*Check against delivery*
Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining us today to launch two important Action Plans that will help us deliver the 10 year national strategy to protect Australia’s children, Safe and Supported.
Thank you Aunty Violet for your warm and generous Welcome.
I too would like to acknowledge that I am on Aboriginal land – the lands of the Ngunnawal people – and pay my respects to you, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders here today. I’m proud to be part of a Government that is committed to delivering a Voice to Parliament.
Aunty Violet, you’ve talked about how people need to come together and support one another to move forward and make change for the better.
And that’s exactly what we’ve done to finalise these two Safe and Supported Action Plans that we’re launching today.
This was a true coming together – and we did more than just listen in respect to First Nations people involved in this work, there was shared decision making with the First Nations leaders for this.
I’m proud to be here alongside my state and territory colleagues, First Nations leaders represented by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group, and the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing representing those from the non-government sector.
Many people, as represented by these groups, have played a critical role in developing these plans.
I’m also very pleased my colleagues, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, and the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Minister for Youth, Dr Anne Aly are joining us today. The National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds is also with us.
We all share a goal for these action plans to make significant and sustained progress in reducing the rates of child abuse, neglect and its intergenerational impacts.
Safe and Supported: National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children
Let me begin by saying a few words about the overarching National Framework – Safe and Supported.
Safe and Supported has a shared goal of making significant and sustained progress in reducing the rate of child abuse and neglect and its intergenerational impacts.
It is the ten-year blueprint for ensuring Australia’s vulnerable children have the right frameworks, systems and supports to thrive.
All children and young people in Australia have the right to grow up safe, connected and supported in their family, community and culture. They have the right to grow up in an environment that enables them to reach their full potential.
Safe and Supported does this by focusing on priority groups that are experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability and are over-represented in child protection systems.
These priority groups include:
- Children and families with multiple and complex needs
- First Nations children and young people experiencing disadvantage or who are vulnerable
- Children and young people and their carers with disability experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability, and
- Children and young people who have experienced abuse or neglect, including those in out of home care or are leaving out of home care to transition to adulthood.
According to the latest data (from June last year) more than 45,300 children across Australia were in out-of-home care. And around 43 per cent of these kids were First Nations children.
We need to turn these statistics around.
That’s what Safe and Supported aims to do, with collaboration from the Commonwealth, states and territories and together with the Leadership Group.
Safe and Supported and the Action Plans we are launching today aim to transform the system so we can respond earlier and seeks to see a reduction in the number of Aboriginal children from going into child protection systems in the first place.
Safe and Supported aims to achieve systems reform through better integration and coordination of policies and programs, as well as through a shift to early intervention and targeted support.
It also aims to achieve transformative change through self-determination and the exercise of authority in child protection for First Nations people.
Safe and Supported was launched in December 2021, following the expiry of the previous National Framework which ran from 2009 through to 2020.
However, like many strategic documents, Safe and Supported’s aims and objectives must be underpinned by tangible actions and activities that allow delivery, monitoring and accountability to ensure we achieve our goals.
This is what we are delivering in the action plans launched today.
The development of the Action Plans
Today we are launching these two important Action Plans that articulate the actions and activities to bring Safe and Supported to life.
Both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Action Plan 2023-2026; and the First Action Plan 2023-2026 sets out the first critical steps to achieving the shared goal of Safe and Supported.
These Action Plans were borne from a meticulous approach focused on engagement, empowerment and embedding the voice of children and those with lived experience.
It was also done in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and with a children-centric focus, and in consultation with the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing.
Representatives like Muriel Bamblett, Chair of the Leadership Group and Catherine Liddle from SNAICC – who are both with us here today – worked alongside Community Services Ministers to jointly agree to these Action Plans.
Safe and Supported and the Action Plans were very much co-designed and right from the beginning we embedded this into how we approached designing these Action Plans.
I firmly believe that by adopting this approach, we’ve created robust Action Plans that will give us the best chance to improve outcomes for children and young people at risk and facing disadvantage.
While our goal is and always will be having children not need child protection interventions, we want to ensure that when they do the solutions are child-centred and informed by their voices.
The development of these action plans has also been informed by additional consultations, including with the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing, as well as through public consultations conducted by the Department of Social Services, and national consultations undertaken by the National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds, with children and young people.
Throughout this process of consultation and co-design, the relevant ministerial council, the Community Services Ministers meetings, have been able to provide guidance and support.
These two Action Plans have now been agreed by all Australian governments, with state and territory governments giving endorsement through their respective Cabinet or ministerial authorities, and the Commonwealth with the support of the Prime Minister Albanese.
They represent a process of ensuring the widest possible support has been given to the implementation of these plans, which ultimately I believe will lead to their success.
Importantly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan reflects the importance that the Albanese Government places on self-determination for First Nations people.
This is consistent with our commitments and Priority Reform 1 in Closing the Gap – which goes to working in partnership side-by-side.
We’ve also ensured these Action Plans are met with financial support. The Commonwealth has already committed $30 million to see the goals and systems reforms outlined become a reality.
What’s contained in the Action Plans
The action plans that we are launching today set out the actions and activities that the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and our partners will take through to 2026.
The two action plans – the Safe and Supported First Action Plan and a dedicated Safe and Supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Action Plan, set out theories of change, outcomes frameworks, and governance structures that support accountability and measurable, evidence-based outcomes.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan addresses actions and activities that will support progress towards Target 12 and includes:
- Enabling the delegation of legislative authority of statutory child protection powers
- Investing in the Community Controlled sector, including growing the proportion of services delivered by Aboriginal Community Controls Organisations
- Supporting data sovereignty for First Nations people to ensure robust evidence is available to inform policy
- Building a sustainable First Nations workforce, and
- Enhancing the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles.
Let me turn now to the First Action Plan, which focuses on all four priority groups and focus areas under Safe and Supported.
Actions included in the action plan include:
- Establishing a coordinated data and research approach in the area of child protection
- Building a sustainable and skilled children and family services workforce
- Embedding the voice of the child and lived experience in program and policy design
- Improving lifetime outcomes for children and young people in out of home care
- Improving support for parents and non-parent carers
- Cross-portfolio action to address the social determinants of child protection intervention through early and targeted support, and
- Specific action focused on children, young people, parents and carers living with disability in contact with child protection and family support services.
In developing these Action Plans, we have been able to secure commitments from all parties to changes to child protection and family support systems that families and communities have been calling for.
There is a lot of detail as it should be. But to give you a small sense of the activities that have been agreed, let me give you some examples:
Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan, each jurisdiction has committed to develop plans to enable self-determination and the exercise of authority in child protection by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities and providers, including timelines for legislative reform.
Another tangible example under this action plan is the commitment to reform funding models and procurement policies to direct proportionate funding and address systemic barriers to support the growth of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation’s sector.
In the First Action Plan one tangible activity is the commitment to scope current and future needs of the child and family sector and its workforce, and in turn develop strategies for a sustainable workforce pipeline.
There is also agreement to scope national accreditation of the child protection and family support services workforce.
I could go on but I’d strongly encourage you to take a look at the 150 pages containing the two Action Plan detailed activities. They have been a key priority of mine since coming into Government and our Government has ensured we are getting them into place.
Empowerment and embedding the voice of children
One of the most important elements of these Action Plans is how they will strive to embed the voice of the child and lived experience into every action that we take under these plans.
This is because children, young people and the parents and carers who support them are ultimately are the ones who are most affected by these plans.
We have also worked closely with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group, led by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, who have also agreed to the Action Plans. I’d like to acknowledge Catherine Liddle who’s here representing SNAICC and the Leadership Group.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing, and its convenor, Families Australia, who’s represented today by its CEO Jamie Crosby, for their support in developing the Action Plans.
I would also like to thank Anne Hollonds for her support and work to bring the voice of the child to the action plans.
Next steps and conclusion
Looking forward to the future, engagement will continue between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, the Leadership Group and the National Coalition who will now work towards the coordination, integration and delivery of the actions, policies and programs contained in these two Action Plans.
The Community Services Ministers will continue to support and guide this work, in partnership with the Leadership Group and with the support of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing.
There will also be working groups established to help plan implementation and drive delivery of the Action Plans, which will subject matter experts from all government and non-government parties.
In the Action Plans, we also detail our agreement to develop a national approach for a sustainable and skilled children and families’ workforce and I’m keen to involve sector representatives in designing solutions to these challenging workforce sustainability issues.
Let me close by saying that our vision for Australia’s children through these Action Plans, consistent with Safe and Supported, is to achieve real and systemic change for children and families, so that young people and those who support them can thrive and reach their full potential.
States and territories are responsible for their statutory child protection systems but through Safe and Supported and the Action Plans we are launching today the Commonwealth can best support this work through coordination.
It’s been a privilege working with Safe and Supported partners. Thank you all for your efforts in getting us to this milestone today.