Donna Nelson is a proud Njaki Njaki woman and Chair of the Family Matters working group in Western Australia. She has nearly 14 years of experience working in child protection and almost 25 years of experience working with Aboriginal young people at risk. In leading the WA Family Matters working group she continues to advocate for Aboriginal young people in the child protection system and their families.
“It’s basically just supporting our most vulnerable and at-risk children and young people,” says Donna, on what she enjoys about her work. “[We’re educating people] about what are their rights… Years later people come up and say thank you for what you’ve done, that’s quite rewarding, it’s challenging but rewarding.”
“I see [the positive impacts of my work] constantly in my community. I look at children now who were very young when I was working for the department, I may have been involved in their case and now they’re grown and [my involvement has] had a positive impact on their life… There was one case in particular of a child who was removed at 6 weeks old and is now eight and living with paternal grandparents, and I was a major part of that [reunification with their family].”
Donna’s goal is always to keep vulnerable kids safe and, where possible, keeping them with their family and culture. Alongside the goal of safe reunification of families in mind, keeping cultural identity strong is vital, regardless of where a child is living.
“What we know when we remove children from their families is it’s that sense of identity that will always remain with them. When they become young adults they go looking for their biological family and their sense of belonging and culture and identity. However, if they grow up fully informed about who they are and having that sense of culture and identity they become well adjusted young adults.”