Community Services Ministers’ Meeting Communiqué 4 December

Community Services Ministers (CSM) met via teleconference on 27 November 2020.

Ms Rachel Stephen-Smith, ACT Minister for Families and Community Services returned to CSM after the ACT election.

CSM also welcomed the Hon Kate Worden MLA, NT Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing and the Hon Leanne Linard MP, QLD Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, to their first CSM.

Ministers noted the positive developments in managing the coronavirus pandemic particularly in Victoria. Ministers noted the jurisdictional updates provided to CSM prior to the meeting including continuing efforts in managing the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers noted that on 23 October 2020 the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, announced that National Cabinet had agreed to accept the final report on the former Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Councils and Ministerial Forums (final report).

Ministers discussed the implications for CSM which has been classified as a time-limited and as required meeting which will continue to convene only for specific tasks with specified, sun-setting timeframes of no longer than 12 months. The value of CSM meetings was acknowledged and Ministers accepted three key priorities over the next 12 months:

  • Finalise the successor plan to the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
  • Finalise the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
  • Establish the National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.

Ministers will consider and agree to update Terms of Reference for CSM out-of-session that will reflect the new working arrangements. This will include provisions for Ministers to have flexibility in determining appropriate timeframes for its forward work plan, including beyond the next 12 months, to ensure that its priorities are effectively delivered and overseen.

As a result of the final report recommendations, ongoing work responsibilities such as the implementation of key recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will now be monitored by the Children and Families Secretaries group and be reported to CSM as required.

Ministers acknowledged the important role of ministerial oversight of implementing the new successor plan to the National Framework. Ministers committed to considering and agreeing to priorities for CSM for 2022 at the end of 2021 as CSM may have the option of seeking to continue past 12 months to ensure key outcomes are achieved.

Updated Terms of Reference for CSM will reflect the new working arrangement as discussed, noting that national reform and implementation of inter-jurisdictional initiatives will take longer than 12 months to deliver sustained change.

Ministers noted the update on the successor plan to the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020. Ministers agreed in-principle to the proposed vision, goal, target cohort, including priority groups. Ministers agreed on the development process for the successor plan, including co-design and consultation with stakeholders, with endorsement and launch of the successor plan in July 2021 and the first five-year implementation plan by November 2021.

Ministers discussed the critical importance of the successor plan closely aligning with and complementing the important work of Closing the Gap.

Ministers discussed the importance of the successor plan having a focus on measurable, tangible actions which benefit from collective effort and commitment from both the Australian and state and territory governments.

Vision

Children in Australia reach their full potential by growing up in safe and caring homes, free from harm and neglect.

Goal

To make significant and sustained progress in reducing the rates of child abuse and neglect and its intergenerational impacts.

Target Cohort

Children and families who are experiencing disadvantage and/or are vulnerable.

The priority groups under the target cohort include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
  • children and families with multiple and complex needs
  • children and young people experiencing or who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, including children in out-of-home care, and young people leaving out-of-home care and transitioning to adulthood.

Ministers discussed the progress made on the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (the National Strategy), and agreed to an updated timeline and consultation approach for development and endorsement.

It is anticipated that the final National Strategy and its First National Action Plan will be published in September 2021.

The next CSM meeting is scheduled for early 2021.

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