Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New funding for domestic violence programs; national standards for children in out of home care

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JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much. I am very pleased to be here with my Federal and State Parliamentary colleagues on a very, very important issue, making sure that we provide housing and other supports for people who are experiencing domestic violence. My State Ministerial colleague will talk shortly about the housing issues but I wanted to draw your attention to three initiatives, three programs where the Commonwealth is providing additional funding here in South Australia and in the cross-border region, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. So there’s $310,000 going to the successful NPY family violence cross-border project, so we’re very pleased to be able to provide additional support to stop re-offending in that part of Australia. There’s $287,000 for the Australian Red Cross. They’re going to be establishing a pilot program modelled on the Canadian Red Cross’s respected education program and that will cover significant parts of South Australia. And there’s $130,000 to TAFE here in South Australia to expand the successful rekindling Indigenous relationships in the Riverland project. So we’re very pleased to be working with the South Australian Government with the governments of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, Red Cross and the non-Government organisations involved in these projects – successful projects that we’ve added additional funding to, to make sure that we can do more to support those families who are experiencing domestic violence.

I do want to take this opportunity today though before passing over to my colleague to make some remarks about the Northern Territory Coroner’s findings in a very distressing case to do with the death of a twelve year old girl. This girl who was in foster care died of, according to the findings of the Coroner, died from an injury to her leg, an injury that could have been easily treated. If I can just say as a parent, how distressing it is to see that an Australian child has died because of the lack of basic medical care. What this says to all of us is that we do need to have strong national out of home care standards. And I want to indicate today my very strong support for the findings of the Northern Territory Coroner. He has indicated today that we should have these national out of home care standards. We want to make sure that children when they have to be removed from their families for their own safety, go to places where they are going to be safe and well. These out of home care standards are being developed by the Australian Government working together with our State and Territory colleagues. They will go to issues like making sure that children have regular health checks, making sure that foster carers are regularly visited, making sure that the children have regular visits from the child protection authorities. These are the sorts of standards that we expect should exist for all children right across Australia. I am very pleased that tomorrow I’ll be releasing the first stage of the development of these out of home care standards. This will be a paper setting out the directions for the development of these standards and we expect to see these standards finalised by the middle of this year.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think these standards are enough particularly in the Northern Territory where these Coronial findings found that there was systemic failures in the system there?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think that’s why the Coroner has indicated in his recommendations the need for the development of these standards. If you take the case of this girl, one of the issues was that she didn’t get access to basic medical care. If children are receiving and are required as a result of these standards to receive regular basic medical checks, or health checks, then it’s possible that this death could have been prevented. So these standards are critical, they’re important right across the country. We want to make sure that children wherever they are, when they’re in out of home care, are looked after with the highest possible standards.

JOURNALIST: How will you ensure that these people are actually reached?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, the plan is to make sure that we develop these standards with the States and Territories. So the States and Territories are of course responsible for statutory child protection and we want to make sure that there are nationally agreed standards for things like basic health checks, basic visits to foster carers, basic checks on the standards of foster care. All of these things need to be delivered in each of our States and Territories and that’s what’s been agreed as we develop these national standards.

JOURNALIST: Given the severity of these findings, do you think it’s time in the Northern Territory in particular, for a Federal takeover?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it’s important that we have national standards so that children wherever they are in Australia, are entitled to decent standards of care, when they have to be removed from their families. And that the standard of care goes to each of these issues, making sure that the quality of the foster carer is as high as possible; that there are regular visits to the child while they are in foster care, that the child is getting access to basic health care. Each of these issues are what you would consider to be basic commonsense. They need to be delivered to children wherever they are right across the country.