Monthly Archives: September 2015

NAPCAN offers timely advice on early intervention

Early intervention, particularly before the damage is too difficult to repair, was a very strong message at a recent NAPCAN breakfast attended by Relationships Australia staff.

A message that poignantly addresses the issue of family violence and child abuse in Australia and one that is particularly relevant to one of Relationships Australia’s own programs on the Tiwi Islands.

RANT at breakfast

Speaking at an event in early September, key note speaker Sue Rayment-McHugh, clinical manager of Griffith Youth Forensic Service (GYFS) at Griffith University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in Brisbane, spoke about her extensive experience in the sexual abuse and youth justice fields, including the assessment and treatment of adolescents who have committed sexual offences as well as having worked clinically with victims of child sexual abuse, adult perpetrators of sexual abuse and with children presenting with sexual behaviour problems.

‘’It is time for us to really think about the importance of preventing childhood sexual abuse, to think about the significant worldwide impact of violence on the development of children.

“We all have a responsibility in preventing future harm and its time we started to get serious about prevention, by creating safer homes and communities for children and in order to do this, we need a comprehensive prevention plan,” Ms Rayment-McHugh said.

Using an example from the GYFS ‘’Neighbourhoods’’ project where sexual abuse towards minors occurs in a remote Queensland community, Ms Rayment-McHugh explained how the GYFS team identified contributing factors as reduced parental capacity (as a result of endemic family violence, alcohol and substance abuse) and found that abuse occurred most commonly in a home environment.

Food at the breakfast

The GYFS team also identified an urban centre in Queensland where sexual abuse towards minors occurs. The contributing factors at that site were completely different however as the abuse was occurring peer-to-peer, mostly in public spaces. The approach, Ms Rayment-McHugh explained, varied for each location.

In the case of the remote location, emphasis was placed on Parental Education (in conjunction with the local childcare centre) and Community Mobility (an open, whole-of-community discussion which clearly articulates the rules and standards and details exactly which behaviours are acceptable)

In the case of the urban location, an emphasis was placed on safety in schools (through the Teachers Project, which trains teachers to take on the role of an employed guardian) and public spaces (through a dedicated police patrol with a sole focus of guardianship of children in public spaces). Crime prevention though environmental design also played a role in improving the safety of both schools and public spaces.

‘’Developmental prevention involves the organised provision of resources in some fashion to individuals, families, schools or communities to forestall the later development of crime or other problems.

Doing something about this type of crime early, preferably before the damage is too hard to repair or crime becomes entrenched, strikes most people as a logical approach to crime prevention. The twin challenges of course are to identify exactly what it is in individuals, families, schools or communities that increase the odds of involvement in crime, and then to do something useful about the identified conditions as early as possible,” she said.

Relationships Australia NT recently received funding from Prime Minister and Cabinet for the Healing Our Children project on the Tiwi Islands. The project was conceived by RANT’s remote Aboriginal Children and Family Workers to build the capacity of strong women in the community to work with young pregnant women and mothers to keep their children safe from violence.

The Healing Our Children project is similar in identifying that in many communities in the NT, much of the abuse occurs in the home and is related to parenting, alcohol and substance abuse.

The program aims to stop the cycle of trauma affecting children as a result of early exposure to domestic and family violence and offers support for women with children who have witnessed or are at risk of exposure to domestic and family violence.

Adopting a similar theory of early intervention, support is offered at the earliest possible time, ideally when women are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or already have babies and toddlers. The project is lead by strong women in the communities who use aboriginal imagery to explain the effects of trauma on children’s brains, behaviour and learning capacity, and addresses the concerns for the need to keep children safe from domestic and family violence so that they can grow up into strong and healthy adults.

For more information on the Healing Our Children program refer to our website at
eddie and lucy breakfast

Guest Blog – Impressions of the Territory, September 2015

The Relationships Australia National Executive Officer, Alison Brook recently visited the Territory, before she left we asked her about her impressions of the NT.

Was this your first time to the Territory?

No, I’ve now visited Darwin and Alice Springs (and privately to Uluru and surrounds) many times.


What was your first impression?

My original impression of Darwin – when I first visited RA-NT in 2010 – was “how on EARTH do people survive in this humidity?” and “I think I’m going to die!”

Of course this contrasts with my recent July visit – my first during the dry season – in which I thought “I’m never getting back on that plane!”  It was heaven!


You visited the Tiwi Islands – do you see similarities in the issues people face in these communities compared to Canberra or indeed nationally?

 I did visit the Tiwis – a real privilege.  I think the issues in Tiwi – and other remote Aboriginal communities – are different from what I’ve observed and learned about other communities we work with around the country.

The remoteness adds so much pressure, in terms of costs, availability of goods, accessibility to social services, justice, employment opportunities etc.  I’m still processing what I learned.  I’m still scared of the crocs.


What stood out the most about the people you met on the Tiwis?

The people I met struck me for their heart, their generosity, their compassion and their humour.  As I say, I felt really privileged to have spent a day in the company of Lisa and her marvellous team.

What learnings did you take away from the Territory?

I always take away something from the NT.  I learn different things from the Centre than I do from Darwin and surrounds.

I think the issues I learned about with the fabulous RA team on the Tiwis were at the top of the list this year, but I also had a fabulous lunch with Robyn and the CEOs of NTCOSS and Anglicare NT.  I couldn’t believe our meeting had finished – the time just flew.  I could have listened to their reflections all day.


 The other thing I always take away is an appreciation for the beauty and majesty of the NT landscapes and gratitude that I live in such a diverse, wild, beautiful country.


Thanks Alison we look forward to seeing you up north again soon.