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Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts appointed ACT’s inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Commissioner

Callan Morse -

Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts has been appointed the Australian Capital Territory's inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Commissioner.

A proud Bundjalung Widubul-Wiabul woman, Ms Turnbull-Roberts is an award-winning human rights advocate, lawyer and Fulbright Scholar.

In assuming the role from interim commissioner, Barbara Causon PSM, Ms Turnbull-Roberts will work to protect and promote the rights, interests and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), both individually and at a systemic level.

"I am incredibly thrilled and honoured to have been entrusted with this important role and so grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact and advocate for the rights and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people" Ms Turnbull-Roberts said.

Ms Turnbull-Roberts is a survivor of out-of-home care, having been removed from her family at the age of 10.

An Australian Human Rights Medallist in 2019, she is currently undertaking research as a Fulbright Scholar, with the aim of developing new ways of changing the child protection system in Australia, and enhancing best practice in the lives of First Nations children.

Ms Turnbull-Roberts said she'll be working towards important outcomes to bring Indigenous children home and ensure that country, connection and healing are paramount to First Nations peoples.

"First Nations families and communities have continued to hold the solutions that work for us, by us," Ms Turnbull-Roberts said.

"Our strength lies in the people that have come before us, our collective struggle and resilient history, our ancestors, knowledge holders, healers and country – and this will continue for eternity with our young.

"I look forward to working with First Nations families and communities as we strive to end discrimination and ensure the rights of First Nations people are heard – in particular, addressing the urgent pipeline of child removal and incarceration. I invite all to come on this journey and work together in creating fundamental change."

Ms Turnbull-Roberts' appointment to the independent role follows an extensive recruitment process in partnership with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The independent, statutory role was designed in consultation with First Nations peoples as part of the ACT Government's commitment to fully implementing recommendations of the 2019 Our Booris, Our Way Report.

ACT Minister for Families and Community Services, Rachel Stephen-Smith, commended the appointment of Ms Turnbull-Roberts.

"I have no doubt Ms Turnbull-Roberts will be a passionate advocate for Canberra's First Nations children, young people and families," she said.

"Her impressive career and achievements to date have been driven by the pursuit of justice and better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The elected Body and members of the ACT's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the Our Booris, Our Way Implementation Oversight Committee, worked with the government to establish and fill the Commissioner role.

Our Booris, Our Way Implementation Oversight Committee chair, Natalie Brown, said Ms Turnbull-Roberts is a highly qualified and fiercely committed advocate that stands for real change for the ACT's children and young people.

"Her appointment reflects the genuine partnership with representatives from the local community heavily involved in the recruitment process," Ms Brown said.

"We are looking forward to welcoming and to working with the Commissioner to drive the ACT to becoming a jurisdiction where all children can thrive."

ACT Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne, said she was thrilled in Ms Turnbull-Roberts' appointment, thanking Ms Causon for her commitment as interim advocate to support First Nations families in the ACT.

She (Ms Causon) has led work on which the commissioner can build to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can live their best lives, connected to their community, culture and country," Ms Cheyne said.

Ms Causon will continue in her interim role until Ms Turnbull-Roberts commencer her five-year term as commissioner on 26 February 2024.


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