ACT Together case worker Sheri Davis-Hall's job is demanding, but that's the life of a case worker in the ACT.
Child protection worker Sheri Davis-Hall wants to make sure she's on the right side of history by doing the best she can in a challenging job.
It's tough, she said, when every day she's faced with pain - a child's pain, a carer's pain, the pain of parents and grandparents... the list goes on.
Ms Davis-Hall is a coordinator of care for children removed from their homes. She works for ACT Together, the consortium responsible for managing foster and kinship care in Canberra.
"It's my role to make sure that the child knows what's happening in regards to their situation, and it's also my role to make sure the child's fears and wishes are heard and respected and communicated to decisions makers," Ms Davis-Hall said.
The nature of the work means there are often times when, looking back, she could have made a different decision, she said, but it makes it even more crucial to ensure you're learning something new everyday.
"Making big life changing decisions is not taken lightly and yes you'll always wonder what would have happened if I had chosen the second option," she said.
"But sometimes there's not always a second option. Decisions need to be made taking all [sorts of] things into consideration, so it's quite complex at times."
Ms Davis-Hall spent 20 years in marketing before making the move to become a case worker for what was then Barnardos, about five years ago.
She retrained and completed a certificate four in community services at Canberra Institute of Technology, and then a diploma of community services. She's now undertaking a bachelor's degree in social work.
Ms Davis-Hall is one of a few case workers who is trained in cultural awareness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It's important to note because, alarmingly, while Aboriginal children make up fewer than 3 per cent of children in Canberra, they equate to about a quarter of children in the ACT child protection system. The ACT has the second highest rate of Aboriginal children in state care in the country.
"To do good work there needs to be a connection with people, I feel. Sheri Davis-Hall
In a recent report from the committee reviewing these astronomical rates of Aboriginal children in out of home care in Canberra, committee chair Barbara Causon said the government was too slow to act on measures like only allocating cases with Aboriginal children to case workers with cultural awareness training.
But for workers like Ms Davis-Hall, respecting culture is part of the job. She has a personal interest in culturally appropriate care.
"I was reflecting on how, given the history of Aboriginal child removals in Australia and the job that I'm sitting in, I feel like I'm given an opportunity to contribute to working toward changing the system, which I'm grateful for," Ms Davis-Hall said.
She helped create the Footprints Together framework for ACT Together which aims to build a "culturally intelligent organisation" to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
She said there are complexities to the work she does, but she sees it as the challenge of working with people.
"It's about forming a relationship, and I'll be the first to admit that's really difficult in this context because of the history [of the Stolen Generation]. But I just present as an authentic person who genuinely wants to help."
"To do good work there needs to be a connection with people, I feel," she said.
Ms Davis-Hall said she's aware of the current problems in the child protection system in the ACT, but she's focused on doing the best she can to help children in need.
"I can't judge on whether the system is working," she said.
"I think [case workers] do a great job, we love what we do and our job is very hard. We do our best, well I do my best."
(This article first appeared in the Canberra Times)