Northern Territory Tripartite Forum 2021

Good morning everyone.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that today’s Tripartite Forum is meeting on, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

It’s a pleasure to join you today, although it will have to be very brief – because I’ve got a full day of travelling in my electorate. In fact, right now I’m dialling in from the Walkerston Leagues Club, which is just south of Mackay here in Queensland. 

Although I’ll have to keep this short and sharp, I never want to miss an opportunity to be at these meetings, so thanks again for having me. 

As we approach the end of another COVID-challenged year, on behalf of the Federal Government, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Forum members for your ongoing dedication and hard work, on behalf of children and their families who call the Territory home.

Despite the pandemic, together we have made encouraging progress this year.

In my portfolio, I’m especially pleased that Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031, has now been endorsed and is ready to launch.

Of course, the main aim of this new Framework is to secure major and sustained progress in reducing rates of child abuse and neglect, as well as its intergenerational impacts. It’s a crucial piece of work and I’m genuinely optimistic about what it can achieve for child safety over the next decade. 

Importantly for this Forum, the new National Framework embeds the four Priority Reforms of the Closing the Gap Agreement, and it will also strengthen the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.  

Therefore, it was really important for me that Indigenous Australians had a front-line role in co-designing the new Framework – which will have two five-year action plans. Significantly, there will be two specific, and separate, Indigenous action plans which will sit beside them. 

I can tell you that all state and territory ministers have agreed that these action plans will be developed and announced by March next year. So we are not wasting any time on this, because there is still a huge amount of work to do between now and then. 

As I said before, I’m confident of real achievement under the new National Framework. And a big reason for this is because of the strong, effective and positive level of engagement that we’ve had with the Indigenous community in pulling it together.

This is worth mentioning because this level of involvement and leadership marks a fundamental change in the way that governments are working to support Indigenous Australians - to lead the decisions which directly impact their lives.

On this front, the Government is also increasing the involvement of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in the family sector, as part of our $98 million investment in the Closing the Gap Action Plan.

This investment is supporting several new programs, that will harness innovation to improve outcomes for Indigenous children - including improving frontline responses for families with multiple and complex needs.

To everyone in this Forum, I would like to affirm the Government’s ongoing commitment to Territory families and their kids.

I’m thrilled that we have committed more than $44 million in Children and Family Intensive Support, which will directly help families across the Territory, and in the APY lands.

And together with the Territory Government, we have redesigned programs to provide a good spread of services across the Territory, aligning with recommendations from the Productivity Commission.

Now, no one can deny that there is a way to go before we can say that we have secured safe and nurturing environments for our children.

But this year we have all made great progress, and I am positive about the future.

Thanks again for your continuing leadership, support and dedication when it comes to helping our most vulnerable kids. I really appreciate it, and on that note I would like to wish you all the best for a productive meeting, and I look forward to catching up again in the new year.