Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 27 November 2018) . . Page.. 4873 ..
ensure that we learn from past mistakes and their horrific impacts. Most importantly, it helps improve our ability to keep children and young people safe from harm in the ACT.
The huge amount of awareness generated by the royal commission has important lessons for all of us: we must not ignore those things that are harmful and wrong just because they are difficult. Many people, including me, knew, through their own experience or that of someone they knew, what was going on in schools, churches and homes around the country. For some of these people, shame, fear of retribution or stigma, or guilt kept them quiet. For others, the subject was just too difficult to discuss, perhaps because it meant questioning their faith or standing up to authority or maybe just because it was not something anyone else was talking about or they felt they would not be believed. The royal commission has shown us that we can talk about the horrible things that have happened and there is an enormous amount of energy and goodwill in our society to be harnessed to right these wrongs and to try to redress the injustices that occurred and prevent further harm.
Whilst we are addressing the harms of the past, we must be mindful that children continue to be removed from their families and placed in the out of home care system. I was very concerned to read in a recent report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies that these numbers are increasing. Between 2013 and 2017, there was an 18 per cent increase nationally in the number of children in out of home care.
This, sadly, is reflected in the ACT, with 558 children in out of home care in 2013, increasing to 803 children in out of home care last year. And we know, in the ACT in particular but I am sure Australia wide, that Aboriginal children are hugely over-represented in this figure. We need to seriously ask ourselves: are we creating another stolen generation? I have heard some distressing stories, so I feel this is a question we need to ask ourselves. I sincerely hope that the government’s strategy Our Booris, Our Way is doing enough to turn this situation around as quickly as possible to ensure that it is not repeated.
There are many parallel issues that we need to address as a society, both local and national. We do not have to look very far. There is the over-representation of people with disabilities as victims of abuse, especially women as victims of sexual abuse. We should not have to wait for another royal commission to address this. There is the issue of social, cultural and legislative change to respond to the millions of women who have come forward as part of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. There is the issue of the unlawful and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, especially child asylum seekers, by successive federal governments. There is the issue of the impoverished conditions for people trying to survive on Newstart—especially, putting an emphasis on children again, the conditions of children who are in families who are trying to survive on Newstart. And probably the biggest failure of the lot for our children is the systematic failure to act to prevent the extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals on the earth, including possibly our own species.
We need to listen to and believe the experiences of those who have been silenced by fear, stigma, power imbalance or disenfranchisement. And, importantly, we need to