Aboriginal Children in Australia are 11.5 times more likely to be placed in out of home care then non-Aboriginal Children. Marram-Ngala Ganbu is an Aboriginal designed and delivered Court based program that seeks to provide a more effective, culturally appropriate and just response for Aboriginal families through a court process that enables greater participation by family members and culturally-informed decision-making.
Marram-Ngala Ganbu is a hearing day in the Family Division of the Children’s Court at Broadmeadows Victoria, developed through a Koori-led process. Through an independent evaluation in 2019 The court observed to have been transformed through Aboriginal leadership, successfully encouraging Aboriginal people to feel welcome, heard and empowered.
Through consultation with families, many simple and common sense changes were made to the court process – including adapting the court setting to allow families and young people to sit around the table and speak at the same level as magistrates, and offering support before, during and after court from Koori staff who built relationships with families and into the community.
The evaluation found Marram-Ngala Ganbu is providing a more effective, culturally appropriate and just response for Koori families through a more culturally appropriate court process, that enables greater participation by family members and more culturally-informed decision-making. Koori families are more likely to attend court at Marram-Ngala Ganbu, and more likely to follow court orders due to the support of the magistrates and Koori staff. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is more accountable to magistrates and the court process in Marram-Ngala Ganbu. There is greater compliance with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle. There are also early indicators that more families are staying together and having their children returned.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Marram-Ngala Ganbu is an Australian first for culturally appropriate court process for Child protection matters. The Projects development was Koori led and in an independent evaluation in 2019 Marram-Ngala Ganbu was found to be providing providing a more effective, culturally appropriate and just response for Koori families through a more culturally appropriate court process, that enables greater participation by family members and more culturally-informed decision-making.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Following the 2019 evaluation the Children’s Court of Victoria received funding to expand the program to one additional regional location which was officially launched in 2021. Opportunities for further expansion of the Marram-Ngala Ganbu program are currently being explored by the Court. It is the courts' aspiration that Marram-Ngala Ganbu be available for all First nations people with child protection matters before the court.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 4 provided funding for independent evaluation and funding for a limited expansion to 1 regional location.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
- Child protection
- Victoria legal Aid
- Vicotiran Aboriginal Legal service
- Private practitioners
- Victorian Aboriginal Child care Agency and other Aboriginal community controlled organisations
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Marram-Ngala Ganbu is achieving its intended short to medium-term outcomes, and there are early indicators that it is on track to deliver the desired long-term outcomes. The program is providing a more effective, culturally appropriate and just response for Koori families through a more culturally appropriate court process, that enables greater participation by family members and more culturally-informed decision-making.
Challenges and Failures
The key challenge to date has been the ability to source additional funding for further expansion of the program. The project had also been significantly impacted by Covid due to its face to face nature.
Conditions for Success
It is crucial for the project's success to be supported by all levels of the organisation and its intended service users.
The model was adapted from the criminal jurisdictions Koori Court which currently sits across 3 juridsictions being the County, Magistrates and Children's Courts. Other states and territory's of Australia have expressed an interest in replicating the model or approach with Western Australia currently running a pilot.
Opportunities to improve Marram-Ngala Ganbu:
- Improve data collection to better understand client experience and outcomes
- Provide training for professionals working in Marram-Ngala Ganbu that is specific to the context of Aboriginal child protection and delivered by an Aboriginal facilitator or Aboriginal-owned provider
- Consideration should be given to how Marram-Ngala Ganbu can influence more consistent provision of the option for legal representation for Koori children and parents from an Aboriginal-controlled legal service
- Implement process and protocol improvements, including:
- Develop guidelines for professionals working in Marram-Ngala Ganbu
- Review the provision of private space for services to do immediate intake on hearing day
- The communication and promotion of AFLDM to families
- Consider increasing the frequency of Marram-Ngala Ganbu to reduce waiting times
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
2 January 2023