Good morning everyone.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the many lands from which we are coming together for this year’s conference, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.
It’s a pleasure to join you today, at the end of what has been another challenging year.
On behalf of the Federal Government, I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank SNAICC. Your support, your leadership, your guidance and your advice has been invaluable.
As I reflect on another COVID-ravaged year, together we have secured some promising achievements. Because we all know, of course, that despite the ongoing obstacles of a global pandemic, that we need to get on with the job.
As the Assistant Minister for Children and Families, my biggest priority has been the development of a new, 10-year National Framework to support our most vulnerable kids. And as we’ve pulled this together, the role of SNAICC has been absolutely essential.
This comprehensive new blueprint will be known as Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031.
This is an important piece of work. Because its goal is to make significant and sustained progress in reducing rates of child abuse and neglect, and crucially, breaking the generational cycles of disadvantage.
I can assure you that improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and their families, will be front-and-centre of these efforts. And this new Framework recognises that to secure effective action to support Indigenous children, we need Indigenous-led solutions.
That’s why in pulling this Framework together, it was so important to have both SNAICC, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group, working with governments to co-design it.
In the first half of this year, SNAICC led national consultations with the Indigenous community - marking a big shift in the way that Australian governments are working to support first nations people – that is, to lead the decisions that impact their lives.
Then in September, the new Framework received the endorsement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group.
To improve child safety we need to be ambitious. And through the Framework’s Action Plans, we are committed to agreeing to measurable, tangible actions that will bring together the Federal Government, and the state and territories, as well as the non-government sector.
Indigenous children and young people are a priority group under the new Framework. This means there will be a strong focus on addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in child protection systems, and a key focus of this will be strengthening the five elements of the Child Placement Principle.
The co-design process with the Indigenous community that I mentioned before underpins the new Framework, which will be the key driver behind our efforts to achieve Target 12 under our National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Target 12, as you know, is the critical target to reduce the rate of overrepresentation of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031. This is a target that I am so determined to address.
In terms of its structure, the new National Framework will have two, five-year action plans. And alongside each of these will be an action plan that is specific to Indigenous Australians.
These specific Indigenous action plans are a first, and will be developed in close partnership with SNAICC and the Leadership Group.
Given the importance of achieving Target 12, formal partnerships with Indigenous leaders will be established to oversee these action plans.
Achieving Target 12 will be a huge task, and we need to take decisive action. On this front, I’m pleased that the Federal Government is stepping up with an investment of $98 million in new measures, as part of the Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan.
This includes improving frontline responses for families with multiple and complex needs.
Crucially, it will also develop cultural and trauma responsiveness within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous workforce.
Now, we know that securing a meaningful connection to culture is fundamentally essential in strengthening child protection in Australia. That is why Indigenous leadership is so vital in developing policies and programs for at-risk kids.
Overall, although we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do, I’m genuinely optimistic about what the National Framework can potentially achieve over the next ten years, and what it represents.
So once again, I would like to thank you all for your commitment and dedication to Australia’s children. We owe it to them to get this Framework right.
And it’s this pledge that is captured in the title of the Framework, which we are calling Safe and Supported.
It emphasises precisely what this Framework aims to deliver – which is every Australian child growing up safe and supported - in nurturing, culturally appropriate environments in every part of the country.
On behalf of the Federal Government, I wish you all the best for this year’s conference, and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of your discussions.