Working With Children Checks for Indigenous applicants
- Office of the Children\'s Guardian
Working with Children Checks (WWCC) are a gateway to work, foster/kinship care and government support. A WWCC enables livelihood, community, and to care for family. For Indigenous Australians, the check is particularly difficult to navigate to the point that it was subverting their needs, rights and culture; <0.1% of people applying for a WWCC are Indigenous, however, 35% do not complete their WWCC.
We needed to identify how to maintain the WWCC regulatory framework—essential for ensuring the safety of Australian children—whilst creating a service that vulnerable people could access and engage with in a supportive and inclusive way.
We worked with Indigenous people and the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) to identify key service initiatives to encourage and enable more Indigenous applicants to obtain a WWCC, delivering better outcomes for themselves and their families.
To approach this challenge we ensured effective co-design to fully understand the experience of Indigenous Australians; what it’s like to apply, how it relates to intergenerational trauma and discrimination, and what specific community needs are.
This work has been successfully integrated by the OCG across their service, increasing Indigenous people’s access to work, services and Indigenous children being cared for within their communities.
The positive social impact is far-reaching. There’s been a shift in Indigenous community engagement techniques and communications, with case-by-case face-to-face channels established and collaboration between other key services.
Pilot applicants had been approved by the time we finished our part of the project and one has already become a champion in his community to support other Indigenous people to get through the process—highlighting a successfully handed off and locally owned service design solution.
“Things like that when you’re in the community make you more scared to go and put your name out there and apply and be assessed.” [Participant]
The solution is scalable across other communities, vulnerable cohorts and complex service systems.
Successful applicants now have better access to government support, employment opportunities and the ability to support family members. The cost/benefit of greater local employment and kinship care within communities supports closing the gap—including decreasing reliance on social, economic and health government services and multiple knock-on-effects to culture, society and the economy.
“For black people and the government it’s a struggle, it’s been a struggle since day one and for us to go through all this bullshit to prove that I’m a changed man, it’s annoying.” [Participant]
We took a fieldwork approach of deep community immersion alongside spatial, cultural and community mapping. This ensured we could see the reality of the challenge in-context, and address the complexity head on. We did not think about services as linear or bookended, but as a complex ecosystem that interacted heavily with each other. The interdependencies between services informed the way we designed the outcome.
Our team actively used service design to highlight and remove systematic discrimination that was getting awfully close to another stolen generation through the barrier to kinship care being not completing the WWCC.
The service design set out to deliver a non-digital experience—designed so it didn’t depend on tech literacy or ownership, or an ability to navigate ‘white man’ processes. This included the use of ‘lo-fi’ features, changing the method of proof of identity, and creating triaged decision-making processes.
By enabling better tools for employees, they could spend more time building relationships and providing face-to-face and telephone support. We together designed a more accessible, inclusive and culturally appropriate process that means more Indigenous Australians can look after other Indigenous Australians, get the work they want, and be supported by a social safety net.