Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Queensland Family Responsibilities Commission reports positive results

Joint Media Release with:

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

The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Desley Boyle and Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said early evidence from the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) shows positive trends are emerging in the four Cape York Welfare Reform communities.

Ms Boyle said the first reports demonstrated the new body was helping build more resilient families and community structures in the four trial Indigenous communities.

“While it was still too early to see real trends, the indicators in the report show that we are heading in the right direction,” Ms Boyle said.

The Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) is a key element of Cape York Welfare Reform project. The reforms are a partnership between the Queensland and Australian Governments, the Cape York Policy Institute, and the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The FRC’s Quarterly Reports for the period July-December 2008 were tabled in State Parliament today.

Ms Macklin said the Cape York Welfare Reform Project and the Commission had the strong support of both the Queensland and Australian Governments.

“The Commission and Centrelink are working well together. Some people who have not met their obligations to send their children to school or to care for them, who disobey the law or don’t look after their homes are having part of their welfare payments managed by Centrelink,” Ms Macklin said.

To 31 December 2008, the Commission received 754 agency notifications, including:

  • 202 school attendance notices;
  • 223 child safety notices;
  • 327 magistrates courts notices; and
  • two housing tenancy notices.

The FRC requested Centrelink to manage the welfare payments of 28 people up to the end of December 2008.

Five homes in Coen and two in Mossman Gorge have been given “dry home” status (no alcohol permitted) by the FRC.

The first FRC report shows that 292 conferences were held with individuals, and almost 200 referrals were made to behavioural support services including gambling and general counselling, parenting programs and financial income management programs.

Ms Boyle said the FRC is a key component of the Cape York Welfare Reform Project.

“The FRC works with communities to restore Indigenous authority and promote positive, socially responsible behaviour, including the care of children,” Ms Boyle said.

“The FRC’s processes empower individuals to take responsibility for their behaviour. They are compelled to choose resolutions that they can commit to supported by family members and local leaders.

“The FRC acts on advice from government agencies and engages the individuals concerned in conferences.

“Advice comes from agencies such as education authorities, child safety, magistrates’ courts and public housing organisations. This advice can be about a range of issues including repeated school absences and property damage in public housing. The people concerned are then required to attend conferences to discuss their behaviour and achieve a practical resolution.”

Ms Macklin said both governments were determined to make sure that welfare income is spent in the best interests of children.

“Communities are also being provided with support to make the lifestyle and social changes necessary, and to improve their education, health and wellbeing so that they have a better opportunity to move from welfare into work,”Ms Macklin said.

“Jointly funded wellbeing centres providing alcohol, drug and general counselling are now operational in all four communities.

“Education initiatives such as MultiLit, to improve literacy, Student Education Trusts, to assist families budget for the cost of education, and school attendance case managers are showing promising results, including in school attendance and literacy,” Ms Macklin said.