Page 2823 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 17 August 2005

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and Family Support to provide a focussed response to some of the issues faced by indigenous children in the ACT.

It is true to say that, on a percentage basis, there are more children of indigenous backgrounds in the care of the territory. At times, there are unacceptable levels of indigenous young people in Quamby detention centre and, without a doubt, indigenous young people seem to face a lot more challenges than their non-indigenous peers. Certainly there is a requirement there for extra support and extra social services. Some of that originates from the experiences they have within their family environment, should that be their close family or their extended family.

We are responding at the ACT level to meet the needs of young indigenous people. In fact, it is my understanding that we now have, for the first time within the ACT public service, a senior executive officer of indigenous background to take up the role of managing indigenous services within the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support and provide that targeted response to the issues facing children. In response to the partnerships program, I will get back to you and see whether the ACT is to receive any of that grant money from the commonwealth.

DR FOSKEY: I have a supplementary. Does this apparent low level of awareness about this funding indicate broader problems in the ACT government’s capacity to respond to opportunities to secure Australian government funding or does the minister not see this funding as important to the ACT?

MS GALLAGHER: No, I think your question is about how much we will get, whether it is a grants process that we have applied for, which is conditional on meeting requirements, or whether it is a process of the commonwealth, on a pro rata basis, providing some money to the states and territories. On that, I think it is advisable that I respond to you with accurate information. I would reject any allegation that the government is not interested or not out their seeking as many resources as possible to support indigenous young people in the territory. In recent years, we have taken it upon ourselves to finance that support. If you look back at previous budgets, you will see money going into indigenous education, into establishing an indigenous foster care service, into establishing an ATSI unit within the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, into recruiting a senior executive of an indigenous background to support us in that work, into the establishment of Isabella House and into the opening of an indigenous garden within the Quamby detention centre.

The support for indigenous programs would indicate that this government has taken an extremely proactive stand in meeting the needs of indigenous young people and in responding to the issues that they face in the territory in relation to education. For the first time in any jurisdiction we have seen some of our young indigenous students in year 3 achieving the same level of educational outcome as their non-indigenous peers. That is not something that has been achieved anywhere else in the country. While we have some hesitation about crowing about that, because of the small numbers within each age cohort, I think it shows this government’s commitment to dealing with the issues, to accepting that there are a number of challenges facing indigenous children and young people. We are responding to them not only with resources but also with better policy approaches, and we will continue to do that with or without the help of the commonwealth government.

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