The St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn strongly supports the call by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service Winnunga Nimmityja, for the ACT Government to give greater priority to implementing the interim recommendations of the Our Booris Our Way Committee on improving the ACT child protection system. 

“The ACT child protection system has failed indigenous families” said Warwick Fulton, President of St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

The ACT has the second highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out of home care in the nation.  That rate has almost trebled in the last 10 years.

As an example of how the system has gone wrong, the CEO of Winnunga Nimmityja, Ms Julie Tongs, has highlighted the recent case where the ACT Appeals Court finally decided that the removal of children five years ago should not have occurred and ordered them to be reunited with their family. 

The Committee has made 9 recommendations in areas such as

  • Recruiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff
  • Increasing cultural competency of non-Indigenous staff
  • Ongoing access to Family Group Conferencing
  • Training on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child placement principle
  • Absence of an Aboriginal Child Care Association
  • Need for oversight
  • Lack of culturally appropriate advocacy services
  • Early Support programs

“While we understand that some progress has been made on a few of these recommendations it is not clear what progress has been made on others”, Mr Fulton said. 

Winnunga Nimmityja has pointed out there needs to be much greater urgency from the Government in reforming a system that clearly does not work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

The Society notes that the Government has still not implemented a number of significant recommendations relating to greater openness and accountability for the child protection system made by the 2016 Glanfield Inquiry into System Level Responses to Family Violence.  Those recommendations are nearly 3 years old.  

“We call on the Minister to outline to the Canberra community just what progress has been made in dealing with these very necessary reform proposals,” said Mr Fulton.

28 March 2019