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WA welcomes new partnership agreement on child protection, expert stresses need for systemic change

Giovanni Torre -

State, federal and territory ministers have launched a partnership agreement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group to implement 'Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021-2031 (the National Framework)' and its action plans.

The agreement - which formalises shared decision-making arrangements - has been developed and endorsed by federal, state and territory governments, and the Safe and Supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group members from across the country.

The WA government described the
Safe and Supported Partnership Agreement as "a commitment to partnership and shared decision-making in response to Closing the Gap, Priority Reform 1".

The National Framework outlines a 10-year strategy to "improve the lives of all Australian children, young people and families, putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and leaders at the heart of decision making", the WA government said on Saturday.

 

The National Framework has two action plans including a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Action Plan which aims to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.

 

The WA Government said it has already taken major steps to support and respond to the Framework at a State level, by partnering with the SNAICC – National Voice for our Children to develop a 10-Year Roadmap to Reduce the Number of Aboriginal Children in Care.  

WA
Child Protection Minister Sabine Winton said it is a WA government priority "to keep children and young people safely at home with their family and community".

 

“This partnership agreement honours our commitment to shared decision-making with Aboriginal people and reflects the importance of working together to meet the needs of Aboriginal families and communities in Western Australia."

Noongar law academic and human rights expert Dr Hannah McGlade noted that the Closing the Gap report tabled recently shows more Aboriginal children are being removed and the gap is widening.

"This is especially so in Western Australia where Aboriginal children are 19.5 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be removed from families," she told National Indigenous Times.

"The principle to partnerships with Aboriginal organisations is welcomed, but we have yet to address the issue of systemic and structural discrimination inherent in departmental practices and leading to such high rates of removal.

"Western Australia also under-invests in early intervention and prevention, and Aboriginal women and men’s healing programs are sparse or non-existent, as are culturally appropriate residential AOD treatment services. We are also locking up so many Aboriginal mothers and rendering children at risk of removal."

Dr McGlade said "
Aboriginal child removals hurt generations and it's time for fundamental shifts in child welfare practices - to reflect Aboriginal self-determination".

Minister Winton said she is "committed to continuing to work alongside the Aboriginal Leadership Group to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and families”.

The WA government said it "continues to invest in earlier intervention and prevention with a range of initiatives under the Earlier Intervention and Family Support Strategy including the Aboriginal In-home Support Service, Intensive Family Support Services, Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making and Aboriginal Representative Organisations".

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