“Our role is to be in your corner to encourage you and help you recognise your strengths. Because while you're going through a lot of things, sometimes it's not so easy to recognise. If you've got people with depression, celebrate that you're actually getting out of bed and you're getting your children off to school.”
Socio-economic factors are a huge concern, adds Angela. Managing money can be stressful in kinship communities, and overwhelm families. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about money,” she explains. “That puts a lot of people under pressure, when you haven’t got enough power for the house, or enough food.”
Support with allocating grocery budgets and food stocks, or accessing financial counselling are some of the services Angela and her team can provide to help alleviate some stress.
With the resilience of Territorian families in mind, Angela explains last year there were no children removed from their families in the Katherine region. “That's huge. And so I absolutely believe in family support. Sometimes there's just hard places that people get to, and it's just about having somebody walking beside you.”
Moe families sticking together
On the other side of the country, Kim Murfett faces many of the same challenges with her families in Moe, Victoria. As a Family Support worker for the last five years, she’s seen how economic advantage can play a huge role in unburdening families from stress, allowing more healthy coping mechanisms, and building more positive family relationships.
“Our families are good at managing money. But what can be stressful is what we call ‘systems’ stress. It’s the hassle of working with phone and energy companies, with government agencies like Centrelink or Medicare, and with banks to optimise what they do have.”
“Many of our refugee families don't have the language skills or the confidence to work through those systems. Then nothing gets sorted and they're missing out on payments. And their kids miss out on what they need. This can be something that is noticed by other services, which is how they end up being flagged by child protection.”
Support from services like Save the Children in enabling parents to access further support can mean a great deal.“One of my great delights recently has been supporting a Sudanese mum to get her first job,” says Kim. “I can just see how excited she is to get work. She already wants a second job. She wants her children to have more opportunities than she did.”
The impacts of the pandemic
COVID-19 has made life immeasurably more difficult. The latest Victorian lockdown has brought many families in Moe to the point of nervous collapse. “I'm noticing now that it just feels like a renewed distress,” says Kim. “The remote learning is difficult and not being able to get out to parks and things. Some people have been quite resilient and creative. I think it's shown a lot of people how resourceful they are. But I've noticed this time that it's a tougher thing for them.”
Without governments and society recognising how socio-economic stressors impact families and working to dismantle these barriers, many of these families will remain stuck. Stuck in poverty, stuck in anxiety, and with children potentially stuck in a child protection system that has not adequately acknowledged the disadvantage that has brought them there.