NATIONAL RECONCILIATION WEEK

I rise today to recognise National Reconciliation Week, which is celebrated between 27 May and 3 June every year. This morning I was honoured to join His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le and Premier Steven Marshall at the National Reconciliation Week Breakfast hosted by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly. 

We heard from a panel of respected people regarding Reconciliation Australia's theme for 2021, 'More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.' This urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. We were also privileged to hear two songs performed by Tony Minniecon and Ellie Lovegrove, with one of the songs being written especially for this morning's event. 

Another highlight was the Premier's announcement of the first standalone Aboriginal housing strategy. This strategy includes a 10-year plan with 14 key actions, including increasing Aboriginal home ownership, funding for home maintenance, a housing replacement program, new social and affordable housing and, especially, a commitment for a 40-unit elder village in Bedford Park to house Aboriginal Elders. 

Over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the child protection system is a nationwide issue and reducing this over-representation remains a key priority for both the Marshall Liberal government and the Department for Child Protection. As a government, in 2018 we appointed April Lawrie as the first Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. The commissioner is an independent body created solely to promote the rights, development and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people within South Australia. I would like to thank April Lawrie for the work she has achieved and continues to do in this space. 

In July 2020, the government committed to the refreshed National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which includes a target to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031. While in opposition, I was a signatory to the national Family Matters campaign and have worked hard to honour that commitment now as the Minister for Child Protection. 

The Family Matters report commends a number of initiatives in the Department for Child Protection, including: 

  • engaging three Aboriginal community controlled organisations to deliver a new kinship care support program; 
  • establishing the Expert Aboriginal Child Protection Advisory Committee, comprising state and national experts, to increase Aboriginal governance and inform child protection policies, programs and practice for Aboriginal children and young people; 
  • aiming to increase procurement from Aboriginal organisations to 7 per cent by the end of 2021-22; 
  • embedding the role of Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in legislation with the same powers as the Commissioner for Children and Young People; 
  • releasing the 'Safe and well: supporting families, protecting children' report with a strong focus on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle and reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care; and 
  • the co-design of trauma responsive early intervention in partnership with ACCOs. 

The Department for Child Protection is committed to getting it right for Aboriginal children and young people in care by providing culturally safe and responsive services, advocacy, and support for Aboriginal children and young people and their carers. 

The department has committed $200,000 to undertake a consultation process with SNAICC to develop Aboriginal-led models for a peak body representing the interests of Aboriginal children and their families. The Aboriginal Practice Directorate in DCP is led by Tracy Rigney who ensures an Aboriginal lens is applied to all policy programs and practice. 

We have committed $1.6 million to family group conferencing. We have established a family scoping unit and implemented the Winangay kinship carer assessment tool. Through the Department of Human Services, an Aboriginal intensive family support service has commenced in the western suburbs delivered by KWY which is specific to Aboriginal children. 

I am proud to be part of the Marshall Liberal government that is taking a whole-of-government approach. In 2019, the Premier launched the Aboriginal Affairs Action Plan for South Australia that identifies and commits to 41 actions. In my department, the Department for Child Protection, improving the outcomes for children and young people is at the heart of everything we do.