The Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Zed Seselja, recently spent time visiting our partner community in the Opportunity Child initiative, the Sanderson Alliance, during a trip to Darwin.
The purpose of the visit was to provide the Minister with rich context around the value of using a collective impact approach to achieving positive social change, particularly in the context of early childhood disadvantage.
During the visit, the Assistant Minister met with the Sanderson Alliance team at the Wulagi Family Centre, which provides an example of an early stage integrated service delivery hub. The Minister also connected via Skype to speak with members of the Strong Kids, Strong Centre initiative in Alice Springs, which was formed by community members committed to improving the health, wellbeing, education and prospects of the young Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in the area. These two initiatives make up the NT Collective, supported by Opportunity Child.
During a presentation to the Assistant Minister and his advisors by a team of Sanderson Alliance representatives and supporters, Smith Family Program Coordinator Jacinta Chartres outlined the need for social policy that continues beyond government funding cycles.
“For a long time now, governments have developed initiatives based on what worked in other places, based on data from other countries, with a view that one size fits all,” Jacinta said.
“Those initiatives are given a three to four-year funding cycle – if no tangible results are gained in that time, then we move on to another initiative. This completely ignores the importance of relationship building, particularly with collective cultures such as Indigenous Australians.”
Backbone leader of the Logan Together initiative in Queensland, Matthew Cox, who joined the presentation as a representative of Opportunity Child, illustrated a number of details about the collective impact approach that the NT Collective are implementing, along with five other initiatives around the country in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
Jacinta Chartres further explained: “Our collective impact approach continues beyond funding cycles because the members are deeply committed to the children of Sanderson. They see that the situation for some of these children is dire and the current ways of working in silos doesn’t provide long-term, positive outcomes.”
“We are now seeing intergenerational trauma in families and real change can only be generated from cross-sectoral buy-in – no more division and competition between sectors.”
During the presentation, Sanderson Alliance backbone leader Karen Cieri described the community context of Sanderson Alliance and why they are using a collective impact approach. Principal of Wulagi Primary School, Susan Kilgour, then explained how the recent ABC Four Corners report on the abuse of children in the Don Dale Detention Centre, which houses a number of children from the Sanderson area, has made all those involved determined to work – with the local community leading the way – to tackle the root causes of early childhood disadvantage.
Karen Cieri gave one example of how the Sanderson Alliance are starting to do this: through the Kind and Brave 100-day challenge, a targeted community initiative focused on positive relationships. They are halfway through the challenge and have started to see some good early results, including: a wonderful response to the Inaugural Sanderson Art Awards; the informing of curriculum in schools; the provision of local training in trauma informed practices; and working with Charles Darwin University on the establishment of baseline data on family cohesion, social capital and student well-being.
Via a Skype presentation to the Minister and his advisors, a team from Strong Kids Strong Centre also talked briefly through how their work is based on the continuous development and nurturing of strong, trusting community and cross-sectoral relationships in Alice Springs, in order to enable an intergenerational, population level shift for young people in the region.
The team, all from the Braitling School in Alice Springs which is a demonstration site for Strong Kids, Strong Centre, included Principal Belinda Pearson, Assistant Principal Kerrie Russell, School Board Chair Amanda Salter, student leader Danae Moore and Year 6 student Lilly Mentha.
The students described some of their positive perceptions of the Braitling School, and Belinda Pearson gave a virtual tour of the significant recent upgrade to their school facilities. The team also provided further detail about the huge program of community consultation they launched earlier this year, which sparked considerable community participation and resulted in a comprehensive new five-year plan for the initiative.
Following the presentation by the Sanderson Alliance and the Skype conversation with representatives of the Strong Kids, Strong Centre initiative, the response from the Minister and his staff was positive.
Sanderson Alliance, Strong Kids, Strong Centre (as the NT Collective in Opportunity Child) and the entire national Opportunity Child initiative invite the Minister and other members of State, Territory and Federal Government to continue to engage with us and our collective impact work as we strive to positively impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable children across Australia.
More on the Sanderson Alliance
Sanderson Alliance is a growing collective that has been in operation for 12 months and, so far, includes the seven government schools in the suburbs of Malak, Karama, Anula and Wulagi and the agencies that work with them including The Smith Family, Save the Children, Red Cross, Goodstart Early Learning, Corrugated Iron Youth Arts and Charles Darwin University.
More on Strong Kids, Strong Centre
Strong Kids, Strong Centre is a whole of community initiative to work together to make sure all Alice Springs kids have access to the best opportunities in life. The initiative is committed to working together differently across suburbs, cultures, organisations and sectors so that all Alice Springs kids receive the best start in order to grow into thriving adults. They focus on children in the 0 – 4 age group, a critical stage where the foundations for life are laid.
Dr Amalie Finlayson
Director of Communication, Opportunity Child
P: 0421 412 871