Njernda building capacity to keep kids on Country

Njernda Aboriginal Corporation’s foster care program is passionate about keeping kids on Country (Keep Me On My Country) – but it’s hoping a recruitment drive can bring much needed carers on board to help it achieve its goals. 

Foster Care Recruitment Worker Sharyn Kelly said keeping kids connected to culture and to their local community was central to the Njernda Foster Care Program.

“We have carers from all sorts of backgrounds, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, men and women, single people and families – our program is focussed entirely on what is best for each child in our care,” Ms Kelly said.

“We do need more people in our program because the sad reality is that if we can’t meet our needs in our local community, then children have to be placed elsewhere.  That only increases their confusion and uncertainty, and their trauma,” she said.

“We have some wonderful Aboriginal carers and families, but equally, we have non-Indigenous carers who believe, as we do, that when care is needed, our local community is the best place and provides the best outcomes,” she said.

Njernda’s foster care program was established in 2017, from a commitment by the Victorian State Government for Aboriginal children to be cared for by local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs).

Since this time, Njernda has been working closely with the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing and other foster care providers to transition case management and care of Yorta Yorta children to Njernda to build and maintain their cultural identity and connection to Country.

“The thing we do best here at Njernda is keep our kids connected to culture and Country.  You are treated like family whether you are Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal,” Njernda Bush Kinder Assistant Educator and Cultural Advisor Narjiic Day Burns said.

“Kids deserve to grow up and feel safe in their culture and that’s what we’re always working towards supporting our carers to do.”

“There’s a lot of work and quite a process involved in registering to provide care, and a lot of different options – temporary or part time care and respite care, as well as full time caring roles.

“We believe that it does ‘take a village to raise a child’ and as well as the hard work of caring, there are huge rewards in giving back and experiencing the rich rewards or providing love, care and support to a young person who desperately needs it.

“We’re hoping to create a much bigger network of people in our community who are as determined and committed as we are to keeping our kids on their Country, and all the benefits that brings.”