Sydney researchers surprised by profoundly protective effect of kinship during COVID-19
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Sydney researchers surprised by profoundly protective effect of kinship during COVID-19

by Freya Lucas

July 29, 2021

A new report by the University of Sydney’s Research Centre for Children and Families has found that community and kinship ties have had a “profoundly protective effect” for the Aboriginal community against the isolation which has impacted on many states and territories around Australia as a result of COVID-19 lockdown measures. 


The report has brought to light stories of hardship and the incredible resilience afforded to Aboriginal people in caring roles by informal social networks, news source National Indigenous Times (NIT) has shared.


The study focussed on Aboriginal families in Sydney’s Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas that were looking after children in informal arrangements, something which sat in a boarder space of concern for researchers, who wanted to know more about the impact of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in many communities on vulnerable families. 


“We realised from our research that this was going to be a particularly challenging time for families [caring for children in out-of-home care] because many of them were already dealing with sick children with significant additional needs, and many of them were our older carers,” Dr Collings explained.


When comparing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal carers, researchers found “surprising differences between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal carers, where older non-Aboriginal carers were feeling very nervous having children in their care, because they were worried that if children went outside the home, they might bring the virus back.”


In contrast with non-Aboriginal carers, the children in Aboriginal families, Dr Collings said, stepped up. 


“It was very obvious how mutually beneficial the caring was because the children were in the houses with older family members,” she explained. 


For many older Aboriginal carers, having children in the household was deeply protective against the negative impacts of social isolation, keeping older family members connected to the extended family network, with families also finding ways to keep Elders who weren’t normally carers from becoming socially isolated. 


Community-based services were also able to be agile in a way that government departments could not, and informal cooperation between services quickly sprang up.


“Government departments, policymakers within those departments can sometimes get very caught up in a business as usual approach that makes it very hard for them to change quickly, to redirect, to be nimble and adapt,” Dr Collings added.


To read this story as prepared by NIT, please see here.

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