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Australia Unites to end Over-Representation!

by PeakCare Qld on 12th June 2013

Home -> Articles -> 2013 -> June -> Australia Unites to end Over-Representation!

On 13 June, leaders of national, state and territory organisations are meeting in Melbourne to support a national campaign to end the scourge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s over-representation in child protection systems throughout this country.

The genesis for the national campaign can be tracked back to a workshop held in November last year that was attended by twenty-two Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations from across Australia. Since then, a National Coordinating Group has been working on refining the campaign and, to this end, engaged Essential Media Communications to undertake research on public understanding and attitudes to inform the development of the campaign and its strategies.

I was pleased to attend the November workshop and am equally pleased to be representing PeakCare and our member agencies at the National Partners Workshop this month. It is indeed exciting that much of the impetus for the national campaign has been drawn from, and able to build on, the achievements of Queensland’s own Combined Voices Campaign. Commenced in 2009, the Combined Voices Campaign has been instrumental in, amongst other things:

  • prompting the commissioning of a task force by the (former) Queensland Government to address the over-representation of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the task force’s development of the 2010 report, Together Keeping Our Children Safe and Well and other publications including the annually updated Stating the Case for Change report
  • prompting the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services to establish and maintain a working party that was formed to implement a blueprint for change informed by the Together Keeping Our Children Safe and Well recommendations, and
  • drawing the attention of Queensland media, political parties, the existing State Government upon their election and the current Child Protection Commission of Inquiry to the increasingly disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families at all points within Queensland’s child protection system.

As a proud supporter of the Combined Voices Campaign, PeakCare welcomes and is looking forward to the expanded and complementary roles that can potentially be played by the Queensland and national campaigns including, in particular, the broadening of their focus in engaging wider-spread public and community engagement in advocating for change.

Now is the time for a national campaign!

In the midst of national attention again being drawn to child protection policy debates in the Northern Territory, Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition, has stated, “Until the first Australians can fully participate in the life of our country, we are diminished as a nation and as a people”. In a recent Courier Mail articleauthored by Mr Abbott, he quotes former Prime Minister Paul Keating who, more than two decades ago, said that chronic disadvantage constitutes a stain on our nation’s soul.

In 2004 at the time of the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s Inquiry, alarm was expressed about the fact that almost 25% of children under child protection orders were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Less than ten years later and in the midst of another child protection inquiry, that figure is now closer to 40%.

If Tony Abbott’s promise of a “new engagement with Aboriginal people” is to be kept, we cannot continue down pathways that we know are failing. If the National Apology delivered by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is to remain viewed as a sincere expression of this country’s sorrow and regret and not cynically relegated by history to the status of empty rhetoric, fundamental and far-reaching change is needed.

Now more than ever is the time for a national campaign to end over-representation! Now is the time for all PeakCare members to step up, support the campaign and play your part!

Mr Abbott appears to be heading in the right direction when he states that the federal government must work cooperatively with states and territories to offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities “a different, less prescriptive type of governance structure”. In taking Mr Abbott at his word, now is the time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to define not only the governance structures they need, but also the types of services they require and the best means for their delivery. Now is the time for both government and non-government organisations to listen more closely, to abandon superficial and half-baked understandings of key concepts such as ‘cultural competence’, ‘self-determination’ and ‘partnership’ interpreted through a non-Indigenous lens. Now is the time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to define and assert exactly what these terms mean and for government and non-government organisations to respond accordingly.

This won’t be easy!

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director, PeakCare

Click here to read an overview of the planned national campaign.

Click here to read a letter from the National Coordinating Group, copies of which have already been sent to PeakCare’s member agencies.

Enter your comments, anonymously if you prefer, about the national campaign below.