Minister Rishworth on ABC AM with Kim Landers


Topics: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in out-of-home care, Partnership Agreement, Safe and Supported, the Voice

KIM LANDERS, HOST: In January this year governments came up with two Action Plans to try and tackle child abuse and neglect. About 45,000 children are unable to live with their families and 43 per cent of them are First Nations children. A meeting of Community Services Ministers in Adelaide yesterday agreed to a formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to work on implementing those child protection Action Plans.

Amanda Rishworth is the Federal Minister for Social Services. Minister, how's this going to work?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: This is really ground-breaking. What it means is that as we put in the action items, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders will be equal partners with state and territory Ministers deciding about how to progress the actions. So, it is truly shared decision making. The committee will be co-chaired by both someone from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group and myself, and we will actually work together in how we implement the actions from Safe and Supported. With really one outcome in mind, and that is to achieve Target 12 of Closing The Gap, which is reducing the number of children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds in out-of-home care.

KIM LANDERS: So, what practical difference might this Leadership Group and this formal partnership actually make?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: One example is the design in how we get multidisciplinary teams to work – they are the services that provide help to families. Actually getting the input formally of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on how we design it will lead to better outcomes for families and better outcomes for children. A focus on, for example, what's called delegated decision making. So, supporting communities to make the decision of the welfare of the child, not necessarily just government agencies, and that will lead to better outcomes on the ground. Because it's these people, this Leadership Group and the organisations they represent that often are doing that work already in the community.

KIM LANDERS: The Closing the Gap framework has a target of reducing the number of First Nations children in the child protection system by (45 per cent) by 2031. How far off track is it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is significantly off track and if we are going to achieve that target, we're going to have to have a reduction of two children per 1000 for every year until 2032. So, there is significant work to be done and that's what's really prompted our work with Safe and Supported, the framework but also the Action Plans. Bringing states and territories together, working together, but also working with Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people is the only way we're going to achieve this outcome. There's a lot of work to be done, but we've now got an Action Plan that was settled in January and we're going to continue to work towards that.

KIM LANDERS: If you can strike these Partnership Agreements and come up with a model for shared decision making now, why would we need an Indigenous Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The whole point of this Partnership Agreement has the exact same principles of why we need a Voice to Parliament. And that is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be involved, should be listened to on the issues that particularly affect them. And so the Voice, of course, is going to draw across the nation on First Nations experience and give advice to Government on a whole range of different areas, and the same principles apply here. But of course, this Partnership Agreement will be getting very technical, it'll be getting very detailed on how we very specifically build up Aboriginal controlled organisations to do this work, how we build up the workforce. So, this will have ongoing technical work that we will draw on from the Leadership Group.

KIM LANDERS: Are you confident the Yes case is going to win?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I am confident that there is big support for Yes. Any referendum is tough, any referendum requires a majority of votes and a majority of states. But I'm very confident that the Yes case has got a very strong case to make, that they're making that case and ultimately people will make their decision at the referendum. But I think when I'm talking with people – it is a very simple proposition. And that is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have a formalised say in the issues that affect them and that we really do need to listen if we are going to make a difference on the ground in all those areas where we're not achieving our Closing the Gap targets. And so I think in the people I talk to, they very much are interested in how we make a difference and really, this is the way we do it.

KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.