Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 12 Hansard (Tuesday, 29 November 2022) . . Page.. 3924 ..
The bill requires the commissioner to engage closely with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including children and young people, and enables the commissioner to establish advisory bodies. These mechanisms are critical to ensuring that the commissioner is responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT and is empowered to advocate for community-identified solutions. The commissioner’s individual advocacy powers will set them apart from similar roles in other jurisdictions. They will have a function to intervene on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in relation to decisions that will affect their rights or interests. This includes in the child protection system, such as through case conferences and court proceedings.
The bill amends the Children and Young People Act to provide the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Commissioner with the requisite powers equivalent to the Public Advocate and human rights commissioners. This includes access to information about children in the child protection system and the capacity to engage with young people in the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre.
While the commissioner will have equivalent powers to the existing statutory office holders in the ACT, the requirements in this bill will ensure that the new commissioner exercises these functions in a distinct way, drawing on their specific expertise and ongoing community engagement. The commissioner will also have a systemic advocacy function to inquire into matters related to the rights, development, safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. They will be able to make a recommendation in relation to an inquiry and require a response from the person in charge of a relevant entity within a reasonable stated time frame.
As I outlined in my ministerial statement this morning, the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child and youth protection system and out of home care continues to be a significant challenge. This unacceptable reality exists in child protection systems across Australia. The Our Booris, Our Way recommendations are our road map to make the necessary changes to address it here in the ACT. I would again like to thank the Our Booris, Our Way Implementation Oversight Committee for their continued advocacy and advice to government in the implementation of their recommendations. I acknowledge the achievement that the passage of this bill represents for every member of both the current and previous iteration of the committee.
I would also like to thank the Jumbunna Institute and all community members who participated in the co-design work to ensure that this bill is as culturally informed and as effective as it can be. Finally, I would like to acknowledge Minister Cheyne for her leadership in this vital piece of work. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (11.15): I rise as an ACT Greens member of this Assembly to speak in support of this bill to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner as an independent statutory authority.