Page 4667 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017
some of what the minister said just now. Over the past year it has been one of my duties to raise concerns in this chamber, in many cases to be the voice of those who are not heard. Unfortunately, most of these concerns have not gone away. I think it is important, therefore, and part of my responsibility to help provide a fuller picture of the past 12 months. For example, the minister has mentioned that the Labor-Greens government has in the latest budget committed an additional $43.8 million over four years to support our child protection system. As I have said before, if the need is there I will certainly not be the one arguing against providing for some of the territory’s most vulnerable children. But this need is in itself troubling. The minister’s statement admits that:
… we have seen a significant and sustained increase in demand over the past 24 months.
Professor Morag McArthur at the Institute of Child Protection Studies here in Canberra has called this growth in demand distressing. As I have pointed out to the Assembly before, this increased demand has come despite the number of children entering out of home care each year remaining relatively stable over the past three years. This means that children and young people are going into care but not leaving, and this raises serious concerns about the government’s A step up for our kids strategy and its commitment to “reduce demand for out of home care places” and “normalise children and young people’s lives by exiting as many children and young people from care into permanent alternative homes as soon as possible”. Clearly, neither of these outcomes is currently being realised, and so far I have not heard from the minister or this government any satisfactory explanations as to why.
In addition, nearly 50 per cent of those providing out of home care in the territory are now kinship carers, and yet some of these good family members report that they feel inadequately supported. Many of them are older and less well off financially, and yet some note that they are receiving less financial assistance than they used to. Helen Watchirs, our human rights commissioner, even told the ABC in a recent radio interview that she had spoken with a number of grandmothers looking after children in the government’s care who were not getting any financial assistance at all. This is unacceptable.
In this same radio interview the human rights commissioner also brought up the fact that a number of important care and protection decisions in the ACT are not reviewable, as they are in other jurisdictions. This, she said, makes these decisions difficult to defend and undercuts the Labor-Greens government’s supposed commitment to turning Canberra into a restorative city. I concur with Dr Watchirs. I note that some suggestions of progress have begun to appear on this issue in response to a motion I moved earlier this year calling on the government to implement a system of external review for care and protection decisions in this territory, but clearly much more needs to be done.
Regarding the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, the minister seems to have limited her achievements to the introduction of a long-overdue charter of rights. Only time will tell if this piece of paper and any other measures taken by this government to create a truly safe space for both young people and workers will finally stop the outbreaks of