Aboriginal Children’s Forum

Minister’s Statement

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) (10:08:20) — I rise to update the house on how the Andrews Labor government is connecting culture and care for Aboriginal children. Last week I had the privilege of attending the 11th Aboriginal Children’s Forum (ACF) in Port Fairy. The Andrews Labor government is proud to have established the Aboriginal Children’s Forum so that we can work together to deliver better outcomes for all Aboriginal children and families.

At the ACF I announced $2 million to establish a new specialised statewide Aboriginal kinship finding service. The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency will work in partnership with the First Nations Legal Research Services, with support from the Koorie Heritage Trust, to help identify the kinship networks of vulnerable Aboriginal children and support their reconnection with extended family.

I also announced $13.3 million to support the transition of an extra 304 children in kinship care to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs). This additional investment will see half of Aboriginal children in care be case managed by ACCOs by the end of the year. A further $3.33 million is being provided to ACCOs to help build their capacity to take on these additional cases.

At the ACF I also announced that expressions of interest are now being sought from our ACCOs to deliver a preauthorisation phase of the Australian-first Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program, which was funded as part of a $13.7 million initiative in this year’s budget. This will assist ACCOs to prepare for full authorisation in the future. The Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program enables the head of an Aboriginal organisation to assume full legal responsibility for an Aboriginal child on a protection order under section 18 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.

These initiatives form part of a record $47.3 million in this year’s budget to support implementation of the Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, a groundbreaking tripartite partnership between Aboriginal communities, government and community service organisations. I also announced that the Labor government is expanding the maternal and child health development supports for Aboriginal families, with an extension of its Aboriginal maternal and child health initiative until June 2019, supported by a $3.65 million investment in the budget.

The Andrews Labor government has invested an unprecedented $858.6 million through this year’s state budget to continue the transformation of Victoria’s children and family services system through Roadmap for Reform and the move from crisis response to prevention and early intervention. Our government has increased funding to the child and family services system by 69 per cent compared to 2014–15. Our government continues to deliver on the services that families need, including Aboriginal children and families, to ensure that they remain in touch with their cultural identity and are able to be culturally supported.