THRIVE National Permanency Conference 2021

Good morning everyone, and on behalf of the Federal Government it is my pleasure to welcome you to what is the 5th National Permanency Conference.

I would like to first of all acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands where we are all gathered today, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

I would also like to thank the dedicated and professional team at Adopt Change for organising this year’s conference, despite the enormous challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Permanency Conferences are so important. These remain a crucial opportunity for all of us to affirm our absolute commitment to doing what we can to ensure that every child in care across Australia can belong in a family that is safe, loving, stable and permanent.

These events aren’t just an opportunity to hear from experts and leaders in the field, but to exchange our ideas and experiences through robust discussion. Of course, it’s also about taking decisive action.

As the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families, I can assure you that your recommendations paper from last year’s conference has helped our Government to develop the new 10-year National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

This is a crucial piece of work, and we are determined to get it right. I’m pleased to advise that Community Services Ministers are currently finalising the new Framework, having agreed to it in-principle at our most recent meeting in September.

Given the progress we’ve made so far, we expect to launch it next month in November, with the title of Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031.

This Framework is about recognising that all children deserve to thrive and grow up free from harm, abuse and neglect - which is the theme being addressed by the impressive range of speakers at this conference.

We hope that by launching this new Framework, we can help set Australia up on a more positive path forward when it comes to child safety.

I can confirm that the new Framework will have two five-year action plans, and sitting alongside each of these will be Indigenous-specific action plans.

That last component is significant because the Framework will be one of the driving strategies behind our efforts to achieve Target #12 in the new Closing the Gap Agreement – which is to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031.

Our most recent data emphasises the urgent need to address this issue. Indigenous children are 11 times more likely to be placed into care, and also make up 40% of the overall out-of-home care population, which currently stands at 46,000.

We have held a number of consultations on the new Framework, and I want to thank everyone, including many of you at this conference, who provided us with frank, constructive and invaluable advice.

Some of the themes we took from this are included in the Framework’s focus areas, which reflect the pressing needs of our kids and their families.

Issues of concern coming through the consultations included:

  • better support for young people exiting out-of-home-care;
  • improved data sharing so kids do not fall through the cracks; and
  • addressing family workforce under-staffing, burnout and high turnover. 

These will all be taken on-board and carefully considered as we deliver the new Framework.

Now we also know that if we are to better support kids in care, we need to strengthen support for the people who look after them – our carers.

To this end, the Department of Social Services has commissioned research on how all governments can better look after non-parent carers. And later this year, I’m really looking forward to seeing the results of this research, and how they can inform the actions we ultimately take under the new Framework.

As I said earlier, several of the recommendations from last year’s National Permanency Conference have been immensely helpful in developing the new Framework.

These include improving the provision of trauma-informed support, and strengthening the interface between family and children services, and those in related areas like health and education. There will be further discussions on these issues in the coming months.

Another ongoing matter to be discussed is integrating the voices of children in policies and programs which impact their lives. On this front, we have already taken action, and I am pleased to say that consultations on the new Framework did involve the extensive input of kids and young people. Rest assured, this will continue.

In closing, there is a lot happening right now and I really appreciate the opportunity to provide this update. And may I once again extend my sincere gratitude to Adopt Change, for your terrific leadership in protecting our most vulnerable children.

I wish you all the best for another successful conference and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of your deliberations.

Thank you so much.