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Consulting our Communities with Telethon Kids’ Institute – The Inklings First Nations’ Consultation Project

First Nations Family with Telethon Kids Institute Staff
First Nations' family with Telethon Kids Institute staff

Telethon Kids Institute is currently leading a First Nations' focussed consultation in Western Australia, to hear the perspectives on the accessibility, suitability, and cultural safety of the Inklings program across metropolitan, regional and remote communities across the state.

In November 2023, we were excited to accept our first babies into the NDIS funded Inklings Program in WA. In parallel to this, was the beginning of the First Nations Consultation Project, a collaboration between the NDIS and Telethon Kids Institute to understand:

  • What supports and services are available across WA for young children, especially for babies with developmental delays, and
  • The facilitators and barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in accessing supports for their children.

Since November, the team has travelled far and wide, including the Kimberley, Goldfields, Peel and Metropolitan regions in WA. This has included more than 56 consultations with people in community service, disability support, early learning, education, health care, government agencies, families, and support services.

The consultation approach was carefully constructed using best-practice principles of governance, ethics, reporting, translation and evaluation, from the Telethon Kids Institute Guidelines for the Standards for the Conduct of Aboriginal Health Research. This ensures a strong First Nations’ presence throughout the consultation with an emphasis on reciprocity and giving back to those who so generously share their wisdom.

Initially, the consultations’ approach was to understand the perspectives on whether early support for babies is needed or wanted, particularly in remote areas. However, as the team gained a better understanding of barriers and facilitators for Aboriginal families, this approach evolved. Establishing quickly that early support is a priority, the team moved to understanding the barriers that exist for families in seeking support. In its current phase, the consultation approach has pivoted again, to better understand what is successful in the current climate and what models of support have stood the test of time.

Across all regions the team have travelled to, there has been one clear and consistent message: health care in Aboriginal communities should be Aboriginal-led and community-embedded. At the heart of all health care and early support services is the strong desire to see babies grow to be strong, happy and healthy and this has been reiterated through the strong family structures and ties to culture within First Nations’ communities.

The consultation will continue until November 2024, where a report will be submitted to the NDIS to further investigate how Inklings can support First Nations families and how supports should be delivered in these communities.

A message from the consultation team:

There are some amazing organisations and care providers currently operating throughout Western Australia who have been forthcoming in sharing their experiences, learnings and expertise. We would like to thank all of the people and organisations that have gifted us some of their time, and for their openness and willingness to collaborate. It has been immensely productive, insightful and humbling to hear examples of successful health care models as well as the challenges in delivering and accessing services in a state as vast as Western Australia. To the community members, families and Elders who have shared their wisdom and personal stories: without this generosity, we would not be able to understand the true needs of the community and ensure that perspectives accurately reflect both those providing and utilising services. To the Elders past and present of the lands upon which we have undertaken our consultation, we pay our respects.