Cubby House offers a safe haven in the court system
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Cubby House initiative aims to provide a safe haven for children in the court system

Cubby House initiative aims to provide a safe haven for children in the court system

by Freya Lucas

September 05, 2023

Cubby House is an Australian-first initiative that provides a safe haven for children and young people who are engaged with the court system.


Staffed by qualified and experienced youth workers, Cubby House provides a much-needed positive environment for children who often feel vulnerable as decisions are made about their future.


Ashley Morris, Gunditjmara man and Manager of Koori Services and Programs at the Children’s Court of Victoria, has worked with Cubby House to advocate for the needs of Koori children, who are over-represented in the Children’s Court. The result has been the creation of  Marram-Ngala Ganbu (Koori Family Hearing Day), which aims to provide a more effective, culturally appropriate setting to create better outcomes for Koori children and their families.


The setting of Marram-Ngala Ganbu is different from the mainstream court. Instead of sitting in the front row with a lawyer at the bar table and the magistrate on the bench, everyone sits around an oval bar table “to have a conversation as a family as opposed to a hearing,” Mr Morris explained.


Marram-Ngala Ganbu is one example of fostering cultural safety. According to the National Office for Child Safety, cultural safety is “more than ‘cultural awareness’ and ‘cultural sensitivity’. It empowers people and enables them to contribute and feel safe to be themselves”.


Recently, Mr Morris spoke about the significance of culturally safe spaces for children within the court environment.


“It’s really important in our roles to make sure that people feel comfortable and safe and like they are part of the process, especially in the family division,” he said, “and the environment plays a big factor in that. If it’s a sterile, clinical environment, you’re not going to truly engage in the process.”


During Marram-Ngala Ganbu, children and young people are empowered to share their voices. Cubby House stands beside them, offering support and a safe environment whenever they need it.


“Often young people will really want to come to make sure their voice is heard, and we might get a bit too overwhelmed with the process. We’ll reach out to John upstairs at the Cubby House, and they can hang out up there while the adults do the adult stuff,” Mr Morris explained.


The Cubby House at Broadmeadows Children’s Court isn’t a Koori-led or Koori-designed service, so Mr Morris and his team engaged local providers to gather Koori-specific resources to make sure there were appropriate resources for children to fill in their day. These resources included books from local traditional owner groups and Koori colouring-in pages.


“The young people really enjoyed being able to use stuff that they were connected with,” he said.


Since the changes the children who work with Cubby House often look forward to coming back. Whether it’s being on the PlayStation, spending time with youth workers, watching a movie or having a nap, the young people have a safe and calm space to work in. 


“That’s the beauty of Cubby house,” Mr Morris said. “Before Cubby House, that young person would have just had to sit out in the foyer or not be here at all, sitting at a department office pending the outcome of a court hearing.”


Cubby House is proud to work alongside the Marram-Ngala Ganbu team and be guided by their wisdom in creating culturally safe spaces, and will continue to be guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure their work is culturally safe for Koori children.


Learn more about Cubby House.


The original coverage of this story first appeared on the Alannah and Madeline Foundation website, and may be found here

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