The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) have joined forces to call on Members of the Legislative Council to refer a Bill amending child protection legislation for inquiry amidst concerns that the changes would have dire consequences for Aboriginal children and their families.
Last week the NSW Government introduced a Bill amending the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act and the Adoption Act which will speed up adoptions (including when parents do not consent) and limit the time for children to be restored to their families following a removal.
‘We are extremely concerned about the lack of consultation on these significant changes,’ said Gemma Slack-Smith, Principal Solicitor of the ALS Care and Protection/ Family Law team.
‘While we were advised of the areas for amendment in the Discussion paper released last year, the ALS and other Aboriginal organisations were not given an opportunity to comment on the wording of the proposed amendments which have serious implications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system. We wrote to the Government only last month to highlight the urgent need for consultation before any changes were introduced, but this hasn’t happened.
‘We have significant concerns regarding the proposals to streamline adoption, limit the time for family reunification and dispense with requirements for parental consent. As we know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over 10 times more likely to be in out of home care than non-Indigenous children in NSW.
‘Changes of this nature risk permanently severing Aboriginal children from their families, communities and culture at great danger to their development and wellbeing. These reforms are contrary to the principles of Bringing Them Home and are out of step with strategies being adopted in other States and overseas to address the crisis numbers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care.’
‘Aboriginal kids are grossly over-represented in out of home care, so it’s vital that those working with children and families in the child protection system, particularly Aboriginal organisations and communities, are heard on these important reforms. We need to make sure any changes are going to work to make things better, not worse, for Aboriginal kids and families’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.
The ALS and PIAC are calling for the Bill to be referred for inquiry and for proper consultation to occur with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, for the sake of Aboriginal children and their families.
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280
Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), Richard Lenarduzzi – 0411 254 390