Alumni News Issue 4 2019

Supporting family and social justice for Aboriginal Australians

Warren Guppy

Senior Manager Metropolitan Services, Aboriginal Family Support Services
Bachelor of Social Science (Community Service)

From left: Warren Guppy, The Hon. Rachel Sanderson (Minister for Child Protection) and Sharron Williams (Chief Executive, AFSS) at AFSS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day Connection to Culture event

From left: Warren Guppy, The Hon. Rachel Sanderson (Minister for Child Protection) and Sharron Williams (Chief Executive, AFSS) at AFSS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day Connection to Culture event, 3 August 2018 at Tauondi Aboriginal Community College

Now leading one of Adelaide’s key metropolitan social service teams for Aboriginal Australian support services, Warren reflects on his working life starting at the young age of 14 as a Trolley Boy in the carparks of his local Target. This time was followed by a number of years moving from Perth to Melbourne and finally Adelaide in hospitality – flipping pancakes, working as a bus boy, and a two year apprenticeship in silver service.

Beneath all of this hard physical work however – a passion for social justice and a keen interest in ethics was brewing.

“I have always had a strong sense of doing what is right,” says Warren. So, when he moved to Adelaide in 1990 he decided to follow his interest and enrol in the Bachelor of Social Science (Community Service) with the UniSA antecedent, the South Australian Institute of Technology.

It was here that Warren says he began to learn Australia’s ‘true history’ and the unacceptable and harsh treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“I chose electives and topics that allowed me to continue to learn about Aboriginal Australians, which eventually led me to do an eight week student placement with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in my final year of study,” he says.

“This was another huge learning curve. It was around the time when the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and its recommendations were being implemented.

“At the conclusion of my placement, they offered me a three month contract. Before I knew it nine years had passed.”

Warren remembers his time at the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) fondly as a place of learning and forming lasting friendships with people who work tirelessly to achieve real justice for Aboriginal people in South Australia.

While at ALRM, Warren worked on the reporting of how the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody were being implemented.

“I had the honour of working closely with Tauto Sansbury – and a number of Aboriginal Elders and community members – as the Secretariat to the South Australian Justice Advocacy Committee, of which he was Chair.

“The committee was tasked with monitoring the Government’s implementation of the 339 recommendations that came out of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

"Part of my role was to support the Committee to meet its Terms of Reference which included community consultations to ensure Aboriginal communities were having a say about how the recommendations were being implemented.

“Despite a number of reports, sadly, it remains that Aboriginal people are still overrepresented at all levels of the criminal justice system and funding levels to Aboriginal legal services have not improved.”

When an opportunity arose at Adelaide City Council, Warren made the hard decision to move on from ALRM. He then spent nine years across a variety of roles including Reconciliation Officer, Manager of Grants and Sponsorships and Senior Policy Officer, before moving to the Aboriginal Family Support Services (AFSS) where he has since served as a Senior Manager of Regional Services and Metropolitan Services.

From left: Warren Guppywith Peter Shattock (Senior Manager AFSS Corporate Services, Ang Fee (Manager AFSS Port Lincoln), Susan Richards (Senior Manager AFSS Residential Services and Tom Steeples (Senior Manager AFSS Regional Services) cutting the cake at the opening of AFSS new office in Port Lincoln in 2018

From left: Warren Guppywith Peter Shattock (Senior Manager AFSS Corporate Services, Ang Fee (Manager AFSS Port Lincoln), Susan Richards (Senior Manager AFSS Residential Services and Tom Steeples (Senior Manager AFSS Regional Services) cutting the cake at the opening of AFSS new office in Port Lincoln in 2018

“In my current role I manage a number of teams including an Aboriginal Gambling Help Service, a Family Based Foster Care team, a Youth Homelessness Service, a Community Safety and Wellbeing team and a number of other areas including communications, child protection reform and cultural officers and the Berri and Murray Bridge offices as well,” he says.

“Some of the biggest challenges in this work is ensuring that we continue to reflect on the work that we do and make sure we are doing a good job.

“Unfortunately, the removal of Aboriginal children and young people from their families, communities and culture, remains as one of the most significant challenges for Aboriginal families and communities across Australia.

“At AFSS we work hard to ensure that child protection authorities engage with Aboriginal communities, and where possible, involve Aboriginal people in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their children.

“It is always a cause for celebration when our efforts result in Aboriginal families being able to keep their children and young people at home or, if the children have been removed, in being successful at helping families get their children back to family, community and culture.”

One of the projects that Warren is particularly excited about at the current time is the AFSS Child Protection Reform–Aboriginal Community Engagement Project.

“This is a new two year project we have achieved support for from the Sidney Myer Foundation,” he says.

“We strongly believe that all Aboriginal people have a right to be heard and to be involved in all decisions that affect their children and young people. This project will engage Aboriginal families and communities across the northern suburbs of Adelaide and Port Augusta about child protection.

“AFSS’s role will be to facilitate genuine, meaningful and honest engagement with local Aboriginal families and groups to create pathways of communication between Aboriginal groups and the Department for Child Protection.

“Our goal is to share information about the changes in the child protection system and to consult with Aboriginal parents, extended families and local communities – with the focus to improve outcomes for Aboriginal families and find ways to keep Aboriginal children within their family and communities."

To find out more about the Aboriginal Family Support Services visit www.afss.com.au.

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