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Aboriginal mentor shares his inspiring story

Child Protection and Wellbeing Awards winners announced.

Man speaking on a podium on stage
SydneyConnect Image: Isaiah Dawe

Isaiah Dawe grew up in out-of-home care.

“My life was about tunnel vision – it was about surviving. It wasn’t about thriving. It was about ‘Am I going to wake up tomorrow?’ ‘Am I going to live?’ When you’re in that position, you don’t even think about what you could be,” the proud Butchulla and Gawara man said.

Driven by his personal experiences, three years ago he founded the first Aboriginal mentoring organisation for Aboriginal young people in out-of-home care in New South Wales.

The organisation, called ID. Know Yourself, mentors Aboriginal young people helping them to build their self-esteem and a sense of connection to their community and culture.

As the key note speaker at the District’s Child Protection and Wellbeing Awards – postponed until now due to COVID-19 pandemic – Isaiah, now 27, shared his story and suggested ways healthcare workers could best connect with Aboriginal children and families.

“Make sure the kids feel better than when they arrived. There would be lots of moments where you could make the kids feel special, feel heard, feel like they belong and feel like they are loved. If you can do that – that’s the best possible way,” he said.

This year’s theme for National Child Protection Week was Every child, in every community, needs a fair go.

“In health, we understand how important it is to support children, young people and their families to access health services and supports and to give them a fair go,” Paula Caffrey, the District’s Acting General Manager of Community Health, said.

“The work our staff have done this year, and do every year, has truly made a difference to the outcome of children’s lives,” she said.

The Child Protection and Wellbeing Awards recognise innovative practice in the District and serve as a reminder that all services play a role in protecting children and young people and promoting their safety, welfare and wellbeing. 

The 2021 recipients are:

Team award – for an outstanding contribution to child protection and wellbeing by a team or service

Winner: Dads’ Circle of Security Parenting Group, Tresillian

Tresillian’s Dads’ Circle of Security Parenting Group engages fathers and has resulted in positive social, emotional, psychological, cognitive, family functioning and educational outcomes.

Individual Award – for an outstanding contribution to child protection and wellbeing by an individual

Winner: Alison Tutt – Clinical Nurse Consultant, Perinatal Coordinator, Child and Family Health Nursing

Over the past 12-months, Alison has enhanced RPA’s Safe Start program to ensure an integrated approach to the care of vulnerable women, their infants and families in the perinatal period.

Winner: Elizabeth Windon – Social Worker, RPA Women and Babies

As a Perinatal and Family Drug Health social worker, Liz supports families with identified child protection issues taking a compassionate approach to delivering patient-centred, culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed interventions.

Winner: Jane Somerset – Clinical Nurse Consultant, Healthy Homes and Neighbourhoods

As a Clinical Nurse Consultant working with the Healthy Homes and Neighbourhoods program, Jane builds rapport and trust with vulnerable families helping to ensure families remained connected with support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winner: Helen Tran – Social Worker, Disability Specialist Unit

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen has provided exceptional support for vulnerable children and families, particularly during diagnostic assessments for children suspected of having developmental delay or disability.