Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 15 February 2017) . . Page.. 485 ..
MR MILLIGAN: Specifically, once again, can you identify why so many Indigenous children are requiring out of home care?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: As I was saying, some of the drivers are similar to those for non-Indigenous families: family violence, drug and alcohol use and mental illness among the community. Obviously we are seeing that a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are vulnerable across a range of factors. That is why early intervention and prevention are a primary focus of the step up for our kids strategy.
As I was saying, from 1 January, as part of the step up for our kids strategy, Uniting began delivering the children and family ACT program to families who have children at risk of entering care or who have entered care. The needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are a key focus of Uniting’s service and are supported and informed by the Aboriginal development service, Jaanimili. Jaanimili supports the way services are delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families by providing cultural guidance, expertise and support.
Just to go back to my earlier point, when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people have to be removed from family and are not able to be in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander care situation, there is a cultural plan developed so that they maintain connection to culture. We recognise that is an extremely important part of growing up as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person.
Jaanimili is working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies and community groups, particularly Gugan Gulwan and Winnunga Aboriginal-controlled community organisations, to ensure there is an essential link with service delivery; and the child development service within the Community Services Directorate is also supporting families with early intervention support where disability might be a factor in the family as well.
MRS KIKKERT: Minister, why is there such a spike in Indigenous kids as opposed to non-Indigenous kids in out of home placements, and what are your plans to reverse the trend in the need for out of home placements?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I did ask for the figures, when Kevin Rudd was talking about the increase from 2007 to 2015 the other day. There has been a small proportional increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people coming into care in the ACT. It has increased from about 22 per cent coming into out of home care to about 26 per cent. That is an unacceptable increase, and that is why we are working so hard through early intervention and prevention services, and through restoration services.
The consortium that is delivering out of home care, ACT Together, led by Barnardos, is also strongly focused, when children do come into the out-of-home care system, on working with families to restore those children, where possible, or to find culturally appropriate placements for those children, and ensuring, as I said, that cultural plans are in place and that the children have good access to cultural support.