Community Services Ministers Meeting

Community Services Ministers met via video conference on 5 August 2022.

Ministers commenced the meeting with a discussion on the interconnectedness of the issues impacting families in the community and the complexities of child protection.

There was a collective resolve to grow community understanding about child safety and increase awareness that the solutions are broader than being solely the responsibility of the child protection system. Ministers expressed a shared determination to make positive change and build a contemporary vision for reform.

Ministers and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group discussed progress to date on the development of the first 5 year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and General Action Plans for Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031 (Safe and Supported).

Ministers thanked representatives of the Leadership Group and the National Coalition for reflecting positively on the development of the plans, in particular the commitment of governments to progress the exercising of authority by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, and encouraged all parties to continue to be ambitious to achieve the transformative change that is required for the benefit of children and families.

Ministers also recognised the important work of Aboriginal Community-Control Organisations in child protection and discussed how to support ACCOs to expand this role.

Ministers discussed the draft Action Plans and noted progress both in negotiating governance arrangements, which affirm the Leadership Group as shared decision makers and continues the strong partnership with the National Coalition for delivering the Action Plans, and developing the Outcomes Frameworks and Theories of Change that will sit alongside the first 5 year Action Plans. The Outcomes Framework will detail the specific changes Safe and Supported aims to achieve and the Theory of Change will explain how and why these changes will occur.

Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to taking urgent action to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.

Ministers committed to governments continuing to work in partnership with the Leadership Group and closely with the National Coalition to agree in-principle to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan and the General Action Plan at a face-to-face meeting in October 2022 and to finalise the Action Plans by the end of the year. Ministers also committed to continue to discuss other key national issues impacting families at their October 2022 meeting.

Ministers discussed the importance of strengthening families, children and communities and the Commonwealth’s commitment to a National Early Years Strategy (Strategy) which will closely align with Safe and Supported.

The Strategy will better coordinate Commonwealth policies, programs and funding for early childhood development. The Strategy will create a new integrated, holistic and whole of government approach to the early years.