Empowering Remote Communities To Realise Every Child's Potential

Date: 09 September 2021 

In May, Sony Foundation partnered with Royal Far West to host our first ‘Children’s Holiday Camp, In A Safe Place’ supporting three remote communities across the Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia. 50 Indigenous Australian children with complex needs in Fitzroy Crossing, Yiyili, and Noonkanbah communities were able to access a health and wellbeing program designed by a coordinated and specialised multi-disciplinary team, working in response to an invitation from Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre (MWRC).

The Fitzroy Valley is 2,500km North of Perth, and 400km East of Broome, in the remote West Kimberley region of Western Australia, with Fitzroy Crossing town at its centre. MWRC led research revealed that some of the world's highest documented known prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) was recorded in Fitzroy Valley, resulting in high levels of intergenerational and childhood trauma, and significant cognitive, behavioural, health and learning disorders amongst children. The remoteness makes it difficult for children in need to access allied health services, in a trusted and community-led environment. 

“Noonkanbah is very remote. It is a 2-3-hour drive from Fitzroy Crossing town with half that down a dirt road that restricts access to 4WDs depending on the weather and condition of the road.

“The first person we met in town was local Elder, Gracie. She is a widely acknowledged strong community leader who has a great deal of family in the community…She is an enormously strong and resilient woman who has overcome considerable adversity herself; she was removed from her family and traditional land and placed in the mission at Junjuwa in town” – Verity Ashover, Social Worker

The Camp in partnership with Royal Far West and The Marulu Team at MWRC are addressing FASD and complex trauma working to support children with complex needs, in the Fitzroy Valley. Part of a larger whole-of-community approach to assessment, diagnosis, clinical therapy and capacity building; designed in close consultation with community representatives. Further, the Camp aims to build trusting relationships between children, families, community supports and the multi-disciplinary team from Royal Far West.  

“[Gracie] told her story and spoke of how difficult it is to get specialist services to the community. She was very grateful for our presence and took the opportunity to discuss some of her grandchildren with us.

“Echoing Gracie was the Deputy Principal of the Kulkarriya school. She was enormously grateful for the presence and support of the multi-disciplinary team commenting on how valuable it was to have all the right people in town at once to look at the children in their own place” – Verity Ashover, Social Worker

The Camp also created the opportunity for important broader re-connection activities supporting behaviour and emotion regulation through guided sports, games, and music.

From the 50 children observed, 14 received assessment and further observations, involving a psycho-social review of family circumstances, completed by a Social Worker and Community Navigator, formal observations with a Psychologist, Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist, and consultation with educators. From these assessments, the families were also provided with immediate referral pathways to further services, including telecare and school capacity-building support programs.  

“D is a 7-year-old boy in one of the most remote communities in Australia…The community has one school (K-10), a store, and a clinic (operated by a locum or FIFO staff).

“D was born with a cleft palate and has travelled to the Children’s Hospital in Perth for procedures to medically repair this. Due to his remoteness and lack of support services, he and his family have accessed limited post-operative care or therapy. D has not been able to access regular speech therapy in community, and so his speech continues to be difficult to understand.

“The RFW team of social work, clinical psychology, speech pathology and occupational therapy visited him at school and spoke to his mother in the community. During their assessment and observations, they picked up some developmental vulnerabilities in addition to his speech concerns. All of this would be making it hard for him to access schooling in a meaningful way. His attendance at school however is extremely good and he has a keen desire to learn.” – extract of a case study from a child identified as a good candidate for teletherapy within the school environment, Verity Ashover, Social Worker

Thanks to funding support from Sony Foundation, in partnership with Telethon 7, the communities in the Fitzroy Valley have been able to welcome the Royal Far West multi-disciplinary team back to their community, expanding the much needed allied health support to the children, to create trusting foundations, and empower the community “to realise their children’s potential”.

A generous grant from Telethon 7, has assisted Sony Foundation in launching two new Children’s Holiday Camps in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.

  • 'Children's Holiday Camp, A Safe Place Camp' (May 2021), with on the ground partners Royal Far West and Marninwarntikura Women's Resource Centre providing allied health observations and assessments to children with complex needs in the remote Fitzroy Valley region (May 2021). 

  • 'Sony Foundation Children's Holiday Camp Broome' (October 2021), with on the ground partner Notre Dame University providing 10 children with disability in the Kimberly Region with the holiday of a lifetime, and their families/carers a weekend of free respite. 

Thanks to Telethon 7 for their support of these two important programs, providing access to health and wellbeing programs to vulnerable children and youth in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.

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