CREATE Foundation Conference


Thank you. That was a great introduction. It is wonderful to be here with you today. This is a really important gathering, very special, but even more special that you're in my hometown of Adelaide on the lands of the Kaurna people. I would like to acknowledge them as the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past and present and of course, extend that acknowledgement to all First Nations people joining us here today.

I would also like to acknowledge all those out-of-home care workers, carers, other people working in the sector in child safety and welfare that are taking part in this conference. Your work is critically important to ensuring that young people in our community are safe and supported. What you do makes a huge difference.

But most importantly, I would like to acknowledge all those people here today who have experienced or are currently in, out-of-home care. This conference is all about ensuring that the work that governments and departments and professionals do is informed by your voice and your voice does really matter.

I think today together we're all here to listen about how we can work together to make sure that children and young people entering out-of-home care are safe and supported and have the opportunity to thrive.

That's certainly what Anne Hollands was indicating, and I wanted to send that message today. Your feedback to government does enable us to do better in terms of the out-of-home care system and ensure that it does meet the needs of children.

Finally, I would like to thank the Create Foundation. Why don't we give them a big round of applause?

Thank you for inviting me but more importantly for putting together this conference and really driving this conversation forward.

Of course, I would like to acknowledge Katrine Hildyard. I think you heard from my colleague Katrine yesterday and you will also be hearing from State and Territory Children's Commissioners and it's great that they're here today to engage with you.

It is important to recognise that for twenty years, the Create Foundation has been advocating for children and young people with care experience and facilitating important forums.

I think the theme of this forum today - your stories, stronger together - really reinforces we need to achieve real change by sharing your experiences which help shine the light on a system, what the system is truly like for children and young people in care. It helps us identify where we can do better, because it is all of our responsibilities to do better. All children have the right to grow up safe, supported and nurtured and able to thrive. And that's why the Commonwealth Government is absolutely committed to partnering with state and territory governments and young people and the broader sector to deliver better outcomes.

One of the primary ways we do this is through the Safe and Supported 10-year Framework for ensuring vulnerable children and young people have the right systems and supports in place. Now we've recently not only launched his framework, but launched two Action Plans that go along with it. The Framework is based on the concept that all children and young people across Australia have the right to grow up safe, connected, supported and free from harm and neglect. The Safe and Supportive Framework is jointly owned by the Commonwealth and all states and territories and does represent how all governments are working together to take collective action.

As the Minister for the Commonwealth, I'm acutely aware that I don't run the child protection systems. Indeed, that is the responsibility of states and territories. I see the role of the Commonwealth as a very important coordination role, supporting states and territories in their work to achieve the best outcomes for children's children and families.

The Safe and Supportive Framework focuses on key priority groups including children and young people who have experienced abuse or neglect, and those in out-of-home care or leaving out-of-home care to transition into adulthood.

As I mentioned, last year, along with all states and territories, we released two Action Plans, a first Action Plan, and a second Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan. And these were deeply informed by consultation right around the country with young people, with organisations with advocacy groups, and with states and territories. These plans look to work across some of the challenges that children and young people in care experience and particularly looking at how we intervene early, how we act in the area of prevention and early intervention, but importantly, also how we improve the experience of those in out-of-home care.

I did want to draw your attention to Action Five, which is about improving the lifetime outcomes for children and young people in and leaving out-of-home care. The Action covers refreshing the national out-of-home care standards to reflect the views of young people and ensure contemporary policy settings are aligned now with states and territories. People may be on different pathways but the commitment by all states and territories along with the Commonwealth will be critical to make sure that those national standards are up to scratch.

Of course, one of the key areas that we are also focused on is addressing the over representation of First Nations children in out-of-home care. Safe and Supported is a key mechanism to achieve Target 12 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap which is to reduce the over representation of First Nations children and young people in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031.

Now the statistics are showing we are going backwards on this. We are not achieving. We are not Closing the Gap and if we look at the system statistics the latest figures show that 45,400 children and young people in 2022 were placed in out-of-home care and of these 19,400 were First Nations children representing 57 per 1,000 children First Nations children entering out-of-home care. These numbers demonstrate that we need to look at transformational change when we are looking at how we protect our children.

That is something that all governments - state and federal - have agreed to do. We have decided to take a different approach, a First Nations led approach. Under Safe and Supported all governments are working in a new way in formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. The partnership agreement that we have just launched, is, as I said, is a new way of working with First Nations people and communities. It documents how governments will work in shared decision making with First Nations leaders to achieve the goals of Safe and Supported. All governments have agreed to have equal numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the leadership group and of course SNAICC. It shows a fundamental shift in the way governments are working. Having First Nations leaders lead the decisions. It is one particular way the Commonwealth is contributing to the actions under Safe and Supported and involves the recent announcement that we would establish a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and Young People.

I would acknowledge that this has been called on for a long, long time – and thank you for that applause in acknowledgment.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling on this for a very long time. We heard from Anne Hollands, who is our National Children’s Commissioner, but of course if we are going to tackle that issue around out-of-home care for First Nations, the over representation, then we must ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's voices are heard.

The new Commissioner will complement the work of existing state and territory commissioners. I did want to acknowledge the work they have done here today. It is not planned that the new Commissioner will take over the work of our state-based Commissioners, but really complement and indeed amplify the work done by those Commissioners. The new Commissioner will work with First Nations children and young people to inform government design of policies, programs and services that meet their unique needs.

Through government, non-government and sector collaboration, we are investigating and addressing the underlying drivers leading to the high rates of First Nations children and out-of-home care. But of course, in addition to this, the lived experience and voices of those who have been in out-of-home care and child protection is so important.

One of the initiatives that we have taken under Safe and Supported is to ensure that we have put together a Safe and Supported Youth Advisory Group to help elevate the voices of young people in out-of-home care and with experience of the child protection system. I recently met with this group just earlier this week, and they have been funded to continue their work into 2024. I'd like to thank them for putting their hand up. I've often said, and it goes to all of those young people here today, as a politician it is really easy to talk about other people. It is a lot harder to talk from the heart about your own experience in order to facilitate change. And so, I would like to acknowledge the work that they do, the young people, drawing on their lived experience and expertise to advise the government on their programs. Their commitment to raise the voices of children and young people and work with government and non-government bodies will make a real difference to not just the policies, but the implementation on the ground.

It is one thing for there to be good intentions on a piece of paper or in a document. The next step is how we bring those good intentions to life, to put them into practice, to put them into action and to implement them, that is so critically important.

The work of the Safe and Supportive Youth Advisory Group last year covered a broad range of programs. Some of what they provided input into includes, developing what we monitor and evaluate. They've had input into the National Out-of-home Care Standards and Indicators and they've also been particularly focused on how to best engage adolescent boys at risk of using violence in relationships. In 2024, the Youth Advisory Group will continue to build on the work to embed the voices of young people in specific actions in the Action Plans and the broader evaluation. of Safe and Supported.

They are there to tell us whether we are on the right track. They are there to take those words on the paper into reality. But we don't want to just stop at the Youth Advisory Committee. Through the QR codes on the Safe and Supported promotional material that you see here today, you can register your interest in taking part in the public consultations when they occur, including that really important work being done to refresh of the out-of-home care standards so that you can all have a say in what matters.

Finally, I just wanted to thank Create Foundation for their ongoing advocacy for the voices of young people. One last thing I did want to touch on, and it's a very specific thing, there are QR codes around to make sure that young people transitioning from old out-of-home care into adulthood and independent living do receive the support they need.

Through the Transition to Independent Living Allowance, young people leaving formal out-of-homecare are eligible for a one-off payment of $1,500. This payment can help young people with the purchase of basic goods, services and supports their transition to independence.

We know that it is under subscribed and we are encouraging all young people who are eligible to apply for this payment to do so. I think it is really important to get the message out there and I just wanted to bring people's attention to that.

There has been progress made to address some of the gaps in out-of-home care, but I recognise as many of you in this room, there is still much more to do. You are here today to engage in this conversation about what the necessary steps are to create a transformation in out-of-home care system. One that enables children and young people to reach their full potential and thrive.

I look forward to working with all of you and hearing from all of you. Those with lived experience, those people that work on the front line every day, you bring such valuable information, experience, and insight as well.

Let’s all work together to make our out-of-home care system as good as it can be to support young people reach their full potential.

Thank you for having me here.