Family is Culture response falls short on structural change

Image: Keith Saunders

The NSW Government’s response to the Family is Culture report contains a number of positive initiatives, but falls short of the significant reform needed to improve a child protection system that is failing Aboriginal families and children.

Released late last year, the landmark Family Is Culture report made damning findings about the NSW child protection system, including widespread non-compliance with legislation and policy among Departmental caseworkers, failures of accountability, misleading evidence provided to the Children’s Court and higher rates of harm experienced by Aboriginal children in care.

‘The Family Is Culture report set out a clear pathway for reforming the NSW child protection system, emphasising the need for Aboriginal self-determination and early support for families. While we welcome some of the initiatives announced by the Government on Wednesday, many other critical reforms have been postponed or sidestepped’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

‘Aboriginal organisations, including the Aboriginal Legal Service and the state peak AbSec, have consistently advocated for legislative change to address flaws in child protection laws that continue to have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal children. Their calls over many years were strongly endorsed in the Family Is Culture report.

‘Over a third of the report’s recommendations related to changing child protection legislation and court processes, including mandating early engagement with families to prevent child removal. These will not even be considered until a review in 2024 – beyond the term of this current parliament.’

‘The appointment of an Aboriginal Deputy Children’s Guardian is a positive step towards accountability, but more structural reform is needed to turn around the crisis we face in the out-of-home-care system for Aboriginal children.’

‘NSW has recorded the highest proportion of Aboriginal children entering care in nearly a decade. The most recent data shows that 41% of all children entering care in NSW are Aboriginal, with close to a thousand Aboriginal children entering care in the 2018-19 financial year. These numbers are unacceptably high and demand urgent systemic change.’

‘We urge the Minister to act on legislative reform. The Family is Culture report has made clear what needs to change to improve outcomes. Aboriginal children and families should not be kept waiting,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gemma Pearce, PIAC Media and Communications Manager: 0478 739 280.

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