Good morning everyone.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to elders past and present.
Well, what an incredibly difficult time our nation has endured over the past 18 months. A once-in-a-century global pandemic, lockdowns, border closures, financial pressures – unfortunately COVID-19 continues to present enormous challenges for millions of Australian families, and their children.
As the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing, your meeting today comes at a very important time in our efforts to improve child protection in Australia.
As you will hear today, we are very close to finalising the new National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
This is a crucial piece of work. For the past two years, pulling together this National Framework has been my biggest priority as the Assistant Minister for Children and Families.
Even during this pandemic I visited many states and territories to speak with community leaders, providers, frontline workers and families - to listen to their insights, their advice, and their views, to ensure that we get this Framework right.
Of course, your Coalition was a driving force behind establishing the first National Framework, which provided a strong foundation for governments and the sector to work effectively together. You continue to be a valued and trusted source of advice to my office and my Department, so thank you for everything you have done, and the contribution that you will continue to make.
As I mentioned before, right now we are at the final stages of developing the new 10-year National Framework. And as we approach this outcome over the next few months, your ongoing input will remain absolutely essential.
In our discussions on the new Framework, I’m proud that the Federal Government has secured agreement with the states and territories to ensure that it will aim to support the four most vulnerable groups of kids, which are:
- Children and families with complex needs, which is about effective early intervention support;
- At-risk Indigenous children;
- Children, parents or carers with a disability; and
- Children who have been abused or neglected, especially the 46,000 children in out-of-home care.
Importantly, this Framework will also have four key focus areas, which reflect what you have told us over the past couple of years, and through our public consultations.
- A national approach to early intervention for kids and families who are vulnerable or disadvantaged;
- Reducing the over-representation of Indigenous kids in the child protection system;
- Improved information sharing; and
- Strengthening the child and family sector workforce.
It is also worth adding that earlier this month, the Government announced our Implementation Plan for the new Closing the Gap agreement.
On this front, I’m excited to confirm that the new Framework will be a key driver behind our efforts to achieve Target #12.
This is the Target to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031. Looking at the recent child protection stats for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, clearly there is a lot of work to do here.
I want to conclude my address by acknowledging a reality that we all face.
And that is, the challenges for child safety in Australia are significant. They are complex. They are often intergenerational and firmly entrenched in many of our communities.
However, in saying that, I’m also optimistic that through this new National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, we can secure a real, positive, and sustained difference on the ground, when it comes to addressing this issue over the next decade.
It comes down to this - all of our kids, across the country, have the right to grow up healthy, happy, safe and secure.
They have the right to be valued, and to know they are valued.
Thank you so much, and on a final note, I want to extend my appreciation to Dr Brian Babington for your leadership, your support, and your friendship over so many years. You have done an outstanding job, and I wish you all the best.