Pru Goward re­jects call to ap­point Abo­rig­i­nal child and fam­ily com­mis­sioner

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines / News - Lorena Al­lam

The NSW fam­i­lies min­is­ter, Pru Goward, has re­jected calls to ap­point an Abo­rig­i­nal child and fam­ily com­mis­sioner to help re­duce the num­ber of Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren be­ing re­moved from their fam­i­lies and placed in out-of-home care.

“We’re not cre­at­ing a sep­a­rate sys­tem for Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren. This is core busi­ness for us,” Goward told ABC ra­dio on Thursday morn­ing.

“This is Aus­tralia and we are all in this to­gether. This is core for all of us. It needs to re­main in the main­stream, as part of main­stream re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

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The peak body for Abo­rig­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing in the sys­tem, the Abo­rig­i­nal Child, Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Care State Sec­re­tariat, or AbSec, told Guardian Aus­tralia an Abo­rig­i­nal child and fam­ily com­mis­sioner could di­rect in­vest­ment in child and fam­ily sup­port ser­vices, set up a statewide data sys­tem to mea­sure needs and ef­fects, and pro­vide early in­ter­ven­tion pro­grams for Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­lies.

“We want to see in­vest­ment in so­lu­tions pi­o­neered and pro­vided by Abo­rig­i­nal agen­cies and com­mu­ni­ties,” Absec’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Tim Ire­land, said.

“It is not fair that we should have such lit­tle say in a sys­tem which so heav­ily af­fects our peo­ple.”

More than 7% of Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren are in out-of-home care, com­pared with 1% of all chil­dren and young peo­ple in NSW.

The NSW gov­ern­ment “prob­a­bly should have” re­leased the Tune re­port into child pro­tec­tion ear­lier, Goward told ABC ra­dio.

But be­cause it was com­mis­sioned by cab­i­net, the gov­ern­ment was fol­low­ing the “time-hon­oured West­min­ster tra­di­tion” of re­spect­ing cab­i­net con­fi­den­tial­ity, the min­is­ter said.

“But the re­ally good news is that now that it’s out there, you can see we have im­ple­mented Tune’s rec­om­men­da­tions and we are do­ing bet­ter than he pre­dicted we would do if we fol­lowed his rec­om­men­da­tions.”

Goward said her depart­ment had re­duced by 20% the num­ber of Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren be­ing taken into care over the past six years.

Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices (Facs) data shows 2,914 Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren were taken into out-ofhome care in 2016, down from 3,585 in 2011.

The 2018-19 bud­get, to be de­liv­ered next Tuesday, will in­vest an ad­di­tional $59m over four years by adding 100 more child pro­tec­tion staff and set­ting a tar­get of more than 1,000 open adop­tions.

NSW Greens MP David Shoe­bridge was part of the up­per house push to have the Tune re­port made pub­lic last week and backed the AbSec call for a Abo­rig­i­nal child and fam­ily com­mis­sioner.

“The min­is­ter is ei­ther in de­nial or plainly ig­no­rant of the needs of First Na­tions peo­ple and the sys­temic dis­ad­van­tages they face at the hands of her depart­ment,” Shoe­bridge told Guardian Aus­tralia.

“Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren are 10 times more likely to be taken from their fam­i­lies by a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

“This is a re­sult of the en­grained racism of a sys­tem that pre­tends it can treat com­mu­ni­ties and chil­dren who face sys­temic dis­ad­van­tage no dif­fer­ently than non-Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren.

“The in­de­pen­dent Tune re­port says what Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties have been say­ing for 230 years, that the an­swer lies in self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and that Abo­rig­i­nal kids are best cared for by Abo­rig­i­nal par­ents, el­ders, aunts, un­cles and grand­par­ents.”

Pho­to­graph: David Moir/AAP

Pru Goward re­jects call from the peak body for Abo­rig­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing in the sys­tem.

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