Better Chances Forum

Students enjoying learning at TAFE

About Better Chances Forum

The Better Chances Forum (BCF) is a collaboration supporting better chances for Children and Young People and their families. We bring together people from organisations and groups across the Northern Rivers region of NSW to:

  • explore service system challenges, gaps and opportunities;
  • share information and build relationships,
  • understand what’s working and what’s not working; and
  • consider how we can work better alongside communities.

BCF currently has 250+ members from over 75 community, government and private-sector organisations. We run workshops and network meetings throughout the year.

We are focused on keeping families together in communities where children are happy and safe and young people are capable and resilient.

Better Chances Forum projects (listed below) focus on building and strengthening connections and practice in the work we do with children and young people and their families and communities and supporting early intervention – contributing to reducing the number of children and young people entering out of home care.

Katrina Ross – Project Coordinator Social Strategy
phone: 0416 277 244, email: [email protected]


Right Support. Right Time. 2019 Better Chances Regional Forum

The Right Support. Right Time. 2019 Better Chances Regional Forum held on 13 June 2019 at Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre focused on and explored the question, can children, young people and families we work with get the right support at the right time?

The event attracted 135 attendees representing 46 organisations. The day was facilitated by Naomi Moran, General Manager at the Koori Mail and we had 16 presentations and 4 workshops. All of the presenters were from the Northern Rivers, with the exception of two NSW Government presenters from Sydney who joined with The Family Centre to present on the results of a child protection pilot project. There was a really strong focus on Aboriginal culture, and understanding how the whole sector can work more supportively alongside Aboriginal workers, organisations and communities. Other themes for the day included connecting across organisations and systems, acting on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and connecting with community in our work.

Evaluation told us that 95% of attendees surveyed thought the forum was engaging and interesting, and 96% of those surveyed learnt new things or made new connections that will assist them with their work.

Participants also told us that most useful and enjoyable sessions on the day were Helene Collard, (We Al-li), Carmen Stewart (It Takes a Town) and Naomi Moran (Forum facilitator).

A number of recommendations were developed from the day, outlined in the Summary report, which will inform BCF’s work program. We thank everyone who contributed to making this event a great and challenging day for the sector.

Read the Summary report here Download

Find out more about Right Support. Right Time.

Beyond 2020 - The future of National C&F wellbeing policy

Read the Northern Rivers consultation report – the future of National C&F wellbeing policy here Download

Families Australia had been contracted by the Australian Government Department of Social Services to lead consultation on the future of national child and family wellbeing policy on behalf of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing. The results of this consultation have been included in a progress report (link here) which will inform policy to replace the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, which is due to end next year.

The Better Chances Forum (BCF) invited Families Australia to hold a consultation in the Northern Rivers. The consultation was held at Ballina Surf Club on 15 October 2019. Forty-three people from 20 different community and government services and community groups in our region attended and contributed to the information included in this draft report.


Acting on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the Northern Rivers

The first working group meeting will be held in February 2020.

Strengthening Day for Aboriginal family support and Early Childcare workers in the Northern Rivers

The purpose of these days (facilitated once a term) is to bring together Aboriginal workers from across the Northern Rivers Region for healing and strengthening so that we can continue to work in our communities and be better supported by mainstream services and each other.  

The Strengthening Day is a safe cultural space to discuss the difficult aspects of our work and will include:

  • Guest speakers, facilitated forum discussion, active workshops:
  • Strategies for healing and self-care, healing circles for staff carrying trauma.
  • Yarning about our practice and how we can support families to access support and connect with community and culture.
  • Networking and making connections to support each other in our work.

We will also continue our discussion about how we would like mainstream services to work alongside us and support us – practical things we need and continuing this conversation through the Better Chances Forum.

Term 1, 2020 Strengthening Day details:

Friday 6 March 2020 
9:30am – 4:00pm 
Ballina Surf Club 

To register for the day go to 

To find our more contact the Jarjum Centre in Lismore phone 02 6621 9203 or email [email protected]  

This is a Better Chances Forum project, supported by Social Futures, YWCA Communities for Children, Northcott and NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

Becoming more trauma responsive in our work

A series of professional development workshops were held in 2019 with participants from 30 organisations. They focussed on identifying what workers in the Northern Rivers need in their work to be more responsive to trauma.

Analysis of workshop results and related evidence was brought to a consolidation workshop. We are aiming to produce a brief to assist with communication on this challenge with executives, boards and commissioning agencies.

Working Together

Working Together is a joint initiative of the Better Chances Forum (BCF) and NSW Department of Education (Public Schools) connecting schools directly with community service providers.

Since the initiative began we have had 280 staff attendances from NSW Education and community and government service providers in the Northern Rivers Region.

The initiative started in 2017 with networking events connecting BCF members with NSW Department of Education Schools Services staff in Tweed Shire, and later in Lismore and Clarence Valley.

In 2019, the event was extended to connect school principals with community service providers. 58 principals across Richmond, Lismore and Lennox Coast connected with 41 programs across 28 agencies and service providers.

Download a promotional flyer about Working Together Download  

The BCF is working to reduce the number of children and young people in out of home care (OOHC) in Northern NSW.

Our population (in Northern Rivers NSW)

  • 41,261 families with children (26,932 couple families; 14,329 one-parent families)
  • 78,748 0-25 year olds (32,273 0-9 year olds; 33,845 10-19 year olds) (2016 Census)
  • 4510 children and young people in Risk Of Significant Harm (ROSH) reports in 2017-18
  • 868 C&YP in Out of Home Care (30 June 2018).

In NSW, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are more than 10 times as likely as other children to be in statutory OOHC. Nationally, in the 20 years following the Bringing Them Home Report in 1997, representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children increased from one in every five children in OOHC to one in every three (Family Matters Report 2017). In Northern NSW, 409 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were living in OOHC in 2017 representing 42.5 per cent of total numbers.

Understanding how the broader community services sector can work more supportively alongside Aboriginal workers, organisations and communities is key focus of the BCF. We acknowledge the importance of culture to wellbeing for children, young people, and their families and communities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and will work to reflect this in the approach and focus of the Forum’s activities.

Please download the BCF Terms of Reference here: Download  

Program resources

Getting the right support at the right time

Read the BCF submission on the Their Futures Matter Reform



The NSW Government Their Futures Matter reform is looking to reshape the access system so children, young people and their families get the right support at the right time. We need to invest earlier, improve accountability, consistency and coordination, and focus on how we can connect everyone approaching services with at least some form of support. If we are to function successfully as a trauma responsive system our funding contracts need to allow for the flexibility to do this. It needs to be reflected in our funding, program performance measures and our practice.


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