Murawin collaborates with AIFS to identify strategies to better support foster, kinship, and permanent carers

During 2020-21 the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and Murawin conducted a research project about carers. This research was funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS).

DSS wanted to know what carers needed so they can attract more carers and keep carers for longer.


To learn about carers, Murawin and AIFS:

  • Reviewed published articles about carers and how they can be supported.
  • Spoke with carers, organisations and government agencies who work to support carers. Fourteen of the carers were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and six of the organisations were Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACOOs).
  • Spoke with carers and service providers in NSW, QLD, VIC, and WA. We also spoke with service providers in TAS.

The project consisted of two components:

  • A desktop review of available services and supports to carers and best practice in providing supports.
  • Consultations with key stakeholders and carers.

The aim was to learn how carers can be engaged, retained, and supported so that they provide safe and stable care to children. Because this research was undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also sought to understand some of the effects of the pandemic and associated restrictions had on carers and the service providers supporting carers.

We’re excited to announce that the final report identifying strategies to better support foster, kinship and permanent carers was published by AIFS in July 2022.

Murawin’s CEO, Carol Vale shared her thoughts on the project, “We’re very excited to see this report and the associated strategies being released. Because Indigenous children are over-represented in out-of-home care systems across Australia and there is a need to continue working towards increasing the number of Indigenous carers.  Murawin worked closely with AIFS to ensure that this study had a particular focus on understanding the needs of Indigenous carers and those non-Indigenous carers supporting Indigenous children in out of home care. To support this focus and ensure cultural competency in the conduct of this report, our team led the consultation phase of the research and played a key role in the design, data analysis and reporting.”


Consultation process

The consultations focused on two participant groups: ƒ

  • Key stakeholder organisations including peak bodies, government agencies and service providers supporting carers.
  • Current foster, kinship, and permanent carers.

Murawin led both components of the consultation with support from AIFS. All consultations were undertaken in line with the considerations for cultural competency.

Murawin’s ways of working, and unique role in all areas of the research, involve reorienting the western lens in which systems are designed and the historical assumptions and biases against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures to ensure culturally appropriate processes for engagement and evaluation are adhered to. Genuinely engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and stakeholders in this research provided rich collective wisdom, cultural knowledge, and a deep understanding of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carer experience. It also strongly promoted cultural distinctiveness and respect for diversity amongst Indigenous Australians.

The research framework, collaboratively developed by AIFS and Murawin, supported appropriate engagement with ACCOs and other stakeholders and culturally safe and accessible interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants. All Murawin staff, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are trained in cultural competency and have extensive experience engaging with Indigenous people. As such, the research was conscious of respecting and adhering to cultural sensitivities and protocols.

Key findings

For a downloadable PDF of the research snapshot go to Identifying strategies to better support foster, kinship and permanent carers: Summary report | Australian Institute of Family Studies (

What we learned from the research

  • Carers make an important and valuable contribution to the community.
  • Some children in care have complex needs, and these carers need extra support for the child and for themselves.
  • Kinship carers might need more support because they are generally older and less well-off financially, and often don’t get time to prepare to be a carer.
  • Quite a bit is known about the challenges of caring, and the types of support that carers need. Not much is known about what types of support help the most. More data and evaluation are needed.

Some ways of working and supports that could help carers

  • Including carers in decision making about the child
  • Support for kinship carers within three to six months of the placement starting
  • Having extended families lead decision making when a child can no longer live with their birth parents, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • More understanding of trauma and use of trauma-informed approaches to supporting children and carers
  • Caseworkers and carers having a trusting and supportive relationship, and caseworkers having ongoing cultural training
  • More peer support networks for carers
  • Having Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations make more decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in care, and provide more services for carers
  • More cultural support for carers of Indigenous children
  • More investment in looking for family members who could be carers, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • More access to respite care, and respite carers who can build a relationship with a child and a carer over time
  • Training for carers that changes over time to match the needs of the child and the carer
  • Having more information about what support is available and how carers can access support

The research says that some ways that governments can help carers are:

  1. Develop national minimum standards or guidelines that set out what support and training carers should get and when they should get it.
  2. Review carer payments across Australia.

To read the full report, visit ldentifying strategies to better support foster, kinship and permanent carers: Final report | Australian Institute of Family Studies (