Community Services Ministers’ Meeting Communiqué

Community Services Ministers (CSM) met via videoconference on 8 December 2021.

After endorsement from the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group, Ministers were pleased to formally launch Safe and Supported: the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031, which can be found here.

The National Framework is a 10-year whole-of-nation strategy that aims to reduce rates of child abuse and neglect by transforming systems and services that support vulnerable and/or disadvantaged children and families and improve the way governments partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ministers affirmed that the National Framework aims to support all children and young people in Australia, with four priority groups.

These are: children and families with multiple and complex needs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experiencing disadvantage or who are vulnerable, children and young people and/ or parents/carers with disability experiencing disadvantage or who are vulnerable, and children and young people who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, including children in out-of-home care and those leaving care and transitioning to adulthood.

Ministers confirmed that the focus areas of the National Framework are to develop a national approach to early intervention and targeted support for vulnerable or disadvantaged children and families, improve information sharing and data development between all governments and the non-government sector and strengthen the workforce capability in the child and family sector.

All Ministers agreed the National Framework will make an important contribution to preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people from entering child protection systems through effective evidence-based and culturally appropriate early intervention and targeted support.

Ministers acknowledged the leadership of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group and their partnership with governments to develop the framework and the action plans through the ongoing co-design process.

Ministers restated that the National Framework would support commitments under Closing the Gap. All governments recognised that meaningful and sustained change required Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions and the Commonwealth Government reaffirmed its commitment to investing $98 million towards achieving Closing the Gap targets.

Ministers discussed their preferred approach to developing the National Framework’s first five year General Action Plan and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, with a strong commitment to co-design with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group.

Following consultations, Ministers agreed that delivering the Action Plans through a two-stage approach is appropriate. Ministers aim to agree key actions for the first five-year Action Plans by March 2022. These actions will be immediate priorities for achieving the goals of the National Framework.

The two final Action Plans, including Theories of Change, Outcomes Frameworks and governance arrangements will be finalised in May 2022. Ministers agreed this approach better allows time for stakeholder engagement as part of developing the first Action Plans.

Ministers agreed that the Action Plans will align and interact with other national initiatives to support systemic change for children, young people and families, including the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children.

Ministers were pleased that SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children was able to join the meeting to provide an informative overview of the Early Childhood Care and Development Sector Strengthening Plan under the Closing the Gap National Agreement and that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner was able to share information about the important work of the eSafety Commissioner to safeguard Australians when online.

Ministers thanked the National Children’s Commissioner, Ms Anne Hollonds, for taking the time to discuss the views children and young people shared as part of the Commissioner’s national consultations in 2021. Ministers also noted that this input will be important as the National Framework’s first Action Plans are developed.