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We Need to Lift Our Game.

As Queensland gears up for a State Election, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations are asking: “Can it get any worse for the safety and well-being of children and families?”

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care currently sits at 37% and is continually rising especially in that part of the system where neglect and poverty are the reasons behind out of home care placements.

Of particular concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations is the low level of compliance with the Child Placement Principle. As a result, many children are becoming disconnected from their families and their culture and risk losing their identity unique to being the latest generation in the oldest continuous known culture on the planet.

To make matters worse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are reporting that some contracts to purchase services of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled organisations by the Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) have been rescinded. Representatives of community controlled organisations involved in the regular PeakCare blogs have pointed out that the existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol has not been respected especially in the recent purchasing of services for the regional Hubs.

The government action plans aligned to Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan  are being undertaken while the non-government response to the report has yet to be rolled out across the regions. This is a major innovation which needs resources to build relationships in order to improve the system and strengthen services. No matter what innovative model the government decides to fund, it has the impact of increasing not decreasing the proportion of the child protection system that is focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

Currently some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are raising concerns that money has been removed from the budgets of their Foster and Kinship Care Programs. This is further eroding the capacity of the system to respond culturally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. It also further reduces Queensland’s capacity to fulfill its legislated obligation to comply with the Child Placement Principle.  Stringent compliance mechanisms and inflexible contracting arrangements serve to disadvantage these non government organisations working to provide quality services to Queensland’s most disadvantaged cohort of children and their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection services need security of funding.  Their expertise needs to be recognised and supported by government and non government colleagues.  Enhanced funding and resources are required to ensure that the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our care system can be genuinely addressed.  A combined approach is necessary to ensure appropriate resources, support and advocacy from the wider service system.

Together keeping our children safe and well: Our Comprehensive Plan is just a beginning and should be the focus for improved purchasing decisions by any incoming government. The Blueprint for implementation strategy should begin taking words from these plans and putting strong services on the ground.

We need to lift our game!

Carolyn Ovens

Reconciliation Action Plan Project Worker – PeakCare Queensland

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