Child Protection Symposium
Good morning everyone. On behalf of the Australian Government, I extend a very warm welcome to today’s Child Protection Symposium.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.
As the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families, it’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to update you on the progress currently underway to protect Australia’s most vulnerable kids.
As you know, these have been extraordinary times. The challenges that our nation has faced in a global pandemic, are the challenges that millions of Australian families and their children, have endured and felt, every single day.
So to all of the workers, leaders and organisations in your sector, thank you. Thank you for your strength, your resilience, your leadership, and the tremendous difference that you continue to make in the lives of our fellow Australians who are doing it tough.
Now when it comes to supporting children who are most at-risk, we need to secure change that is real. Which delivers reform. This will require stronger partnerships, better targeting of our resources, and robust early support.
Unfortunately in Australia, the rates of children in child safety remains far too high. We know that no single government, idea or service can be the solution – a unified approach is what is needed. Of course, this will be a huge challenge but I’m confident that together we can do it.
To forge a positive way forward, it’s important that we build a template to help us get there. That’s why in December last year, I was thrilled to welcome the Federal Government’s launch of Safe and Supported: the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
Safe and Supported is a crucial piece of work that we have been developing with the states and territories, as well as Indigenous leaders and the families sector.
It sets out a 10-year Framework for how every level of government, and the non-government sector, will work together to achieve major, long-term progress in reducing the rates of child abuse in our nation. Importantly, it will also seek to address neglect, and the impacts that this can cause across generations.
I’m pleased to inform you that the Framework focuses on real action to build a more sustainable workforce. Because attracting, supporting and retaining frontline staff, non-parent carers, and kinship carers, is essential if we are to make a difference.
In terms of how the Framework will be delivered, it will consist of two, five-year action plans – which we are in the process of finalising. And it’s important to mention that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will have an action plan that is entirely dedicated to supporting them.
This Indigenous action plan will help drive our efforts to address Target 12 under Closing the Gap – which is to reduce the over‑representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent, by 2031.
I can assure you that the Federal Government is serious about reaching this target, which is why we have already invested $98 million in four new measures to tackle this head-on. These will help empower the Community Controlled sector and deliver frontline, evidence-based solutions.
In terms of the Safe and Supported Framework, it will also outline ways to improve cultural connections for Indigenous children and families – such as strengthening the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.
Now, we know that the challenges facing vulnerable kids are complex. They are difficult to address. And they are often firmly entrenched in many of our communities.
To help break these cycles, families need to be able to access support early, so that issues they face can be addressed before they escalate. Things like mental health, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence and unemployment are all part of this, and so I’m pleased to say that the new Framework puts these risks front-and-centre.
I also wanted to mention that the Framework will have a key focus on supporting other groups of children – especially the 46,000 kids in out-of-home care, and those living with a disability.
Finally, I would like to give a quick mention to a major initiative that I’m really proud of. It’s called Connect for Safety, and it’s a new, world-leading child protection information sharing platform that every state and territory has signed up to.
Since going live in November 2020, Connect for Safety has been a terrific success. By allowing child protection agencies to share vital information for kids when they move across state borders, it has addressed a crucial gap that was previously seeing vulnerable children fall through the cracks.
It’s breakthroughs like this – achieved despite the huge challenges of recent times – which give me real hope that the new National Framework will make an effective difference, on the ground, in keeping our kids safe. Thanks again for giving me this opportunity to address your forum today, and I wish you all the best.