Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Cape York welfare reform trial getting runs on the board

Joint Media Release with:

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

Amendments to the Family Responsibilities Commission Act 2008 have been passed in the Queensland State Parliament to reflect positive changes being made through the ground-breaking Cape York Welfare Reform trial.

The Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Desley Boyle said the amendments show the FRC is delivering on its aim to change social norms and create safer communities for men, women and children.

“Significantly, these amendments recognise that local Indigenous authority is being restored,” Ms Boyle said in Parliament.

“Giving Local Commissioners the power to constitute a Commission without the Commissioner there is a significant development in this ground-breaking trial,” she said.

“As well as recognising the skills and expertise of the Local Commissioners, it speaks volumes about the restoration of authority in the trial communities.

“For example, Aurukun Local Commissioners say they are finally on the right path to making their communities better and they tell of more people attending conferences with smiles on their faces because they see the Commissioners there to support them and encourage their progress.

“In fact, Local Commissioners in the trial communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge report their confidence continues to grow and I want to thank them for their ongoing hard work.”

The Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, welcomed the trial’s early results.

“The Family Responsibilities Commission is having a positive impact in communities. Commissioners are helping to restore social norms and empower local communities,” Ms Macklin said.

“Commissioners are highly regarded in these communities. They are both important role models and key decision makers,” she said.

“Through their leadership and referrals to support services, Commissioners have helped individual welfare recipients access the support they need to make positive changes in their lives and the lives of their children.”

The following amendments were passed by the Queensland Parliament:

  • 3 Local Commissioners can hold a conferences in prescribed circumstances without the Commissioner present;
  • Reduce duplication with recognition of sufficiently detailed FRC orders and agreements as no longer requiring a case plans.
  • Show-cause period reduced from at least 28 days to at least 14 to get clients the help they need sooner.
  • Commissioner given power to dismiss frivolous or vexatious applications to amend or end agreements or orders instead of having to go to conference stage.
  • Expand Act’s confidentiality provisions to cover people engaged by service providers.

The FRC began operating on July 1, 2008, and it holds conferences with people who have been notified through breaches of child safety, education and tenancy obligations and Magistrate’s Court.

The Australian and Queensland Governments will continue to monitor the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial’s progress.