Speech by The Hon Sussan Ley MP

Care Leavers Australian Network Meeting


Thank you (Leonie or Joanna), for your introduction and for inviting me here today to speak with members of the Care Leavers Australian Network (CLAN)

I would also like to acknowledge elders and traditional owners of the Eora nation on whose land we are meeting

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome this opportunity to be with you all

I had wanted to attend your November 12 Annual General Meeting but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it on the day

No doubt the extra time you’ve had to digest the Government’s response to the two Senate Inquiry reports has been useful in formulating questions and I’ll do my best to answer them

But first let me just say a few words about the Government’s response and our plans for moving forward

I want to begin by paying my respects to all CLAN members and other care survivors – and their families

Your stories, which you so bravely told to the Senate Committee, were very distressing and very moving

You are strong and courageous people, and I hope you’ll continue to be involved as we move to the next stage of this process

As Parliamentary Secretary for Children and Youth Affairs I have had carriage of the reports and preparation of the Government’s response

Since that response was tabled in the Senate on November 10, Minister Kay Patterson and I have made it very clear that we see this as a beginning, not an end

I’m aware of concern among CLAN members and care leavers about what they see as a low level of funding for the response

Keep in mind that state and territory governments bear primary responsibility for what happened to those children – to you

Some of them have held their own inquiries; some have responded positively; others have not

We want states and territories – and churches and agencies – to take responsibility, and we’ll keep working with them in national councils to achieve this

We are also going to fund two national conferences specifically to address these issues

The first will focus on people who were in institutional care, and CLAN and other support and advocacy groups will be invited to participate

The second will focus on a national approach to child protection

These will be forward-looking conferences, concerned with current and future needs of care survivors

We do not see a need for a Royal Commission but we do believe more work needs to be done in isolating and identifying the specific needs of people who had bad experiences in out of home care

The conferences will look at issues such as what current programmes can people access and why aren’t they accessing them?

Do these programmes need to be tailored more to your needs?

Should there be better collaboration, across agencies or governments, on development and delivery of existing or new programmes?

What information do we need, and what is the best way to collect and apply it?

We need to work with states and territories, Churches and agencies and care leaver support organisations on such issues

Our aim is not only to respond, but also to do something concrete to improve the lives of care leavers

As an interim measure, Minister Patterson made a $100,000 grant to CLAN, to enable it to offer counselling to those whose reawakened memories have caused deep trauma for them and their families

Another $100,000 will be delivered to advocacy and support groups

Following the first conference, we will have a better idea of people’s needs and better coordination among groups

The Government will also provide a further $100,000 towards the costs of state and territory initiated memorials

While we want to move forward to healing, acknowledgement of the past is an important part of that healing

As you consider our Government’s response, please take note of the other things we have pledged to do or to investigate further

They may not have separate costs attached to them, but they are nonetheless positive contributions by this Government towards a better future for you all

Thank you and I invite you now to ask some questions