Taanya is the Director of Child Protection, Bayside Peninsular Area
Stories to watch
Jo is the Deputy Area Operations Manager, Investigations and Response
“... you’re speaking with different people every day, and every time you pick up that call you have no idea who is going to be on the other line." Christie is an Advanced Child Protection Practitioner
" ... and a sense of being able to contribute to helping those that are in most need.” Caroline is a Child Protection Practitioner, After Hours Protection Service
With over 25 years spent in different roles at the frontline of family safety, Angela has been part of the many changes pioneered by Child Protection to stand up for children at risk
Lena has experienced many roles in her time at Child Protection and finds the diversity and challenges involved in advocating for child safety to be exciting and rewarding
After moving to Australia from India, via the UK, Santhosh found regional Victoria to be the ideal location and environment for him to help vulnerable children and their families
Stories to read
After 13 years working for Telstra in sales, operations and admin roles, James wanted to make a meaningful contribution to social change. “In corporate life I was noticing the gap between the privilege of people at the top and many of those on the frontline,” he says. “I saw a lot of vulnerable people around me.” He wanted to help the most vulnerable of all: children.
Combining his fulltime work with fulltime study, he completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree with Deakin University. The workload was intense, but he graduated after four years with honours. James even used his holiday leave while at Telstra to undertake placement in Child Protection offices in the regions.
Now, almost a year as a Child Protection Practitioner, he’s more certain than ever it was worth it. “Young children are the most vulnerable people in our society, and if we can protect those vulnerable lives, I can’t think of anything else that’s more important, for me.”
As the mother to a 21-year-old son, Angela appreciates the flexibility of a career at Child Protection. “The department are very supportive of maternity leave. I took just under a year, but other colleagues have taken longer. It isn’t nine to five; it can be worked around your family and personal needs.”
Angela has been with Child Protection for over 25 years, having moved up through levels of management to her current role as Practice Leader, Family-led Decision-making Convenor. She works closely with children and their families, as well as various professional services, to safeguard the state’s most vulnerable youngsters. And although the work is often challenging, she’s never considered doing anything else.
Career development has been another big draw for her. “There’s such a broad range of opportunity for professional development, training and education. Today I could be meeting with court, doctors, mental health services, education facilitators, myriad professionals all coming together to talk about the best interests of a child. This gives you an opportunity to see into other areas and to bring your own skills in and expand on them.”
Before she became a Child Protection Practitioner, Claudia was in a very different world. In her native Colombia, she was a stock trader and financial analyst for seven years. She felt unfulfilled and wanted a career with more meaning and compassion for others.
After coming to Australia, Claudia and her husband set up a foundation to support foreign students. “(It) contributed to the original passion I had to change the world to be a fairer place to live in,” she said. It led Claudia to consider a career in Child Protection. The more she discovered, the more she realised it would help her make a difference to the world, and offer her ways to progress her career and grow as a professional.
The University of Melbourne recognised Claudia’s prior learning and granted her credit towards a Bachelor in Psychology. Over the next year, she completed a Postgraduate in Psychology, followed by 12 months for Postgraduate honours.
As a new Child Protection Practitioner, Claudia appreciates the mentoring and development programs, “The support at DHHS is amazing!” And she enjoys the diversity of her role, “Every day is different. Every report, every family, every case, requires a different risk assessments. You would never get bored and you never stop learning.”
It was in a child development and trauma lecture during Jessica’s second year of her Masters that she made the decision that would change her life, and the lives of many Victorian children and families. “I realised then and there that I needed to be in a role where I could protect and support children in the community that didn't have a voice.”
After completing her Masters, Jessica joined McKillop Family Services as a Residential Care Worker working with high-risk adolescents, before applying to become a Child Protection Practitioner. She credits the support and supervision from her team and Senior Practitioners as helping her to thrive in her new fast-paced and challenging environment. Jessica also took on additional training to work with culturally and linguistically diverse families, people affected by drug and alcohol use, child development and trauma, applied suicide training and families affected by sexual abuse. This development helped her progress to her current Advanced Child Protection Practitioner role.
Today, Jessica is part of a specialist Child Protection team collaborating closely with Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and other community services to ensure safety for vulnerable children and young people. As she says, “I feel extremely lucky to be a Child Protection Practitioner!”
With hundreds of reports received each day, having a supportive, collaborative team is essential. That’s exactly what you’ll find when you step into the office’, says Tim, A/Team Manager in Statewide Services Intake and Assessment.
‘There’s a real collaborative culture in Intake. It’s shared responsibility – it’s about encouraging people to explore how they’ve made decisions, understanding their practice and finding opportunities for growth,’ he says.
Tim has a keen understanding of the innovative and leading practice we have in Victoria, which he applied during his time in the United Kingdom.
‘I was doing similar work in child protection over there. The experience helped me to stop and reflect on the way Victoria works and why we do what we do. Even there I found myself coming back to Victoria’s child protection manual, and going deeper into understanding risk assessment frameworks and ways of working.’
Tim returned to Melbourne in 2019. He rejoined the Intake team, and almost immediately stepped into the team manager role. Tim says that the culture of support underscores everything they do in Intake.
‘It’s that culture of shared risk – not being afraid to make a mistake, but rather focusing on the growth and learning that comes from it – that really makes it a great place to work,’ he says.
As a child protection practitioner, preparing for court, or walking into the courtroom, is unlike anything they’ve had to do before. Emotions are running high. It can be the most challenging part of the job–making some of the toughest calls to do what’s right for the child.
‘There is evidence to suggest that court is one of the most stressful parts of a practitioner’s job. It’s what practitioners have told us,’ says Kirstie, Statewide Principal Practitioner Child Protection, and Lead Practitioner of the Court Practice Advice and Support Team.
Child protection practitioners aren’t lawyers – they’re people who have studied social work, psychology or welfare.
Practitioners receive support prior to and during the court case, ‘for the practitioner, it’s an opportunity to take a step back and get some perspective. To talk to people who are a bit removed and get their view on the situation,’ Kirstie reflects.
Practitioners are provided support and are connected to leading child protection practitioners, their team, and in some cases, a legal consult is assigned to the case.
For practitioners, working in child protection at the department means one simple thing: support during one of the most challenging parts of the job. Because we know it can be tough and they will never be in it alone.
Starting as a casual, Clare joined Victoria’s child protection service in 2010 after arriving in Australia. She wasn’t sure to expect, beyond a new challenge. What became a reality for Clare was a highly rewarding career path.
Having steadily risen through the program, Clare has been a Practice Leader in the Victorian Child Protection Sexual Exploitation Team since 2017.
“If you want to be challenged and want to do something rewarding, that’s when you come knocking on child protection’s door.”
“I fill my bucket through engaging with the young people. I often collect them for lunch or collect them from school. I find the car ride incredibly valuable to hear how they are going, hear what is working well and together think of ways to any tackle issues.”
Working closely with Victoria Police, Clare runs practice development programs for child protection practitioners and external stakeholders These workshops focus on effective adolescent engagement, to better understand their worlds and develop strategies to address and disrupt emerging risks.
“Each time there is a workshop it finishes with a new level of energy”
“It’s rewarding work. You’ve got to bring your energy to it, and it’s a good place to develop resilience and advance your career path. I’ve learned strategies to manage myself and get the best results. I have had great support from managers and colleagues to help me achieve my goals”
Lachlan is a child protection practitioner working at the Department of Family, Fairness and Housing in Victoria. He moved from Queensland in 2017, after taking part in the CareerTrackers program.
‘CareerTrackers gives Indigenous students an opportunity to get out there and try a field related to what they’re studying. For me, that meant coming to Melbourne to work in child protection while I was getting my degree.’
In partnership with CareerTrackers the department offers paid, multi-year internships for Aboriginal students interested in a career in child
Being a part of the program gave Lachlan exposure to all different types of child protection work from creating cultural support plans to contact work. He got the opportunity to apply his studies in the real world.
‘I owe a lot of my life to CareerTrackers. I made connections in the industry, met friends, even met my partner. I couldn’t speak highly enough of it.’
“I think it’s a great program. I believe having culture in the workplace – whether that’s Indigenous or otherwise– only increases your ability to connect with people.”
‘I know it’s important that I follow what my passions are and use my degree in a hands-on way. I’m happy with my job and I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made.'
Image caption: The artwork Yanyabak Dana means ‘to walk towards or on a pathway’ in the Yorta Yorta language.
The artist Dixon Patten is a traditional descendant from the Gunnai (Gippsland), Yorta Yorta
(Goulburn Valley), Gunditjmara (Western District) and Dhuduroa (Snowy Mountains) peoples