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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 3 Hansard (20 March) . .

Page.. 723..


Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders—child protection

MRS KIKKERT: Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Disability, Children and Youth. Minister, you recently told both ABC Radio and the Canberra Times that one of the key factors driving up the territory's rising rate of child protection reports about Indigenous children is "racism in the community". Since the rate of notifications has more than doubled over the past 10 years, does that mean that Canberra has grown more racist under successive Labor-Greens governments?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Kikkert for her question and for her interest in the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the out of home care system, something, of course, that is of significant concern and interest to the government, to the extent that we have established a review into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are engaged with the child protection system. That review is being overseen by a steering committee entirely comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

My comments on the radio, of course, were in context, as you would expect. I was reflecting on the views that have been expressed to me by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and families, including professionals in this space, who do consider that at times their families have been judged differently from other families in the community. They do feel that these judgements amount to a different interpretation—I use the word "racism"; I will say that. I did not mean by that deliberately racist activity; I mean by that what we understand as something that is in the culture where we see things through our own cultural lens. I was reflecting on the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that have been put to me; that they feel that they are judged through a cultural lens where people do not necessarily understand the cultural perspective that they come from.

MRS KIKKERT: Minister, is the high over-representation of Indigenous children in the territory's out of home care system also influenced by racism? You mentioned that you have been given certain allegations by the community that there has been racism involved. How is the government dealing with that issue?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mrs Kikkert for the opportunity to talk more about the review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children involved in the out of home care system. The ACT government is, of course, very concerned about over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the statutory care system and is taking action to reduce that number while maintaining a focus, as of course we do, on keeping children and young people safe, which is the number one priority of the child and youth protection service.

The Community Services Directorate has implemented a range of initiatives which focus on addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the system. On 15 June last year, as I said, I announced a review into the circumstances of each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and young person involved in the child protection system, including those in out of home care. That review, as I mentioned earlier, called "Our Booris, Our Way", will


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