TWO proud Ngarrindjeri women have developed resource packages for Indigenous children living in care in the Riverland to create and grow connection to local First Nations culture.

ac.care employees Tyra Motto and Tenesha Abdulla Pickering developed the cultural packs while working together as foster care placement support workers, aiming to support Indigenous children in care and non-Indigenous foster carers in keeping connection to Aboriginal culture strong.

Their innovative work earned them a nomination as finalists at the 2023 Department for Children Protection Awards in the Active Efforts Award, which recognises outstanding active efforts used to implement the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.

Among the items included in the resource packs are Ngarrindjeri language cards, photographs and interviews with local Elders and an Erawirung Country t-shirt from Riverland business Blak Scarlett.

Tenesha, who still works with children and young people as ac.care’s HIPPY Riverland coordinator, said the pair both identified a cultural gap for children coming into care, as well as the challenges for non-Indigenous carers in making that connection.

“When children come into care, we want to connect them to culture as much as possible,” Tenesha said.

“With our Ngarrindjeri language cards for example, we don’t want the children to lose language because they aren’t surrounded by it.

“We’ve made these in the hopes our carers will teach the kids how the language works and what things mean.

“They’re really basic words, but that could go a long way in the future.”

Tyra said emphasis was placed on using connections in the community to make the resource packs so that the contents had meaning to the children in care and local foster care families.

Continuing to work as a foster care placement support worker with ac.care, Tyra praised Riverland-based foster carers for their willingness to engage in and promote First Nations culture to children in their care.

“We’re pretty lucky in the Riverland that we have carers that want to be a part of and immerse themselves in culture, care about Aboriginal kids and want to do the best that they can to learn,” Tyra said.

young leaders
ACTIVE EFFORTS RECOGNISED: ac.care Riverland foster care placement support worker Tyra Motto and HIPPY coordinator Tenesha Abdulla Pickering were named finalists at the 2023 Department for Children Protection Awards for their cultural resource pack initiative.

A key part of the resource packs is the images and stories of local Elders, who were interviewed by Tyra and Tenesha around their upbringing, experience living in care and how it impacted their lives, including a profile on the late Uncle Reggie Black.

“Uncle Reggie grew up in the Stolen Generation so it was good to have that aspect of life shown to the carers so they can understand what it was like for him in that time and how to make sure the kids that they have in care don’t feel the same way about losing culture and not being connected to family,” Tenesha said.

“I think it’s important they know where they come from, who their Elders are and what it means to be on this land and be connected,” Tyra added.

“If they aren’t able to be around their family for whatever reason, I think it’s important they feel some sense of belonging through Aboriginal people in the community.”

While ac. care provides a wide range of family support services to help keep families together, Tyra and Tenesha’s innovative work helps to create the most caring and culturally appropriate placements possible children for children who do enter care in the Riverland.

“Sharing connection to culture is all about helping the kids in care and their carers,” Tenesha said.

Ahead of the Department for Child Protection Awards being announced, Tyra reflected on the Active Efforts Award nomination, highlighting the importance of continuously being innovative and allowing space for new approaches.

“Everyone is under pressure, has key performance indicators and in child protection that is no different – it may be harder,” she said.

“I think if you work within a space that you know there is a gap and work with people who are willing to bridge it, priorities come into play and it was easy to make the decision to take this approach.”

ac.care Locations

ac.care is a dynamic organisation servicing the South Australian communities the Limestone Coast, Murraylands, Riverland, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula.

Our mission is for all country people to have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships.

Please find our service locations here or use our contact form to request a service.

Mount Gambier
Head office and Foster Care

70-72 White Avenue Mount Gambier, SA 5290
PO Box 1842 Mount Gambier SA 5290
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Mount Gambier
Community Centre

22-24 Ferrers Street Mount Gambier, SA 5290
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Mount Gambier
Family Relationship Centre

1 Helen Street (cnr Bay Road) Mount Gambier, SA 5290
Monday
9am to 5pm
Tuesday
10:30am to 5pm
Wednesday
9am to 5pm
Thursday
9am to 5pm
Later by appt
Friday
9am to 5pm

Berri Community Centre
Servicing the Riverland

5 Kealley Street Street Berri, SA 5343
PO Box 1345 Berri, SA 5343
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Murraylands Centre
Servicing the Murraylands, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula

29 Bridge Street Murray Bridge, SA 5253
PO Box 2090 Murray Bridge, SA 5253
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm

Millicent
Community Centre

57-59 George Street Millicent, SA 5280
PO Box 378 Millicent, SA 5280
Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm
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