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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 February 2015) . . Page.. 359 ..

before applying for permanent guardianship of a child; improved support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through measures including a team of cultural advisers; providing non-government organisations with a far greater role, including having responsibility for all children on long-term orders until the age of 18 and all support for kinship carers; and strengthening oversight and accountability through a range of measures, including the introduction of a new oversight council to be chaired, as Minister Gentleman said, by Australia’s leading foster care advocate, Ms Bev Orr OAM.

The government has announced—and Mr Gentleman has been to Karinya House—the provision of $750,000 in new funding for expansion, which invests in a new level of service, including a mother and baby unit which will provide supervision and support for up to three months for new mothers whose babies are at risk of entering care. This unit is part of the placement prevention component of the strategy and will extend to provide practical in-home support to mothers and fathers struggling to care for their babies. The expansion of Karinya House will allow mothers to remain with their babies whilst they are supported in learning parental skills, reduce the likelihood of those children coming into care and, most importantly, improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for vulnerable infants. All mothers should have the chance to parent their child and, for those who are assessed as high risk parents, learning how to care for a child in a supportive environment can make all the difference.

There is no doubt that around the country child protection and out of home care services are facing many challenges. There are increasing numbers of children and young people entering care. There is a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care. Many young people find it difficult to adjust to life as an adult when they leave care. There is simply a need for more carers in our society. We have an ageing profile of kinship carers, and there is a need to create a more financially sustainable system of support.

The ACT’s care system was not immune to those challenges and although big changes have been made over the years there was a need to rethink the entire system. “A step up for our kids” investment provides that rethink, the partnerships, a new way of delivering services and a new approach. The new system that we are investing in will mean that we are focused on keeping children and young people out of expensive and intensive programs, and a major part of our better services suite of initiatives has been, as Mr Gentleman has said, to provide the right service at the right time for the right duration.

I would like to take this opportunity this morning firstly to commend the Minister for Children and Young People for leading this change process that focuses on better support to keep families together, better support for carers to step up for children and young people and better support for service providers to step up for children and young people.

We are a strong community, and I think that was exemplified in the attendance not only at the launch of this strategy but in the two years of work that led up to it. I would like to also acknowledge this morning the work of Bev Orr, the Chair of the Children and Youth Services Council, and indeed the entire membership of the

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