Established in 2007, the Palm Island Community Company (PICC) is a not-for-profit organisation delivering human services, community capacity building and economic development programs on Palm Island. At the SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care) conference in 2017, Rachel Atkinson, the CEO of PICC, talked about the organisation and about some of the features that make it such a successful model for the provision of human services.
In the course of her presentation she discussed in particular the early childhood development agenda at PICC and the qualities that were crucial to its wellbeing. These included:
local employment as a cornerstone of the organisation’s policies;
the existence of a place-based mature organisation, in this case dedicated to Palm Island and the people of Palm Island only;
good governance, including the appointment of a skills-based Board of Directors with a majority of Palm Islanders;
a system of daily continuous improvement;
the establishment of the Palm Island Elders group to guide and inform service implementation and development;
a stable pool of staff with family and community natural support networks, and a deep knowledge of culture, customs, family groups, Island dynamics, resources and supports; and
strong, consistent high-quality training with practice support.
During Atkinson’s presentation she also highlighted the importance of PICC’s integrative model. This means that the early childhood development services are integrated within the provision of other services at PICC, including:
Children and Family Centre
Community Justice Group
Women’s Shelter and Services
Safe Haven Program
Family Wellbeing Centre
Family Medical Practice
Early Childhood Development, Parenting, Health and Wellbeing Program
In this way, no agenda works in isolation, but is complemented by other programs of support.These features enable PICC to provide a more fulsome, comprehensive and engaged service to their clients.
PICC and the Palm Island Children and Family Centre are examples of initiatives that are working extraordinarily effectively. Atkinson emphasised that ‘Torres Strait Islander children are rarely taken into care on Palm Island and this has been the case for a number of years. This is an outstanding and very encouraging situation given current over-representation issues across the nation’.
Concluding her presentation, she re-iterated the value of hiring local staff and the incredible benefit this has to child protection outcomes in remote communities. She said: ‘we know that a deep knowledge of family and community is advantageous and results in better assessment of strengths and needs’.