During the COVID lockdown period (April-June 2020) The Cairns Institute, as part of the Cairns South Collective Impact project, brought service providers together through informal online meetings. This provided opportunity to share information on updated service provision, challenges and areas of need arising in the context of COVID. Professor Allan Dale has said that “One of the most powerful outcomes from a collective impact framework is the sharing of knowledge and ideas. It can provide a form of ‘brains trust’ to solve what can sometimes seem like complex problems.”
Under reporting of and potential increases in domestic and family violence during COVID and associated long term impacts of trauma on children were amongst issues discussed at the informal meetings.
One of the services attending talked about a Tablelands project initiated by the Mareeba Early Childhood Community Network called ‘Backseat Books”. This involves placing books in police vehicles attending households in stress to respond to vulnerability and distress children face in such situations. These books can be used by police officers to connect with a child, and to help them feel safer and calmer.
This has led to QPS (Queensland Police Service), an active member of the Cairns South Collective Impact Project, now trialing Backseat Books in Yarrabah, Edmonton, Smithfield, Cooktown, Atherton, Mareeba and the Youth Co-responder Team. Cairns Libraries has stepped in to support this trial, donating 200 children’s books. Though seemingly a small thing, it is hoped that connecting with a child in a vulnerable situation through books will make an important difference.
As Detective Senior Sergeant Marty Ots of the QPS states, “Hopefully the availability of the books will calm the children quicker, reduce the impact the event has on the child through distraction, build better relations with QPS, and increase their enjoyment of reading".
Children will be allowed to keep the books and the trial will be monitored to better understand its potential impact.