Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Cape York Welfare Reform trial reports tabled in Parliament

Joint Media Release with:

  • Desley Boyle MP, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships

The Cape York Family Responsibilities Commission Annual Report 2009-10 and its 8thQuarterly Report April-June 2010 have been tabled today in the Queensland Parliament by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Desley Boyle.

The Family Responsibilities Commission is a key plank of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial, aimed at increasing parental responsibility and restoring social norms in the trial communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The Annual Report highlights that over the past 12 months, the Commission has held 1542 conferences with community members in the four communities to encourage personal responsibility, including getting children to school and being a good tenant. They also referred 583 people to support services and entered into 216 Family Responsibility Agreements to ensure people take personal responsibility and attend support services.

The Reports show more people are being referred to services and income management, which is placing pressure on services. To tackle this, the Governments are holding monthly workshops with service providers in each community to quickly identify and address service gaps. The Commission has also developed a new case management framework to improve services and reporting. There is still more work to do in this area.

“The Commission is very good at building community partnerships and responding to local issues,” Ms Boyle said.

“Importantly regular reporting is identifying issues early and monthly meetings of agencies and service providers are putting solutions in place that are tailored to fit local needs,” she said.

“We know there is no silver bullet to closing the gap but developing new and targeted supports and programs through this four-year trial are helping individuals and families make the changes they need to get on and up.”

The Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the Quarterly Report showed that 321 people were on conditional income management at 30 June 2010.

“We are determined to improve parental responsibility, combat welfare dependence and ensure welfare is spent in the best interests of children,” Ms Macklin said.

“Commissioners reported that there are increasing numbers of clients requesting conditional income management to ensure bills are paid and children are fed.

“Some clients are asking to be put on conditional income management rather than voluntary income management due to pressures from family.”

The Quarterly Report showed a decrease in school attendance, particularly in Aurukun, with some children turning up late for school and being marked as absent on the attendance roll.

As a result, roll calls are being reviewed and school attendance case managers are working with parents to get the children to school on time. The Family Responsibilities Commission has also increased the number of family conferences in Aurukun.

Queensland Corrective Services Minister Neil Roberts said an Ending Family Violence Program was also operating in the four trial communities.

“The program is designed to give people the skills they need to defuse problems and prevent situations escalating into violence,” Mr Roberts said.

“The program provides education and self-awareness training to prevent domestic and interpersonal violence, repeat offending and associated triggers and is given to Family Responsibility Commission clients on case plans, probation and parole.

“The program has already assisted 40 people in the trial communities.”

The Ministers paid tribute to Family Responsibilities Commissioner David Glasgow and all involved in the trial for their tireless work.

The Cape York Welfare Reform trial is a partnership between the Australian and Queensland Governments, the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership and the four communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The reports are available online at Queensland Government: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples website.

Personal Stories from Trial Communities

Annika* is a primary school student who was not going to school. Through a Family Responsibilities Commissioner it came to light that she was embarrassed because she was having difficulty reading. The FRC helped by referring Annika to Mult-lit classes and now, with her reading improved, she not only goes to school happily but, unlike in the past, does not like her family to take her away from her studies.

May* is a single mother. There was drinking and violence in the home. Her partner treated her badly in front of her children. She was reported to the FRC for not getting her children to school. Some months have now passed since she was placed on Conditional Income Management and May says that for the first time in her life she is feeling good, there is healthy food in the fridge and her children are going to school.

Albert* is a man in his 50s who has been a drinker most of his life. He came to the attention of the FRC through alcohol. The FRC made sure he had help to deal with his substance abuse. He has not had a drink of alcohol – “not a drop” – for five months, despite social pressure to drink. He now spends his money on food and other essentials. He’s even saving up to make over his front yard.

*note names and identifying information has been removed