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Pru Goward rejects call to appoint Aboriginal child and family commissioner | Australia news


The NSW families minister, Pru Goward, has rejected calls to appoint an Aboriginal child and family commissioner to help reduce the number of Aboriginal children being removed from their families and placed in out-of-home care.

“We’re not creating a separate system for Aboriginal children. This is core business for us,” Goward told ABC radio on Thursday morning.

“This is Australia and we are all in this together. This is core for all of us. It needs to remain in the mainstream, as part of mainstream responsibility.”


The peak body for Aboriginal organisations working in the system, the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat, or AbSec, told Guardian Australia an Aboriginal child and family commissioner could direct investment in child and family support services, set up a statewide data system to measure needs and effects, and provide early intervention programs for Aboriginal families.

“We want to see investment in solutions pioneered and provided by Aboriginal agencies and communities,” Absec’s chief executive, Tim Ireland, said.

“It is not fair that we should have such little say in a system which so heavily affects our people.”

More than 7% of Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care, compared with 1% of all children and young people in NSW.

• The number of children in out-of-home care has doubled in 10 years due to increases in factors driving demand, like mental health issues, as well as a lack of investment in vulnerable families’ needs before they enter OOHC

• The cost of providing OOHC is growing, with the expanding NGO sector costing significantly more than the government sector

• The government spends a lot on OOHC but it is not well-targeted and there is still significant unmet demand and inefficiency: “Overall, the system is ineffective and unsustainable”

• Millions of dollars’ worth of programs are delivered in agency silos and are not evaluated 

• Outcomes are particularly poor for Aboriginal children and families, who are the highest growing population in OOHC. The number of Aboriginal children being restored to their families has dropped significantly  

• Current programs are not aligned with what children and families need

• Expenditure is crisis-driven, rather than going towards early intervention or family preservation

• “The system is failing to improve the long term outcomes for children and to arrest the devastating cycles of intergenerational abuse and neglect”

• A new entity, a NSW family investment commission, is needed to drive and implement personalised packages for vulnerable children and families

The NSW government “probably should have” released the Tune report into child protection earlier, Goward told ABC radio.

But because it was commissioned by cabinet, the government was following the “time-honoured Westminster tradition” of respecting cabinet confidentiality, the minister said.

“But the really good news is that now that it’s out there, you can see we have implemented Tune’s recommendations and we are doing better than he predicted we would do if we followed his recommendations.”

Goward said her department had reduced by 20% the number of Aboriginal children being taken into care over the past six years.

Family and Community Services (Facs) data shows 2,914 Aboriginal children were taken into out-of-home care in 2016, down from 3,585 in 2011.

The 2018-19 budget, to be delivered next Tuesday, will invest an additional $59m over four years by adding 100 more child protection staff and setting a target of more than 1,000 open adoptions.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge was part of the upper house push to have the Tune report made public last week and backed the AbSec call for a Aboriginal child and family commissioner.

“The minister is either in denial or plainly ignorant of the needs of First Nations people and the systemic disadvantages they face at the hands of her department,” Shoebridge told Guardian Australia.

“Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be taken from their families by a government official.

“This is a result of the engrained racism of a system that pretends it can treat communities and children who face systemic disadvantage no differently than non-Aboriginal children.

“The independent Tune report says what Aboriginal communities have been saying for 230 years, that the answer lies in self-determination and that Aboriginal kids are best cared for by Aboriginal parents, elders, aunts, uncles and grandparents.”



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