the needs of children, young people and families who are experiencing vulnerability.  In addition to having a responsive system in place, in order to bring about long-term social change, we need to have strong and shared understanding of the drivers of vulnerability.  This knowledge needs to be widespread, spanning sectors and reaching leaders, practitioners and the community.

As a partnership we have committed to supporting our workforce, and where possible, our communities, to having access to vital information that will create a stronger system to drive better outcomes for our children, young people and families.

Our four areas of focus are:

  • Understanding trauma and brain development: understanding of brain science, and in particular the effect of trauma on brain development and behaviour and the impacts that can last throughout life.
  • Respecting culture and cultural differences: recognise and respect the cultural diversity in our community and is informed by an understanding of cultural history, difference, strengths, and safety and we use this to inform how we work.
  • Promoting social inclusion: including understanding the impact of poverty and other structural barriers to improved health and wellbeing for families, children and young people.
  • Sharing information and integrating our services: commitment to the appropriate and open sharing of information and the coordination of services to prevent harm and deliver optimum support.

Being skillful across the agreed four focus areas will assist us all to do our jobs better now and ensure we are well informed about possible pathways to reduce vulnerability into the future.

The partnership has developed assessment tools for organisations to identify policy and learning needs, along with fact sheets and other high-level information about each of the focus areas.  Information about suggested training and other useful resources is also available.

The information made available here will benefit any organisation or group committed to driving better outcomes for children, young people and families.

About Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership

The Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership drove collective effort to support vulnerable families and create better outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care.

The Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership was located in Central Victoria and comprised six local governments:

  • Campaspe Shire Council
  • Central Goldfields Shire Council
  • City of Greater Bendigo
  • Loddon Shire Council
  • Macedon Ranges Shire Council
  • Mount Alexander Shire Council

They were part of a Victorian whole-of-government collective impact initiative, a partnership with government, service providers, community and business to work better together to support our vulnerable children and young people, and their families.

Who was involved

The Partnership was led by a leadership group from 25 local agencies, including Victorian, local and commonwealth government, community and local services. This leadership group had senior representation from across education, health, community health, mental health, alcohol and other drug support, family violence services, youth partnerships, child protection, Victoria Police and early years services.

Leadership group

The Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership united leaders from government, local services, business and community. The leadership group met regularly to discuss the learnings from the work to date, to determine strategic opportunities and to identify measures to help meet targets.

Collective impact

The Area Partnerships work is informed by the Collective Impact framework to bring about effective and lasting social change. Collective impact is a structured approach to collaboration which brings together the whole system – families, communities, services, business and philanthropy and government – to understand and tackle complex social issues

Collective Impact has five core elements.

  • Common agenda: agreeing a shared vision for change and core strategies to achieve it, that reflect the aspirations of the local community.
  • Strategic learning and measurement: identifying opportunities for collecting data and evidence, strategic learning and evaluation as the work unfolds, to track progress and hold each other accountable.
  • Focus on high leverage strategies: concentrating the initiative’s effort on strategies which can have the biggest impact in the context of the partners’ collective knowledge, influence, networks and resources. Identifying when it is most effective for partners to align effort and collaborate or to test competing approaches to achieve the common agenda.
  • Community engagement and communication: being genuine, open and consistent with all involved to build broad ownership and commitment to the work. Recognising the right of those affected by an issue to participate in attempts to address it.
  • Backbone support: providing appropriate staff and resources to deliver the stewardship and infrastructure required to achieve community change. This includes resources to build a shared vision and strategy, mobilise funding, support learning and capability development and advance policy.

Why collective impact?

The Area Partnerships were established to address a complex problem – the vulnerability of children, young people and families in Victoria.

No one organisation or department can solve this challenge on their own. It requires a whole-of-government, whole-of-community response.

Leading experts suggest collaborative strategies – which focus on outcomes – are the most likely to succeed in addressing complex problems. Effective collaborative approaches engage beyond the usual suspects, draw on lived experience, use data to drive learning about what works, and are responsive to the local conditions in which people are born, develop, work, live, and age.

Collective impact continues to evolve

Collective Impact practitioners from across the world continue to evolve and refine this approach as they share their experiences and learning about what it takes in practice to achieve ongoing social change. For some of the latest thinking in Collective Impact, see this article from the Tamarack Institute:

Collective Impact 3.0 An Evolving Framework For Community Change Mark Cabaj and Liz Weaver 2016

Collective impact resources

  • The original Collective Impact article, by John Kania and Mark Kramer was published in the Standford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011.
  • Collaboration for Impact is an Australian community of practice that helps communities work better together to tackle their toughest problems.
  • Tamarack Institute (Canada)works with leaders in non-profits, governments, businesses and the community to make work of advancing positive community change easier and more effective.
  • FSG: Reimagining Social Change(US) is a mission-driven consulting firm for leaders in search of large-scale, lasting social change.



*** Understanding trauma and brain development

Why this is important 

The whole community benefits, economically and socially, when there is strong investment to ensure babies are born healthy and then supported to thrive (The Heckman Equation). The emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years are all important for success in school, the workplace, and in the larger community (Centre on the Developing Child). We now know that what occurs in a person’s first 1000 days of life can have lifelong effects.  Exposure to trauma during this critical period of development can have long-term effects on health and wellbeing. This starts even before birth (The First Thousand Days, An Evidence Paper, Sept 2017, Centre for Community Child Health).

A trauma-informed service system is one in which all aspects of service have been organised with an understanding of the role that trauma plays in the lives of their staff and the people they serve.  Working with people who have experienced trauma needs to be without judgement. A skilled and appropriately organised service system will minimise the risk of triggering trauma-related symptoms and will prevent further trauma.  By working together we can create a supportive and safe environment for all children, young people, families and staff.



Organisation and Staff self-assessment tools


*** Respecting culture and cultural differences

Why this is important

Koorie Cultures

Loddon Campaspe has a significant Koorie population with approximately 4% of our primary and secondary school students identifying as Aboriginal in 2017.  The Loddon Campaspe area includes country traditionally owned by several Aboriginal clans including the Dja Dja Wurrung, Yorta Yorta, Taungurung, Baraba Baraba and Wurundjeri.

We should not forget that Victorians from non-Koorie backgrounds have much to learn from Koorie communities. As the longest continuous culture in the world, Victoria’s Koorie communities have a considerable depth of knowledge and experience we can draw upon.” (Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026).

It is acknowledged that for Koorie children and families to receive necessary support we need to ensure services are inclusive, responsive and respectful, providing culturally safe environments and celebrating the cultural identity of Koorie children and young people.  (Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016-2026.)

There is evidence of a growing commitment to strengthening culturally appropriate responses but recent reviews have highlighted an urgent need to build this commitment.

The Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People reported in its work of Taskforce 1000 “countless examples of institutional racism, cultural ignorance and a failure to comply with legislation to ensure the protection of our children’s cultural rights.” (Commissioner for Children and Young People Annual Report 2016-17, p.5)

There continues to be a lack of understanding of Aboriginal inter-generational trauma and its impact on children and their families.

Services must better understand the importance of culture and identity in an Aboriginal child’s life. “ (Commissioner for Children and Young People Annual Report 2016-17 p. 28)

In 2014-15 the rate of Aboriginal children in Out of Home Care in Victoria was 71.5 per 1000 compared to 6.6 per 1000 for non Aboriginal children.  The Loddon Area Partnership is committed to contributing to turning these concerning statistics around by embedding a strong respect for Koorie cultures across its services.

Other cultures

Loddon Campaspe continues to enjoy growing diversity across many cultures.  We have a growing Sikh community and a strong Karen community, in addition to offering refuge to people escaping trauma from Afghanistan, Myanmar and South Sudan.  The Loddon Area Partnership recognises the benefits and contributions experienced in communities due to multiculturalism and is committed to ensuring our services are appropriate and respectful to children, young people and families from all cultures.


Organisation and Staff self-assessment tools

*** Social inclusion

Why is this important

As senior leaders and partners of the Area Partnership we are interested in strengthening our shared understanding of the barriers experienced by children and families leading the lives they want.  For children and young people to thrive they and their families need to experience connection (to family, friends, community), have access to learning and employment, have access to crisis and other support services and to be part of the decisions that impact on them (about themselves and the services they need).

Research demonstrates that those families that are most in need of child and family support services are also the least likely to use them (Centre for Community Child Health, 2010).  Traditionally services referred to some families as ‘difficult to engage’ whereas the evidence shows that it is the service system that creates barriers to participation. Collectively we can change this.

A common experience of social disadvantage is the feeling of not being heard (Peel, 2003). Children benefit from being listened to as valued citizens in their own right (Tranter & Pawson, 2001).  Involving service users in the decision making of organisations leads to more effective and sustainable services, ensuring the investment of additional time and effort pays off. (Briggs and Lenihan, Co-design: Toward a new service vision for Australia?, Public Administration Today, Jan-March 2011).

Often services view family difficulties and dysfunction as an intergenerational problem that is complex and difficult to break.  It may be worth considering that the way our services have traditionally been provided actually contributes to these difficulties.  This clearly puts the onus back on services to accept that it is not only families that need to change.”

Pritchard P, Purdon S, Chaplyn J, 2010: Moving Forward Together: a guide to support the integration of service delivery for children and families.


Organisation and Staff self-assessment tools

*** Collaborative practice

Why is this important

The Loddon Children and Youth Area Partnership members recognise that collaboration across sectors and organisations is essential in the provision of high quality, comprehensive support to children, young people and families experiencing vulnerability.  Collaboration involves multiple aspects, including respectfully and legally sharing information.

This is particularly evident in the safeguarding of children at risk of abuse or neglect.  The Commissioner for Children and Young People’s 2014–15 annual report found that of the 27 child death inquiry reports reviewed, 16 reports highlighted issues relating to service coordination, collaboration, communication, information sharing and lack of case conferencing between relevant services.1

There are barriers and complexities that can hinder practitioners working together ranging from legislation to organisational policy and culture, through to daily logistics of finding the time to collaborate with others or even knowing who to collaborate with and when.

Knowing what information to share and how is not straight forward and there is no one guideline or one standard training course that we can all commit to completing.  The landscape is changing as a result of key policy reforms including the implementation of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the continuous improvements being explored to prevent the abuse of children.

The learning that will occur across the Area Partnership as a consequence of the shared commitment to this competency will be a journey that involves senior leaders through to client-facing practitioners as we build our shared understanding and local agreements to ensure we are working in partnership in the best interests of children and young people.

1 DHHS, August 2017, Child Information Sharing Consultation Paper


Organisation and Staff self-assessment tools