The Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation (IAC) is an Aboriginal community-controlled, not-for-profit organisation that is committed to meeting the social, cultural, and economic needs of Aboriginal people in the Illawarra.
Based in Wollongong, the aim of IAC's Myimbarr division is to give every Aboriginal child and young person a loving home for life, whether that be with parents, extended family or kin, or through other carer arrangements.
During Foster Care Week IAC wants to highlight the valuable role that foster carers play in contributing to the wellbeing of children in out of home care.
CEO William Henry said, "The week showcases the importance of foster carers in providing stability and permanency for our most vulnerable members of society - children. This is an incredibly important role and one that requires acknowledgement and support.
"For IAC Myimbarr it is also about highlighting the value of Aboriginal carers and the unique role they play in supporting Aboriginal children."
The corporation's main focus will be on acknowledging how highly valued and appreciated their carers are.
"We also encourage those with the ability to offer tender loving care and a safe home to come forward and register with us so they can make a real and lasting impact on the life of an Aboriginal child," William said.
IAC Myimbarr is currently involved in a research project, in partnership with the University of Wollongong, where they are exploring ways to improve the lives of Aboriginal children through a culturally informed trauma lens.
IAC know their carers play a significant role in this approach and are keen to hear their voices and explore ways, together, to work towards giving Aboriginal children in care the best possible start.
The research shows that Aboriginal children are more appropriately supported in building a sense of belonging and connectedness when they are placed with Aboriginal carers. This helps Aboriginal children learn about their identity as Aboriginal people as well as learn about cultural practices.
"We know that Aboriginal children who are placed with non-Indigenous carers find developing their cultural identity more difficult leading to issues of concern such as mental health difficulties, poor sense of person-hood and lack of understanding as to who they are in their own community," William said.
"It's rewarding as a carer to know you have been able to maintain that connection to culture and ensuring these children don't lose their identity."
Aboriginal carers help Aboriginal children build a sense of pride in who they are as Aboriginal people - reducing many of the risk factors Aboriginal young ones face when they can no longer live safely with their families.
Current data of Aboriginal children in care (as of June 30, 2019) shows that 6784 Aboriginal children were in care in NSW (Davis, 2019). This represents 40 per cent of the total number of children in out of home care in NSW (Davis, 2019).
Aboriginal children are 10.5 times more likely to end up in the care system than non-Indigenous children.
"We have identified a lot of Aboriginal children bouncing around in placement and we want to achieve a permanent home for them," William said. "We also aim to keep siblings together."
IAC are always looking for dedicated carers that want to support Aboriginal children to have a better future.
Find out more about being a foster carer by phoning 4211 0601 or go to iac.org.au