Transcript for
Shared practice in the family violence sector

Runtime 00:29:47
Released 31/5/21

Narrator [00:02]: Welcome to the Emerging Minds podcast.

Dana Shen [00:11]: This podcast is part of a series called ‘Listening to the stories of healing’. Within the series, you will hear stories from community and the very diverse experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and how these narratives have shaped the amazing work that is happening in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. Here at Emerging Minds, we like to call it the Secret Garden, the stories and experiences that non-Aboriginal people don’t always get to see or hear.

Dana Shen [00:38]: Whilst these stories include sadness and hurts and sometimes can feel uncomfortable to listen to, it is through listening to these narratives that you will get a glimpse of the deep wisdom, knowledge and healing practices of families and communities, and understand why our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are part of the oldest continuing culture in the world.

Dana Shen [01:02]: Welcome everyone, this is Dana Shen, an Aboriginal cultural consultant working with Emerging Minds. Today, we are speaking with Diana Uribe and Auntie Colleen Lovegrove on their work with Kornar Winmil Yunti, also known as KWY. Auntie Colleen is a proud Ngarrindjeri woman, recently retired after 15 years in the field of domestic violence. Her recent role has been a caseworker at KWY. Diana is an accredited mental health social worker and former operations manager at KWY.

Dana Shen [01:34]: Thank you so much Aunt and Diana for speaking to me today. Before we get into the detail of understanding more about your work and how you work with children, I wondered if each of you could talk a little bit more about you and the work you’ve done in Aboriginal and domestic and family violence. Auntie Colleen, I wondered if you could start first.

Colleen Lovegrove [01:57]: I’m Colleen and I belong to the Ngarrindjeri people. I’ve worked in the domestic and family violence sector for many years. I have extensive experience in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women. I worked for Ninko Kurtangga Patpangga, the Aboriginal, secured site for Aboriginal women and children, also in the generic sector for domestic violence. I’ve been working with KWY for close to four years now in the Northern hub team for families who experienced domestic and family violence.

Dana Shen [02:33]: Thanks so much, Aunt, you’ve got a wealth of experience. We’re so looking forward to hearing more from you today. Diana, so now can you tell us a bit about you, you and your experience in working in the Aboriginal and domestic family violence space?

Diana Uribe [02:47]: Thank you, Dana. My name is Diana Uribe. I’m from Columbia, so I completed my master’s in social work in 2017 at Flinders University. I have work in early childhood disability and social services sector for over 10 years. This included providing clinical expertise for working with children, young people and adults and their families with multiple mental health issues, such as psychosis, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, suicidal issues, and risk of harm to others.

Diana Uribe [03:22]: Through KWY, I worked providing direct ongoing therapeutic and complex case management support to children and young people who have social and emotional, or wellbeing difficulties. This including children who has been exposed to family and domestic violence, trauma and abuse, removal from the family, substance misuse, unresolved grief and loss, family break down, social discrimination and racism.

Dana Shen [03:51]: So, I wonder now if we can have a chat about the KWR model or family work. Auntie Colleen, I wonder if you could start just by giving us a bit of a rundown of how that model looks, how does it operate here?

Colleen Lovegrove [04:05]: Well, KWY, through its holistic family support hubs, monitors, the safety of women and children. The hub model aims to reduce family violence within the family, prevent children from entering out of home care, help family to make sustainable change, to reduce violence and increase safety, provide coordinated responses to address the complex needs of families, provide a flexible approach to meet the needs of individual families and promotes the safety of all family members.

Dana Shen [04:41]: Aunt, can you talk a bit more about what the individual workers do in this model?

Colleen Lovegrove [04:47]: I think the key for the success with KWY with our families is that each member is supported within the hub model. Children, men, and women within the family unit have their own worker. It’s not a one worker per family or one worker for an individual, we’re actually working in a holistic way, which I find is very successful. And when we receive a referral as a team, we make arrangements to do initial home visit with the family, to introduce ourselves. At the initial visit, we give an explanation of the KWY service and how we work as a team. This is then when the consent forms are normally signed, before leaving. We leave a KWY information pamphlet with them and inform them of our next time visit or outreach appointment, whichever the client prefers. On the morning of every home visit, we will contact the client to confirm the visit before leaving.

Colleen Lovegrove [05:50]: KWY doesn’t have a cutoff point as well. We will continue working with the family until they feel they no longer need a service. It’s up to the clients how long we support them. And I find that’s really good. A lot of services do have a cut off point for many reasons. And as a worker, I’m always respectful and patient. I normally don’t like writing notes while I’m with a client. Sometimes I need to dot point a couple of things as a reminder, but I’ll always ask permission first. And I usually make a joke of it, old age. And they usually have a bit of a giggle and give you permission. KWY support workers engage with clients twice a week, wherever they feel more comfortable, whether that be in their homes or at a park, cafe, clients engage better in their safe space, rather than in a clinical setting.

Colleen Lovegrove [06:46]: We have three workers per family, a men’s worker, women’s worker and a youth worker. While I’m supporting the woman, our men’s worker simultaneously works with the perpetrator in a separate space for confidentiality reasons. And so that the woman can open up more to us, that no one else is around to hear. There’s no consequences after we leave, that sort of thing. Our youth worker would normally have this, the therapy sessions within the children’s school in confidential space. The ability to share information between workers within each hub allows a real time, instant response. Our aim is to improve the safety of women and children by providing specialised knowledge and culturally appropriate services to break the cycle of domestic violence and stem the flow of Aboriginal children into the child protection system across Australia.

Dana Shen [07:43]: And, Aunt, I think one of the things that was really important about what you said is that there are different workers for different members of the family, and as the staff work together with that family, around that family. You picked up on the role of the youth worker. And I know that also includes working with younger children as well. Diana, I wondered if you could talk more about the role of the worker that works with the child in this context?

Diana Uribe [08:09]: I think it’s very important to highlight that before working with children, it’s very important to get in as much information about the child before engaging with the child or the young person. This can be through the family, or if appropriate through the family, through the school, or the services involved, DCP or mental health services. This information, we normally do it through the women’s worker and the men’s worker through our multidisciplinary team meeting. Sometimes we actually do come to the meetings, the initial meetings with mom and dad, or the carers, where we actually get information about what has been happening with the child, the young person through a series of mapping tools.

Diana Uribe [08:53]: So we use some mapping tools for early stages, just to focus on what is the risk and protective factors around the child. Once we identify those risks and why we identified the protective factors, we can start to work with a child, with a young person. But we do want to get as much information from the young person, the child, before we actually continue to service. There are a number of things that are very important to think about it before commencing any support.

Diana Uribe [09:23]: So one of the things is the environment, how it’s going to look like. So obviously we’re working with children under 12. We normally provide through school, again, because it’s a safe place. We don’t provide the therapeutic support at home because with his family around and things like that. So we normally provide a one-on-one support at school, if he’s under 12. And then after that, for older children, we pick them up at school or high school, and then we normally ask them, where is their safe place they normally would like to go to have that therapeutic support? This can be in a community centre. Sometimes it can be a school. I have found a lot of young people, they don’t want other people see them receiving that support at school. So some of them actually ask you to take them to the beach to have that conversation, to talk about what’s going on at home and in their lives.

Diana Uribe [10:12]: Another thing that is very important is the parents’ engagement. That is actually really, really important when working with children or young people, if there’s no parent engagement and obviously they won’t be engaging. Sometimes I just come with the women’s worker, I’ll wait outside when the women’s worker is with the mum, and you can see the young people and even children, they started to see you coming every week, you stay outside, you just say hello, but you’re always there. And then as the time pass, they start to see, okay, I actually trust her because my mamma trusts the women’s worker. So if that women’s worker and the men’s worker are providing support to my parents, I might want to know what’s going on. I want to be a part of this as well.

Diana Uribe [10:54]: With the young people, sometimes that can be up to six months. Waiting for that is building that trust, building a trust in young people and in children, because for them, even if they are in the middle of the family and domestic violence, for them safe place is home. They’re scared that I’m coming there to remove them from mom and dad. So I guess that that is something that we, as a practitioner, do take into account. When building rapport with a kid, there is a lot of things that are, I think I have lived through the years, working with Aboriginal people, cultural supervision and cultural consultants, there is some things that I’m always mindful when I’m working with young people and children, and those ones are I’m very aware of the language and my behaviour, obviously in a way that I’m not causing more shame, that I’m not re-traumatising the child, or the young person.

Diana Uribe [11:50]: And I’m very genuine. I try to be as genuine as I can, with the mom, with the dad for example. When I’m in the initial stages, we gain information through some mapping tools with the mom and the dad. So I’m genuine, I really want to let them know and show them that I want to know about the child. And I also have learned to give time for silence as well. That’s I think is something really important. Because as well as it works with adults, it’s exactly the same with children. Sometimes they just don’t like to talk, that’s okay as well. Another thing that I think is very important is acknowledging that sharing information is a two-way process. So I always share a little bit about myself and my journey. Like you said, I’m from Columbia, but I also have a journey. So I’m an indigenous woman from Columbia as well.

Diana Uribe [12:35]: So I chat a little bit about that and I chat a little bit about my traditions. And even though there might be some similarities and some not, but this is who I am. I think that it’s really powerful when you work with children and young people. And again, as I said, as a non-aboriginal worker, I think I do take into account the knowledge that I receive from Aboriginal colleagues, from my cultural supervision. So I attended a cultural supervision. And if, for example, I’m working with a young person, or a child, is from the lands, so I make sure that I have a cultural consultant from the lands to give me that information.

Dana Shen [13:11]: Auntie Colleen, is there anything that you want to add on?

Colleen Lovegrove [13:14]: Usually the child worker, the men’s worker and the women’s worker will talk together. Well, the children aren’t right, there’s things going wrong at school. What’s happened? Has anything happened at home with the parents? I might say, “Well, she’s actually told me everything’s good.” And the men’s worker might say, “Well, he stated this has happened and this has happened.” So each one of them are indicators to us whether something’s flowing right, or whether something’s going wrong. And we can investigate that a bit more. Usually children are a great indicator of that around their behaviours.

Dana Shen [13:50]: And as you’re talking, I’m getting that sense that you as workers have to move with the ebb and flow of the family you’re working with, and the individuals you’re working with, and you have to do it in a way where they can continue to trust you at every step of the way. It seems like a really challenging type of work to do, but also much more holistic.

Colleen Lovegrove [14:16]: I think deep listening is the key, and leaving space for silence sometimes too. This gives the clients reassurance you are taking in their story and being respectful. I do a women’s check-in at every home visit. And that’s just a form of how they’re feeling, how they feel about their culture, how they’re feeling about their living arrangements. It’s only a few questions, but it gives us a whole insight into what’s going on with the client each week. And this document will indicate to me if I need to investigate and discuss a concern if the score was very low in that. We also do, our workers checkout with them. And this is to let us know whether we are meeting the needs of the client. And if I don’t get 10, 10, 10, I’m going to ask, “Where does she think I’m going wrong? What more can I help her with?”

Colleen Lovegrove [15:13]: This gives me an indication I need to be working on a certain area. So it’s good for the worker to know these things. I will do a women’s safety analysis as well, and that will be done every four to six weeks, unless circumstances change of course, and then I will do it sooner. I do a case plan with every client and I empower the client to take a lead in their own care process to make sustainable change goals moving forward for their future. I will do a safety plan with a client for their current situation, also, if a situation changes and a client needs to leave. In the case where there is a pet, I will also do a safety plan for the pet. And the reason I have a safety plan for the pet is many women won’t escape a volatile situation and leave a pet behind.

Colleen Lovegrove [16:04]: I also give my clients all after hours emergency numbers in case something happens when our worker’s not around or can’t be contacted during the day. I’m not a well-being practitioner but I always make sure every client has literature on grief and loss, anxiety, and panic attacks to help them when a practitioner isn’t with them. And there’s certain exercises on that literature for them to do to bring themselves out of anxiety and panic attacks. And look, every practitioner works differently. Some of the other activities I will do is a genogram, I’ll do an activity with a client called the tree of life which is an extension of the genogram. I’ll also do a negative positive tree, which is a bit of an art form, same as the tree of life. And this helps with your case plan.

Colleen Lovegrove [16:55]: I have made up a document myself, which I call the relationship document, which I leave with the clients to fill out in their own time over a couple of weeks, as it has several pages. This document is a memory jogger of the good times and the good things in their relationship. This jogs their memories back to good times and good things in their relationship.

Dana Shen [17:18]: And as you’re talking, I’m getting that sense that you as workers have to move with the ebb and flow of the family you’re working with and the individuals you’re working with, and you have to do it in a way where they can continue to trust you at every step of the way. It seems like a really challenging type of work to do really, but also much more holistic and working with the whole.

Colleen Lovegrove [17:45]: Yeah, the longer you work with them, the more and more they trust you around their confidentiality. They know that things are getting corrected without us revealing that they actually informed us of that. So we’re not actually letting the other member of the family know that this had been revealed to us. We do it in a way where we can have that therapeutic session around that issue without them knowing that it was actually revealed. And it doesn’t break their confidence in you, if you know what I mean.

Dana Shen [18:18]: One of the issues that we understand can happen at different times is that you will see violence in families where children can be involved in that. Diana, I just wondered if you could talk a bit more about how you work with that in that context.

Diana Uribe [18:33]: So, yeah, I’ve worked with children who has used violence, siblings. So the model is very flexible. In these specific cases, we try to provide one-on-one support in one week. And then the second week we try to provide group support. So we have a series of group programs that we run for the young people. And one of them is the respect sister girls. For example, if you see two sisters that are fighting, they’re fighting each other. So we provide that group support for them along with the one on one therapeutic support.

Dana Shen [19:07]: That’s great. So the aim of this is trying to work with the needs of the individual, but also how people come together and ensuring that you build a positive, or work towards a positive dynamic.

Diana Uribe [19:18]: So if you’re developing a group work with children, you can actually start to see the interactions between each other, and you can actually address them in that moment. It’s a really great opportunity to talk about safety, it’s a real opportunity to talk about and build the emotional literacy.

Dana Shen [19:35]: As I listen to both of you, you are really talking about how, as a team, you work with a system of people, you’ve got the family system. And in that system, you have individuals that you work with. So there’s quite a lot of complexity in the work that you do across the board. What, in your point of view, do you feel are some of the greatest challenges in doing this kind of work?

Colleen Lovegrove [20:01]: Well, there’s many challenges, a worker will come across the vast array of challenges. Look, it could be substance abuse, it could be children in care. It could be excessive gambling. It could be financial. If I’m unable to help clients in certain areas, I’ll actually refer on to a specialist that specialises in that area to help the clients. Normally, when we refer on to somebody else, they’ll always report back to us how that’s going so we can keep encouraging the client. But yeah, if there’s anything we try and deal with all issues. But if there’s a particular area that we’re not succeeding in, or we can’t help as much as we’ve liked to, we’ll then refer on to someone who specialises in that area.

Dana Shen [20:47]: And how about you, Diana? Are there things that you’ve experienced as real challenges in that work? Any kind of difficulties, things that you’ve faced?

Diana Uribe [20:55]: Yeah. So I think one of the challenges that, when working with children or young people is the parenting, the parent’s engagement. So if the parents are not engaging, obviously that will fracture that relationship in the sense that we won’t be able to engage with the children or young people.

Dana Shen [21:12]: I also wondered, from your point of view, as an Aboriginal woman, what needs to be in a service for it to be safe for our people? I wondered on your thoughts about that.

Colleen Lovegrove [21:22]: Look, KWY isn’t all Aboriginal workers. We have white workers, we have workers from different countries here. They all go through the KWY training and there’s several training sessions for all.

Dana Shen [21:35]: Thanks, Aunt. So Diana, as a Colombian woman, who’s indigenous working with Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, what have you learned in terms of what’s important about creating competent spaces, culturally competent spaces, culturally appropriate spaces and services?

Diana Uribe [21:52]: I think it’s very important as a practitioner to be on ongoing training around protocols. About as well understanding own values and their beliefs. They do guide our practise because this is how we are. So it’s very important as a practitioner to recognise our own values and beliefs, and they don’t influence the way we work with a client. It’s very important to, I think to reduce any cultural misunderstanding, I really, really use cultural consultants. This is really, really important. I guess attending only cultural supervision is also very important. And when you’re working with, for example, in my case, I’m working with females and males, boys and girls, I guess that is very important to have those different views because there is agenda differences in there.

Diana Uribe [22:46]: So we’ll have one month, for example, the cultural consultant with a female, and then I will have with an Auntie and then I will be with an Uncle in another month. So I guess that cultural competence is something that you are always, you are building because Aboriginal community is very rich. You might be working with someone from the Kaurna land but it’s completely different from working with a Ngarrindjeri person. So I guess that the more information that you can get, the more you can’t assume, you can’t assume when you’re working with a client because they’re Aboriginal, you’re working, oh yeah, I know the protocols. Their protocols are completely different and you need to acknowledge that.

Colleen Lovegrove [23:26]: Just to add to that, for healing and change to occur, there needs to be reconnection to our culture, community traditions, reconstructed through yarning, song, dance, art, weaving, fishing, and sometimes just spending time on country. It helps re-invigorate our culture, our ways. This helps us connect to self, to family, to community. And we’re very fortunate with KWY that we have an AOD practitioner, we have a well-being practitioner and we have a cultural consultant. We have a cultural person who… We have some clients that are disconnected from their Aboriginality, they feel disconnected. They may have been removed as a child and they’re over 18 now, they’re back out there on their own. They don’t feel like they belong to the Western world and they know they’re Aboriginal, but they don’t feel connected. They’re feeling totally disconnected. They don’t know anything about their culture, their language.

Colleen Lovegrove [24:34]: Sometimes they don’t know a lot about their own family. So we do have one particular case at this particular stage, which this has happened to. We’ve brought in someone who’s very culturally appropriate, Uncle Moogi, who has sessions with this person once a week and is informing them of their culture, their history, dance, weaving. I know that we’ve given her books on her traditional weaving and art, and we do storytelling with her. And she almost jumps our arms when she sees us at the front of her house, because she’s so thirsty for her own culture and for connection.

Colleen Lovegrove [25:17]: And that’s really, really important. With this particular family we’ve gone as far as we can with our casework, with this person, the family is on a good road now and moving forward, but we’re keeping up the cultural support for her because there’s a lot more of that that needs to make this person feel whole again and connected. So we’re very fortunate that we have different practitioners within the same organisation that can really come together and help people and families or individuals and families that are supported by KWY.

Dana Shen [25:57]: Great, Aunt, thanks.

Diana Uribe [25:58]: Going back to the cultural competence for non Aboriginal practitioners, something that I really think is very important and I have learned over the years is to have someone to vouch for you in the community as well. So you can say that you have worked in an Aboriginal Organisation but it’s also good to say with who and who in the community actually vouched your practice. Uncles, Aunties actually can vouch for you. And the other thing is as well to make sure that you use culturally appropriate mapping tools or assessments when you’re working with your client. That is very, very important because we want to, obviously a lot of mainstream mapping tools opens to bias and as a known Aboriginal practitioner I always make sure that I use culturally appropriate tools as well.

Dana Shen [26:44]: So I wondered now, if both of you could share some of the successes that you feel you have had in working with families in this space and what’s made them most successful.

Colleen Lovegrove [26:58]: I feel the hub model, it being a holistic model within the family helps significantly change for the success of every family. I believe because each person has an individual worker and we’re all working together, and because workers are debriefing all the time, we’re all working towards that one goal for the success of this family. But really, I believe that clients have their own successes. If they really want to make change, they will take on board the tools you’re giving them and they will take on the information, the guidance, the direction that you give them, and they will succeed. We’ve had some significant successes within KWY.

Dana Shen [27:42]: Great. Thanks so much, Aunt. Diana, yeah, have you got any final words to say in regards to successes, things that you felt have been a success for you or a success for children and families?

Diana Uribe [27:53]: We also have, again, our young people that, I guess that want Auntie said, if the parents engage and the parents actually engage with the program, that is, as well as it is, it would be affecting successfully for the children as well, because we can provide that therapeutic support because the children will engage as well. So I have had young people with drugs, substance abuse, who are within the program and when they heard it was going to be closed, they completely stopped engage.

Diana Uribe [28:27]: So I think very important. I think that it works with young people and they still look into why they’re interested in their goals and making sure that they do follow through, making sure that supporting them so they can follow. So if a young person asks you for support, always, always be open to offer it. And if a young person said to me, “I’m not ready now,” that’s okay. We will talk about it or we will address that goal that you want to achieve.

Dana Shen [28:55]: Thank you so much, Diana and Auntie Colleen, it was an absolute delight hearing about your work and it’s always wonderful to be with both of you. So thank you so much.

Colleen Lovegrove [29:02]: You’re most welcome.

Diana Uribe [29:04]: Thank you, Dana, for inviting us.

Dana Shen [29:08]: Thank you for joining us in our podcast series, Listening to Stories of Healing.

Narrator [29:18]: Visit our website at www.emergingminds.com.au to access a range of resources to assist your practice. Brought to you by The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, led by Emerging Minds, The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health is funded by the Australian government, Department of Health, under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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