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Last month, Berry Street’s Teaching Family Model celebrated an important reconciliation milestone – naming our homes in traditional language.

The trauma-informed Teaching Family Model provides dedicated, specialised support in a family-style setting for children and young people in out-of-home care who have experienced challenging life situations.

Teaching Family Model commits to reconciliation

As we continue to transition our residential care homes to the Teaching Family Model (TFM), we are committed to embedding reconciliation every step of the way – from recruitment to training, and now, into the name of each home.

As our TFM homes are on Wurundjeri Country, our cultural lead and Senior Manager of Aboriginal Services, Sarah Dawson, engaged with Elders through the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation. Following this, Aunty Gail gifted names in Woi Wurrung to Berry Street for the purpose of renaming the homes.

We feel privileged to have been generously gifted names from the Woi Wurrung language group for our Teaching Family Model homes. While COVID-19 slowed down our plans, we’re excited the time has finally come to name our homes in traditional language.

Frances Head Assistant Director, Teaching Family Model

Naming our Teaching Family Model homes in language is an important reconciliation milestone that honours the deep connection between land and language.

To welcome the gifts we received, we held cultural ceremonies for three TFM homes during May. The ceremonies included a Welcome to Country by a Wurundjeri Elder, a Smoking Ceremony, cultural activities and the opportunity for staff and the children and young people in our care to have a yarn over food.

Berry Street staff members and young people join the Smoking Ceremony

Homes named in traditional language

At a training event in March, the team brainstormed the values of each of our TFM homes, from the young person’s perspective. These values, which represent each home’s journey and strengths, were then reviewed by the TFM leadership team and Sarah Dawson and aligned with the names provided.

We’re connecting and working alongside Wurundjeri Elders through the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation to ensure that local Aboriginal protocol is followed. We know that we must be led by the Traditional Custodians of the land.

Sarah Dawson Senior Manager, Aboriginal Service Development

Recognising Aboriginal cultural heritage

For over 60,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages have been spoken across Australia.

Today, it is recorded that 120 languages are still active, while at the time of invasion it was recorded that there were 250 languages spoken. While a portion of languages have been lost, many languages are on the revival – remaining strong and resilient!

Naming our TFM homes in language is an important step in reconciliation and supports the wider population to honour the longest living, continuous culture in the world. It recognises we are on stolen land and reclaims the use of traditional language in our homes. It demonstrates to our young people the value of reconciliation.

Young people connect with Wurundjeri culture

Since receiving the names, each TFM home has been working closely with our young people to understand the significance of this act and the incredible opportunity they have to connect with a Wurundjeri Elder and to experience Wurundjeri culture in our homes.

We look forward to learning and sharing this experience with the young people that we support and helping to pass on the spirit of reconciliation.

Help us expand the Teaching Family Model

We’ve already seen many positive impacts and significant improvements among children and young people in our TFM homes, including reduced trauma symptoms, as well as improved behaviour and school attendance, so they can start to learn, and thrive.

Now we need to expand the model as soon as possible, so more children and young people across Victoria can experience the life-changing benefits. But we really need your help to step in and make that happen.

Donate by 30 June and your tax-deductible gift will help give Victorian children and young people intensive support in a special family environment so they can heal from their trauma.