Cheryl Vardon is the Chief Executive and Principal Commissioner at the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC). She has held the role since October 2015.  In this article she discusses one of the most important jobs there is.

Keeping children and young people safe is one of the most important jobs there is.

Everyone has a responsibility to help protect children, and the child and family support sector plays a crucial role in keeping kids safe from harm.

There are many organisations doing fantastic, important work to support struggling families and young people in Queensland, but we have not always worked together as effectively as we should.

In 2016, the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) launched Strengthening our Sector, a three-year strategy to develop sector employees and businesses and transform the way we work.

A key focus of the Strengthening our Sector strategy is to work better together as a sector to reach the goal we all share – delivering the right services to vulnerable children and families. We need to make sure these services are delivered when children and families need them and in a way they want to receive them.

Over the last year, the QFCC has worked with our sector partners to implement the first action plan for our strategy.

The Your Workforce, Your Future: 2016 Survey and the CSIA Laying Foundations research established, for the first time, the profile of the workforce in the sector and how well non-government organisations are performing against business maturity criteria.

Knowing our baseline for workforce and organisations provides a foundation for long-term, effective industry development, workforce planning and sector monitoring of changes.

We worked with our partners, including the CSIA, to translate these insights into frameworks and business tools for use in the sector.

The organisational maturity scorecard and organisational profile can be found in the Laying Foundations Stage One report: Growing our collective understanding of child and family support sector organisations.

For the next action plan, we will work with our partners to implement these frameworks through sector and industry-led processes.

The QFCC’s Sector Development team does a great job fulfilling another element of the strategy – informing and updating the sector.

Our Strengthening our Sector newsletter regularly showcases work and promotes ways we can strengthen our workforce, organisations and professional practice culture, as well as harnessing the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, organisations and community.

In our latest issue, we presented our Information kit on child protection for professionals.

We partnered with government and non-government organisations and peak bodies to develop the kit – an accessible and essential resource for those working with children and families in contact with child protection.

It is a particularly busy time of year in the child and family support sector, with Queensland Child Protection Week launched later this week.

Protecting children is everyone’s business. The week is a chance to reflect on those who have suffered and how we can protect them. There are a range of events, including days of remembrance across the state to acknowledge adult survivors of childhood abuse in institutional settings.

Another important recent milestone for the QFCC has been the completion of the Blue Card and Foster Care Reviews.

On 25 September 2016, the Premier announced I (Cheryl Vardon) would lead a comprehensive and thorough examination of the Blue Card system and Foster Care services in Queensland to identify any improvements required.

I was assisted by a review team at the QFCC and an Expert Panel and there was extensive consultation with key stakeholders and community groups across the state to inform the reviews. The reviews have been delivered to the Premier and are expected to be released in the near future.

I’m confident the changes will be well received by the sector and community and, most importantly, that they will keep our children safe into the future.

About Cheryl Vardon

Cheryl Vardon was appointed Chief Executive and Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission in September 2015. She has a distinguished career as a Director-General, Chief Executive and leader in education, community, children’s services and the private sector.

She has held many board and university council positions and statutory roles on tribunals and commissions including the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Commonwealth Safety and Rehabilitation Compensation Commission.

Cheryl is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and a Fellow of the Australian College of Education.

Her significant appointments include roles as Director General of Education for Western Australia, Chief Executive of the Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Community Services and  a Vice Principal of the University of Melbourne.

In 2004 while Commissioner for Public Administration in the ACT, Cheryl led a review “the Territory as Parent” and “The Territories’ Children” (the ‘Vardon Report’) of child protection services which established an ACT Children’s Commissioner and a child death review process

Cheryl has also been recognised for her work in the education of indigenous children.

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