IMR Workshop, Adelaide


Good afternoon. It is great to be here with you.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Kaurna people of the lands on which we are meeting and pay my respects to elders past and present.

I extend this acknowledgment to all First Nations people joining us here today.

I want to thank all of the many people who have contributed to Safe and Supported; our national framework for protecting children. 

I’d like to thank Arney Chong Consulting and SNAICC for holding this event and inviting me to speak.

We all know, and we are all committed to addressing, the disproportionately high rates and over representation of First Nations children in out-of-home care because it has ripple effects across families and communities and that’s of course what brings us all here today. 

I don’t need to tell all of you that Indigenous children are 12 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care or connected to the child protection system.

And so on coming into this role as Minister for Social Services, I was very keen that the Safe and Supportive Framework be put in place. It had stalled when it came to finalising the Action Plan with the states and territories.

Being part of a Government that was absolutely committed to making some progress towards Target 12 and reducing the number of children, I very much as Minister for Social Services, really wanted to bring some energy and some commitment to achieving the Action Plan. 

The Improving Multidisciplinary Responses program is actually part of the Action Plan that was designed in partnership as part of Safe and Supported. I wanted to just briefly share with you, because some of you may or may not know, but the work done as Safe and Supported and the work in terms of the Action Plan, and the work going forward in implementation, is actually the first place where there is true partnership between First Nations people and ministers of state and territory governments. 

Just to give you a bit of a flavour of that, in our working groups, sometimes the South Australian and Tasmanian Minister had to share a position on that working group so that there were equal numbers of First Nations people at the table. As a Ministerial Council there has to be equal numbers of people and so it was really done, I think in in true partnership.

This program also embeds the four priority reforms under Closing the Gap, through shared decision making, building the community-controlled sector, transforming how Government works with you and shared access to data which I’ll go into in a moment. 

Last year, I announced a $44 million investment in this program, where shared decision making was used throughout the grant assessment process.

As the successful grantees you will be developing and enhancing community-led service models to keep First Nations children safe and living in their own homes whenever possible and building your own and your community’s capacity.

And for me this was really important. I have been trying to talk about this in the media a lot and this program has a terrible name – no one knows what it means. 

But what we have done, is we have worked through this process to bring to life something that is really special. 

When we hear some of those headline statistics it feels like there's a lot of doom and gloom. For me, hearing the aspiration of what we want to achieve with this program, the principles that underpin it are really going to be some of the green shoots that we see and something that I'm incredibly excited about. 

Since August last year, I have had the opportunity to visit two grantee organisations, KWY Aboriginal Corporation here in Adelaide and Moorditch Gurlongga Association in Perth. 

At both of these organisations I heard what their plans will be.  They will both be working in similar ways to bring together community and co-develop models and an evidence base to empower families and reduce interaction with child protection systems.

And this is really important, I think, through developing new models of service, including at Mookai Rosie in Far North Queensland, where you are addressing the root causes of child removal through supporting the health needs of expecting families.

Or in Port Hedland, Julyardi Aboriginal Corporation where they are piloting a multidisciplinary hub to bring together multiple services and more effectively support First Nations families and increasing the safety and wellbeing of children.

These are the type of community-led, responding to community needs projects we want to see on the ground. 

Now the IMR program – I’m still challenging my Department to find a better name so that we can bring this to life – is already having positive impacts and success. 

Through this program we’ve seen already almost 100 people directly being employed in communities to develop innovative approaches and strengthen service delivery to First Nations children and communities.

You all know what needed to be done and just needed the backing to do it. 

Now these employment outcomes are very consistent with the Government’s commitment to supporting aspirations and capacity building of the First Nations community-controlled sector, particularly in line with priority four in the National Agreement of Closing the Gap.

This is about empowering you all as organisations to identify and engage the staff who can best support your service and community and the people who can achieve results because they understand local priorities and can engage in a culturally safe and responsive way.

Through this, the Government is responding to what we have been hearing from you about empowering Aboriginal-led solutions, particularly around supporting smaller organisations who would not have traditionally received the level of investment due to the complexity of the Commonwealth grant processes.

Over time, as more children and their families are able to access support services, we hope to reduce the factors feeding into the disproportionately high rates of First Nations children in out-of-home care.

For us to determine our success in achieving these objectives, we need to have rigorous and evidence-based evaluation in place.

This includes listening to what First Nations communities define as success and equipping organisations on the ground to collect and analyse quantitative and qualitative data.

The Government acknowledges that supporting First Nations’ ownership of data and the data narrative is key. Through it, data-based evidence and a shared definition of what does and doesn’t work for communities across geographically diverse locations can be collected.

As you have been funded for a four-year period, effective data collection and evaluation will be key to your continuing success beyond the initial grant period.

I understand that this week you have participated in this learning event, discussing what success would look like, Aboriginal participatory action research and evaluation methods.

Including how we can build an evidence base that will best support our collective effort in addressing the factors driving the high rates of First Nations children in out-of-home care.

I look forward to hearing, as part of this workshop, about partnership to co create evaluation systems that actually work for you and work for us. 

Systems that support our objectives under the IMR to provide First Nations Children, families and communities with preventative and intervention support that is needed to reduce their encounters with Child Services is critical, and most importantly, to reduce that over representation of First Nations children in the care system.

In addition to the IMR program, there are many other ways we are working to improve outcomes for First Nations children and young people and of course many of those have been developed in partnership through Safe and Supported.

I did want to touch briefly on our recent commitment to establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Commissioner. I know that many of you in this room and far beyond have been calling for that for a long time. 

And we have made a commitment to have this Commissioner, when fully established through legislation, continually identify systemic gaps, improve accountability and advocate for change. 

The National Commissioner will work with First Nations with state and territory children's commissioners and the National Children's Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission.

We do we do see this as a really significant step. And I would really like to thank everyone in this room and beyond who advocated so strongly for it. 

But look, I'm really, really excited that you've been able to get together and I hope you do have a very fruitful discussion. 
I am very much, as Minister and the Government, committed to working in partnership, because that is the only way we're going to create lasting change.

And really, in shared decision making we can make a better future for children and young people.

Thank you very much for having me here today.