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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . .

Page.. 1344..


survivors of the stolen generation are still with us, as are the effects on their families and the community. We vow never again.

I welcome the ACT government's policies that are firmly focused on the rights of the child and the need for a caring and nurturing family environment. Removal of children from their immediate family is a last resort, and it is only done when it serves the best interests of the child. Sadly, as with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in other jurisdictions, Canberra's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is over-represented in the number of children in out of home care and in the number of families described as at risk.

Of the 620 children and young people in out of home care in the ACT in February, 26 per cent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. However, a key feature of current ACT practice in out of home care is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child placement principle, which encourages kinship care placements with extended family. This means that over half of Canberra's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care are being looked after by their extended family. As of February this year, 166 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people were in care, with 90 of those in kinship care—that is, 54 per cent in kinship care with members of the extended family. It also means community services provide support and backup to the extended family and the child or young person is kept within their family and culture.

Before we get to having to consider taking children out of unsuitable environments, the new step up for our kids program will provide more support for at-risk families. This includes intensive prevention and reunification services intended to support high risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to stay together. Practical in-home support to address issues and create a safe environment for the child is a priority. It is backed up by a new panel of cultural advisers from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to provide advice to child protection officers.

A step up for our kids, the new out of home care strategy, is the culmination of work over some years, drawing together the experience of the community sector, affected family members, community services and other directorates in a whole-of-government approach. It brings together expertise across a range of fields. That is because our kids are always worth it. With more casework resources, more individualised approaches and attentiveness to culture, a step up for our kids means we are doing everything we can to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in need.

Celebrate Gungahlin festival

MR COE (Ginninderra) (4.38): Last month I was delighted to attend the inaugural Celebrate Gungahlin festival at Gungahlin town park. The festival was a wonderful opportunity for the community to get together and celebrate. Celebrate Gungahlin was very well attended by the community and a wide range of community groups. The enthusiasm of the organisers, community groups and attendees was inspiring. The event was opened by the Chief Minister after the welcome to country by Paul House. Minister Rattenbury, Ms Fitzharris, Senator Seselja and Mr Leigh were also in attendance.


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