One of Ballarat’s most tireless champions for young Aboriginal people’s well-being has been honoured for her work.
Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive officer Karen Heap received the Walda Blow Award at the Victorian Child Protection Awards in Melbourne last week.
Ms Heap has pioneered efforts in Ballarat to keep Aboriginal children with members of their family when out-of-home care is necessary.
“It could be an aunty, an uncle, grandparents or cousins, any one related to the child that can look after the child. It keeps them connected to their family and keeps them connected to their culture,” Ms Heap said.
“For a long time we couldn’t keep them connected to their culture, because of what the [foster care] process was … it’s about making sure we don’t lose sight of those children and have another generation that’s lost.
“We’re now working towards preservation and reunification – working with families to get children back into their care, and making sure those children are safe.”
Ms Heap said BADAC was moving to be registered as a foster care organisation, and was encouraging the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to become foster carers.
The award was named after Yorta Yorta and Wemba Wemba elder Aunty Walda Blow who delivered services supporting Aboriginal people for more than four decades.
Children and families minister Jenny Mikakos said in a statement there is “no greater calling than protecting vulnerable children and while it can be challenging, it is our collective responsibility to keep children safe.”