Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 15 February 2017) . . Page.. 484 ..
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—out of home care
MR MILLIGAN: My question is to the Minister for Disability, Children and Youth. Minister, the 2017 ROGS report on children in child protection services shows that overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in child protection in the ACT is not just high but is actually increasing. Over the past 10 years the percentage of Indigenous Australian youth who have experienced at least one out of home care placement during the reporting period increased nearly 93 per cent whilst the increase for non-Indigenous children and youth over the same period was less than three per cent. Minister, why are so many Indigenous children requiring out of home placement?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Milligan for his question. This is absolutely a critical issue in our community. It is true that not only has the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and children in out of home care increased over the years but, indeed, sadly the proportion of our children and young people in out of home care who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander has also increased.
As many members of this Assembly would be aware, from 1 January last year the government started implementing the step up for our kids strategy for out of home care. It is a five-year strategy. We are one year into it. It addresses the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people as a high priority for this strategy.
The service is to deliver a continuum of care, focusing on, as far as possible, keeping young people and children with their families. That is a particular focus for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, restoring them to families if children have to be removed for their own safety. There is a placement principle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people which is followed in the ACT. If children and young people do have to be removed from their birth family, the first option is to try to find a kinship placement. If that is not possible, it is to find them a placement in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The next option is to go into foster care in a non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family.
Mrs Jones: On a point of order.
MADAM SPEAKER: Please resume your seat Ms Stephen-Smith.
Mrs Jones: The question was why so many Indigenous people are requiring out of home care, not how they are managed in out of home care. What has happened that has increased the numbers, was the question.
MADAM SPEAKER: I think the minister is responding in the general terms of out of home care and the overrepresentation of Indigenous children. Minister.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: It is a very complex issue. The drivers of children and young people coming into out of home care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are similar to those of other families. (Time expired.)