Aboriginal children and young people will benefit from greater protections through enduring changes to the oversight and accountability of the out-of-home care (OOHC) system, as part of the NSW Government’s response to the Family is Culture report.
Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said a new Deputy Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal Children and Young People would strengthen oversight and enforcement powers in accrediting OOHC providers to ensure a higher standard of practice.
“A strong advocate for Aboriginal children and young people within the Office of the Children’s Guardian underpins our response to the report, which also includes permanent measures to drive better outcomes for children in care,” Mr Ward said.
“The voice of Aboriginal people is at the heart of the Government’s response and we will continue to work alongside the community and our non-government partners to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable Aboriginal children and young people.”
The NSW Government will establish an Aboriginal Knowledge Circle comprising of community leaders and sector experts, who will provide advice to the Minister and the Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), about how to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children in OOHC. The group will include:
- Professor Ngiare Brown – senior Aboriginal medical practitioner;
- Shane Phillips – respected community leader and spokesperson;
- Associate Professor Dea Delaney-Thiele – Aboriginal health and child protection sector specialist;
- A representative from AbSec – peak body for Aboriginal children, families and communities;
- Deputy Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal Children and Young People.
DCJ will also establish an Aboriginal Outcomes Taskforce to drive improvements in services and supports for Aboriginal families, data collection and reporting, casework policy and practice, and interagency coordination.
Direct engagement and consultation with Aboriginal stakeholders will be central to the NSW Government’s response through the Aboriginal Knowledge Circle, the Aboriginal Outcomes Taskforce and the new Deputy Aboriginal Children’s Guardian.
“A strong focus on seeing more children, improved practice and evidence-based family preservation programs has resulted in a 35 per cent reduction in the number of Aboriginal children entering out-of-home care since 2015-16,” Mr Ward said.
“I would like to thank Professor Megan Davis and her review team for their work. We have made progress since the review period, but we are determined to do more.
“Our response to the Family is Culture report will lay a foundation for the way forward as we work hard to keep children with their parents and reduce the number of kids coming into care.”
The Family is Culture review examined 1,144 individual cases of children and young people who entered out-of-home care in 2015-16.
Aboriginal Knowledge Circle members
Professor Ngiare Brown is a Yuin nation woman from the south coast of NSW. She is a senior Aboriginal medial practitioner with qualifications in medicine, public health and primary care. She has worked extensively to develop initiatives focused on cultural education and breaking the intergenerational cycles of disadvantage.
“We have a great opportunity to engage directly with the Minister and to have input on policy and systems reform, which aim to deliver better wellbeing outcomes for children and adolescents. There also needs to be a focus on how we build the evidence base and how that can be translated into policy.”
Shane Phillips is a prominent community leader and respected spokesperson for Aboriginal Australians. He has cultural connections to the Bunjalung, Wonnarua and Eora peoples. He is the CEO of Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation based in Redfern, and was the recipient of Australia’s Local Hero at the 2013 Australia Day Awards for his work in the community.
“We have a Cultural responsibility to make a real impact with the response to this review. I’m nervously excited using this opportunity to help empower Aboriginal communities to build capacity, find solutions and to remain connected to mob and culture.”
Associate Professor Dea Delaney-Thiele is a very proud Dungutti, Kamilaroi and Yuin Aboriginal Woman, birthed on Country at Burnt Bridge Mission Kempsey NSW. She holds a Master of Public Health and has over 30 years’ experience working in the Aboriginal health and child protection sectors across New South Wales and Australia.
“We need to embrace ‘what works’; so early intervention and preventive programs that are evidence-based and delivered through culturally appropriate and responsive ways with our families and communities being a central part of the solutions. I am confident this will produce the improved impacts that we all want to see for Aboriginal Children and Young People – our next generations. I’m looking forward to working with the Knowledge Circle Members, the sector and the Government to build a better child protection system for Aboriginal Families and their Children who are facing vulnerable times.”
AbSec is the peak body for Aboriginal children, families and communities. A representative from AbSec will be included on the Aboriginal Knowledge Circle to provide independent advice to the Minister and Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice.
Deputy Children’s Guardian for Aboriginal Children and Young People – the soon-to-be appointed Deputy Children’s Guardian will also sit on the Aboriginal Knowledge Circle. Recruitment is underway for the position and is expected to be complete in coming months.