Aboriginal Children and Young People
I rise to inform the house of what the Andrews Labor government is doing to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and to better support Aboriginal children and their families. Recently I was pleased to co-chair the ninth Aboriginal Children’s Forum on 27 June with the CEO of Winda-Mara Aboriginal Cooperative, Michael Bell. At the forum I was pleased to announce a further $13.7 million to continue our Australian-first Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program. This initiative allows a child to receive culturally sensitive planning and decision-making from an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation (ACCO) that understands their needs.
Currently the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Association (VACCA) is the first organisation to be authorised to exercise legal guardianship over Aboriginal children. This extra funding will enable VACCA to continue its important work as well as allow two further casework teams at two other ACCOs to triple the number of Aboriginal children receiving this type of support. This is a vital part of our government’s commitment to Aboriginal self-determination, because we know Aboriginal children who are cared for by an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation have a greater connection to culture, which can in turn lead to better health and wellbeing.
We are currently transitioning the case management of Aboriginal children in the child protection system to our ACCOs. This year’s budget also provides $13.3 million to transition more cases from the department to our ACCOs. It was great to discuss the positive progress that we are making in this respect at the Aboriginal Children’s Forum. Aboriginal children and young people case managed by ACCOs will have the opportunity to thrive in a culturally safe and connected environment. This funding is part of the 2018–19 budget allocation, which provided $47 million for Aboriginal children and families through the groundbreaking Aboriginal children and families tripartite agreement, Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, between the Andrews Labor government, the families and children’s sector and our ACCOs.
In addition to this budget investment, I also announced a further $6.4 million to be provided to our ACCOs to grow their services and the capacity of their workforce by supporting more Aboriginal people to complete a Vocational Education and Training or higher degree, including social work or community services. Over the past four years, this government has invested $225 million in Aboriginal child and family services to intervene earlier, to build family capacity and to ensure that Aboriginal children in care are connected to community, culture and to their extended families.