Family Matters Report 2021

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we gather today, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

Congratulations on the 2021 Family Matters report, and thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about what is a critically important issue – the ongoing overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.

The Federal Government shares your concerns, because these statistics are unacceptable – it’s as simple as that.

Family Matters sheds a light on the need for strong and decisive action to turn this around, and that’s what the Government is doing. This year we have announced important measures to help reverse these child safety trends – and a crucial element of this is by directly involving Indigenous leaders in both planning solutions, and delivering those solutions.

I’m convinced that together, we can change the trajectory. Securing major progress in improving outcomes for Indigenous kids and their families is entirely possible, but it will take an enormous effort from all of us to get there.

I can assure everyone here today that the Federal Government, for our part, is stepping up to this challenge – because achieving Target 12 under Closing the Gap is a commitment that we must tackle head-on.

And that’s why we are investing $98 million in four new measures to help reduce the numbers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care.

Importantly, this includes $3.2 million to increase the involvement of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in the family sector. This measure recognises that Indigenous leadership, and connection to culture, are absolutely crucial to finding real and enduring solutions for at-risk Indigenous children, and their families. This approach represents a major policy shift, in-line with our commitment to the Closing the Gap reforms.

This same, vital shift also underpins a crucial piece of work that we are on the verge of finalising, which is called Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031.

The new National Framework’s aim is to make significant and sustained progress in reducing rates of child abuse and neglect, as well as addressing the generational cycles of disadvantage. We owe it to our most vulnerable children to get this Framework right, and I’m optimistic about what it could potentially achieve over the next ten years.

Indigenous leaders, including SNAICC, played a lead role in designing this new Framework, and I look forward to that leadership continuing as we deliver the Framework’s first five-year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan.

When it comes to our efforts to improve child safety in Australia, I think the title of your report, Family Matters, says it all.

A strong, safe and secure family is where kids are nurtured and grow up to be confident, happy and healthy adults.

Family Matters recognises that family is where children first learn about their culture, and how to be proud of their identity.

And this is reflected in the new National Framework’s aim to strengthen the Child Placement Principle. This includes identifying, implementing and reporting on active efforts across each of the Principle’s five elements.

You can be assured that the insightful content of the Family Matters report guarantees that the importance of family is kept before policy and decision makers.

And so, I look forward to continuing to work in close partnership with SNAICC, as we develop and deliver new policy measures which promise a bright future for Indigenous children, and their families.

Thank you.