Good morning everyone.
To begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which this year’s forum is meeting – which is Larrakia country - and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present. And I would like to extend my respects to Indigenous people who are viewing this video.
I regret that I am not able to join you in-person today. But I look forward to hearing about the outcomes that you reach over the next couple of days.
This forum comes at a very crucial time.
As the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families, I’m pleased to say that there is a lot of important work currently underway when it comes to protecting Australia’s most vulnerable kids.
On this front, my biggest priority is the development of a new 10-year National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
The previous National Framework secured some important achievements, such as:
- the appointment of a dedicated National Children’s Commissioner;
- establishing the National Standards for Out-of-Home Care; and
- delivering Connect for Safety – a new software platform which allows governments to exchange information more effectively for at-risk children, who move across state borders.
However, we know there is still a lot of work to do. The number of children receiving child protection services in Australia remains way too high.
I can assure you that the Federal Government is stepping up to this challenge, and we are committed to getting this right.
Engagement with states and territories is ongoing, in order to finalise the new National Framework. Once that job is complete, we will immediately begin work on the first of two, five-year action plans.
I’m proud that this new National Framework will focus on Australia’s most vulnerable children, who are:
- At-risk Indigenous children;
- Children who have been abused or neglected – especially the 46,000 children in out-of-home care, including those exiting care;
- Children with a disability; and
- Children who are in families with multiple and complex issues.
The new National Framework will aim to support vulnerable families through effective early intervention approaches, improved workforce capability across the sector, and better information sharing.
Of course, this will be a challenge but I’m confident we can do it.
The new National Framework is our opportunity to deliver the significant reform that is being asked of us.
Importantly, the Framework will have a huge focus on addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous kids in child protection, to align with Target 12 of the National Closing the Gap Agreement.
As you know, all 16 targets under Closing the Gap were agreed on directly with Indigenous leaders. This is a really effective way forward.
Using this approach, we are currently working in partnership with SNAICC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group, to co-design the new Framework.
From March to May this year, SNAICC ran a series of national consultations to help develop the new Framework.
One key theme that emerged from this is the frustration among Indigenous Australians at the lack of real change on longstanding issues within their communities.
Our challenge right now is to take decisive action. And for my part, I am committed to thinking outside the box.
We need to look at what the data is telling us – what are the most pressing issues? How can we use data to understand the impact of our policies and practices?
For example, these issues often involve family violence.
Which is why I was thrilled that in our recent budget, the Federal Government announced a record $1.1 billion Women’s Safety Package, which we know will make a real difference on the ground.
I also know that a tremendous amount of work is underway to secure Australia’s next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.
Combined with the National Framework, we will do everything we can to ensure that both of these strategies are developed in cohesion with each other.
Of course, there is no underestimating the challenges, and the complexity, involved in all of these issues.
But nor should we underestimate the commitment that all Governments, and all stakeholders, at every level, share in our determination to improve outcomes for Australian families, and, most importantly, our kids.
It comes down to this - every child should be able to grow up happy, loved, and safe.
On that note, I wish you all a very productive conference, and look forward to hearing the outcomes of your discussions.