Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Family Responsibilities Commission reports school attendance increase

Joint Media Release with:

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

Two reports tabled today in the Queensland Parliament show positive trends in school attendance in the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial communities.

The latest Family Responsibilities Commission quarterly report (April-June 2009) and the quarterly report on Key Indicators in Queensland’s Discrete Indigenous Communities show improvements in school attendance.

The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Desley Boyle said the data provided an important snapshot into the wellbeing of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

‘Importantly, the Commission has been building community capacity to develop a new approach which, in its early days, is geared to helping improve school attendance,’ Ms Boyle said.

‘The Commission has been working with local schools, parents and case managers during the first six months of this year to come up with ways to get children to school and I want to applaud all those involved, including parents and community leaders.

‘As a result of this concerted effort, we are starting to see important improvements in school attendance.’

School attendance data:
Term 2 2009 Term 2 2008
Aurukun 63.2% 37.9%
Coen 93.6% 96.8%
Hope Vale 86.9% 87.6%
Mossman Gorge 81.6% 60.9%

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the Family Responsibilities Commission, one of the key planks in the rollout of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial, has the power to refer people who aren’t meeting parental and community responsibilities to drug and alcohol services, mental health services and relationship counselling. The Family Responsibilities Commission can also recommend conditional income management.

‘Local Commissioners have been appointed to work with their communities to help restore positive social norms including encouraging parents to be responsible for getting their children to school each day,’ Ms Macklin said.

‘Education is essential to give children the best life chances. Our research shows that education and employment make the largest contribution to the life expectancy gap – together these two factors account for 25 per cent of the gap.

‘This latest report from the Commission shows a promising upward trend in school attendance and demonstrates what can be achieved when parents take responsibility for their children’s future.’

Ms Boyle said there were 24 local Commissioners, respected community leaders who were working on the ground to rebuild local Indigenous authority and their work was exemplary.

‘Local Elders and community leaders are taking a stand against alcohol abuse in their communities, with nine people in Coen and three in Mossman Gorge already declaring their homes as dry places,’ said Ms Boyle.

Community organisations in Aurukun are delivering practical parenting assistance such as parent-craft skills and these will soon be introduced into the other communities, along with projects that support economic development and employment in the communities.

The Cape York Welfare Reform Trial is a partnership between the Queensland and Australian Governments, the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership and the four trial communities to tackle school attendance, drug and alcohol abuse, health, child safety, economic development and housing.

For the quarter 1 April – 30 June, 2009, the Commission oversaw 636 notifications comprising:

  • 252 School Attendance notices
  • 46 Child Safety notices
  • 336 Magistrates Courts notices
  • 2 Housing Tenancy notices.

In the latest quarter, 168 people were referred to support services (616 overall) including anger management, parenting support and alcohol treatment.

There were 31 orders for Conditional Income Management (89 orders overall).

The Family Responsibilities Commission Quarterly Reports are available online at Queensland Government: Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander Partnerships.