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Is this our next Inquiry?

by PeakCare Qld on 13th February 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> February -> Is this our next Inquiry?

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Three Queensland inquiries into child protection in less than 15 years – two under Labor governments and one commissioned by an LNP government - says something about the complexity of the child protection system and the difficulty in achieving public confidence that the system is functioning as well as it possibly can. A recurring theme of these inquiries is has been that the child protection system has not worked well for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

The 2004 Crime and Misconduct Commission reportof its inquiry into abuse of children in foster care noted the Queensland Government’s concern at the time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children represented around a quarter (23%) of those in care (p. 227). Shortly before commencement of the Carmody Child Protection Commission of Inquiry in 2012, the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP), supported by other peak bodies and concerned organisations and individuals, launched a 37% and Rising campaign, to draw public attention to the rapid rate of increase to the grossly disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at all points within the child protection system – from 23% to 37% in less than 10 years!

The campaign T-shirts and posters are all now out-of-date and have been packed away! Data reported on in the recently released Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2015indicates that almost 41% of Queensland children in care are now Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children despite the attention given to this issue by the Carmody Inquiry. These figures come at a time when, in response to the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report 2015, Reconciliation Australia CEO Justin Mohamed is calling on the Federal Government to increase efforts towards reducing inequalities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Read Reconciliation Australia’s media release here.

As noted in PeakCare’s commentary prior to the State election, addressing the worsening over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families must be a top priority for a new Queensland government. Read this blog, watch this video, read this Brisbane Times articleor listen to this 4BC interview. Our message about this issue remains the same. In the responses provided by both the Labor Partyand the LNPto issues raised by PeakCare, both acknowledge over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families as a major concern and both parties express commitment to addressing this concern.

It is a concern that cannot be addressed by government alone however. There are a range of moral, ethical, cultural and values-based issues to be confronted by all – government, non-government organisations, special interest groups and the general public – if we are ever going to truly listen to, walk with and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities on stopping this diabolical trend.

If there is a failure to do so, the question will not be whether or not the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families becomes the focus of the next child protection inquiry. The question will turn into, “When will this inquiry be held?”

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director, Peakcare Qld