Ask John Lochowiak why family matters and he recalls childhood trips with his grandfather to the Pitjantjatjara lands.

“We’d sit down and he’d nod and say `there’s your brother over there’. I’d meet him for the first time but straight away we’d behave as brothers,” says John, a Wati (initiated man).

“In traditional settings we don’t use names. We use how we are related and behave accordingly and it strengthens that relationship.

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“Uncles and aunties don’t exist because they become our mothers and fathers, and cousins become your brothers and sisters, so our extended family is huge ’’

Family is at the core of the Aboriginal world view, says John, Manager of Centacare’s Aboriginal Services, but he believes this should not preclude non-Aboriginal families from caring for vulnerable children.

The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is almost 10 times that of other children, and continues to grow.

The causes of over representation are complex, including the legacy of past policies of forced removal, intergenerational effects of separation from family and culture, poor socioeconomic status and perceptions arising from cultural differences in child‐rearing practices.

The national Family Matters campaign highlights these difficulties and the need for change so that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture.

“Our family structure is a bit different, but really we are not dissimilar to white families,’’ John says.

“The challenges and dynamics that impact non-aboriginal people impact us too; the need to work and live in dignity and contribute to society is equally as important to our culture.

“I think we need to look closely at how we can better support Aboriginal families to increase their capacity to foster children.

“That support should start with cultural training for Aboriginal people so that they re-engage with their culture because a lot of our people have lost it.’’

John says it just takes one person – black or white – to believe in a vulnerable child in order to make a difference.

“Western culture will talk about significant others and emotionally that children will be stable if someone believes in them.

“That’s replicated a hundred fold in the Aboriginal culture because everywhere they turn they have someone to share in the responsibility of raising them.

“If every child is loved, they have the chance to be good citizens.’’

This week we are sharing tips and links to help you support your #children to manage their wellbeing and learning.

While the focus is traditionally on the first day of school, families are urged to look out for their children in the coming weeks, as they adjust to new experiences, friendship groups and the demands of learning.

Today we look at separation anxiety.

*If you need extra support, Centacare provides counselling to parents, families and children, and primary and secondary school students. Other support is provided through the National School Chaplaincy Program. For more information, please phone 8215 6700.

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is often experienced by parents and children at the start of the new school year.

It is most common in early childhood but may be exacerbated after extensive family time in the holidays, and if your child is apprehensive about their new classroom routine and environment.

They may become upset before school knowing you will soon leave them for the day, and again at drop-off time when the separation occurs.

Most children will bounce back and be relaxed and happy at school but may become upset again at pick-up time when their parent or carer returns and they are reminded of the separation.

Mothers and fathers, too, can feel a sense of loss at leaving their little ones at school.

What can you do for yourself and your children?

  • Teachers are fantastic and usually highly experienced at working through separation anxiety. If your child is finding it hard to leave you, talk to their teacher and see what is possible in terms of supporting your child.
  • Always say goodbye! While it is often tempting to sneak out of the classroom when your child is upset, this will not build trust. Even if your child is upset, reassure them they will be ok and say goodbye. Indicate when you will return. In time, they will learn they are safe and that their carer will always come back.
  • If you are struggling with separation anxiety as a parent, talk to a friend! The school community offers a range of opportunities to connect with other mums, dads and carers. You can also alleviate some anxiety by getting involved with your child’s learning for small periods each week, such as helping at student reading time.
  • Keep a relaxed and happy look on your face when you’re leaving. Even if you are sad, give your child confidence by putting on a happy demeanour.
  • Once at home at night, try not to be negative about what may have occurred that morning. Instead, build your child’s confidence and resilience through positive reassurance.

For more tips and links, visit:


Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700

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Monday – Tuesday | 9am – 5pm
Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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