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Thank you Dr Babington.
I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people and pay my respects to their Elders – past and present.
This is my first address to the National Coalition on Wellbeing annual meeting since being named Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, and I am very pleased to be here at the National Coalition’s annual meeting. Thank you for the invitation.
Protecting children is a paramount concern for the Government as it is for us all, at every level of society. This is why governments across the nation—federal, state and territory—together with the community sector, developed the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. I am enthusiastic to be involved in overseeing the National Framework.
The National Coalition of Organisations Committed to Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children, including Families Australia, has played an important part in developing the National Framework, and I want to thank and congratulate them on that.
The National Coalition has been closely involved with the design and implementation of activities in the National Framework’s Third Action Plan, and is working actively, alongside Government to drive implementation of the Third Action Plan and the National Framework. I would also like to thank you for your tireless effort working on these important reforms. I thank you all for welcoming me here today, and I would also like to acknowledge
- The National Forum Steering Group members, particularly the National Coalition Convenor and Co-Chair of the National Forum Dr Brian Babington.
- Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission.
As you all know, the Third Action Plan has a strong focus on prevention and early intervention, and aims to strengthen the abilities of families and communities to care for their children and young people. It involves government and non-government organisations working together to ensure children are safe, get the best possible start in life and have opportunities to realise their full potential. The Third Action Plan builds on the achievements of the First and Second Action Plans, which included:
- Australia’s first ever National Standards for out-of-home care to improve the quality of care for children and young people
- the first National Children’s Commissioner to promote the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people
- a National Research Agenda for Protecting Children, to identify research priorities and opportunities.
There is also a strong commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families through the Third Action Plan, with the aim to help reduce the likelihood of children entering the child protection system.
Each strategy and action will be consistent with the five principles of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection). And a working group will provide advice and expertise to ensure the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children remains a priority.
Since the public release of the Third Action Plan last year, implementation of the strategies and 17 actions in the plan has commenced, and is jointly overseen by Governments and the National Coalition representatives on the National Forum for Protecting Australia’s Children.
Progress in implementing the Third Action Plan strategies is on track and work plans have been agreed and established for:
- Strategy 1: early intervention with a focus on the early years, particularly the first 1000 days for a child
- Strategy 2: helping young people in out-of-home-care to thrive in adulthood, and
- Strategy 3: organisations responding better to children to keep them safe.
Targets and markers of progress for each of the three strategies under the Third Action Plan will be explored and if feasible, developed, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.
Research projects will also be identified to ensure activities under the Third Action Plan are based on the latest evidence. Since the release of the Third Action Plan, progress has also been made in two cross-cutting focus area of:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and
- research and reporting under the Third Action Plan
Funding of $2.6 million a year is available through the National Initiatives component of the Families and Communities program to support activities in the Third Action Plan. In addition, in the 2016-17 Budget the Government announced funding of $5.1m to support two trials:
- The Building Capacity in Australian Parents trial that will work to build parenting skills in the first 1000 days;
- The Towards Independent Adulthood trial that will test a new approach to supporting young people as they move from out-of-home-care into adulthood.
Each of the Strategy Working Groups has identified the focus and activities that they will undertake to deliver each of the actions over the next 12 months. So far five working groups have been established, including Government and non-government representation on all groups including cross cutting areas of focus under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Group and the Research Advisory Committee. In addition to the trials funded through the 2016-17 Budget, I am pleased to see great other progress occurring under the plan, including:
- a scan of existing community awareness campaigns to support the development of the First 1000 Days communications strategy – to raise awareness of this important time in a child’s life amongst Australian parents
- assessment of strategies that improved co-ordination of services and activities to better meet the needs of vulnerable expectant parents in selected locations where there is a high incidence of domestic and family violence
- support for the First 1000 Days for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – funding has been contributed towards an Urban Pilot Preconception Study as part of the First 1000 Days Foundation Project being undertaken by Professor Kerry Arabena.
- planning to hold consultations with young people in 18 locations nationally has begun
The Third Action Plan is closely connected to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Senate Inquiries into Out-of-Home Care and Grandparents who take Primary Responsibility for Raising their Grandchildren.
Strategy 3 under the plan focuses on child safe organisations, I know that as a group there is more that we can do to make sure children and young people are safe and well. I look forward to hearing how plans under the this strategy develop and link to important outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Third Action Plan focuses effort on complex problems which require a joint, concentrated effort from all governments and non-government services sector. Because of their connection service delivery, non-government organisations, like those here today make an essential contribution to actively promote child safety, protection, rights and well-being. I am looking forward to working closely with the National Coalition as we deliver the Third Action Plan to strengthen the abilities of families and communities to care for children and young people.