The Tune review: what it means for Aboriginal children, families and agencies
Monday 25 June 2018
We were pleased to see the recent release of the Independent Review of Out Of Home Care in New South Wales, a report filed in 2016 by senior public servant David Tune. After two years of keeping the report from the public, the NSW Government was recently forced to publish it after pressure from the Parliament and community groups (including AbSec).
“Overall, the current NSW system is ineffective and unsustainable … the system is failing to improve long term outcomes for children and families with complex needs, and to arrest devastating cycles of intergenerational abuse and neglect.”
Transparency for Aboriginal families
The child protection system disproportionately impacts Aboriginal children and families, and so it’s critical that our communities are engaged and able to have a say. The lack of transparency around this report so far has made it impossible for Aboriginal communities to participate fully in recent reforms to the system.
“Going forward, we want to see a system built on transparency and accountability,” said AbSec CEO, Tim Ireland. “That means no more secret documents and no more hiding criticism of the system from the public.
“Now that the Tune review is out, we look forward to discussing its recommendations with the Minister and Department of Family and Community Services. We’ll be monitoring closely to ensure that these recommendations are implemented in a way that meets the needs of Aboriginal kids and families.”
What the Tune review says
The report concludes that the current out-of-home care and child protection system is failing our state’s children – particularly Aboriginal children.
The number of kids in out-of-home care as well as the cost of placing them has greatly increased over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, spending and interventions are focused on the crisis end of the system, with not enough attention given to early intervention and family support.
The review says there is a need for holistic family services delivered across a variety of different government agencies, but bureaucratic divisions are preventing this from happening. The system is designed around programs and service models (how government agencies are organised), rather than the needs of vulnerable families.
Tune repeats what we already know to be true: that outcomes are particularly poor for Aboriginal children and families whose lives intersect with the child protection system. Aboriginal kids are the highest growing population in out-of-home care, while the number of Aboriginal children being restored to their families has dropped significantly.
Recommendations for the future
The Tune review makes a number of recommendations for how to improve the system.
Support services need to be designed around families, rather than expecting families to fit into pre-existing service models. Responses should be tailored to the needs of individual children and families with a local, key worker providing support and coordination. Support packages should bring together supports across different government departments and agencies (for example, across housing, education and health).
Tune says we need to gather strong data and evidence to determine what children and families need, as well as what interventions are effective in helping them. Using this data, we should be directing investment to the areas of greatest need and greatest success. The review asks for the establishment of a NSW Family Investment Commission, which would lead this project and set strategic directions and priorities.
Other recommendations include an extension of the Keep Them Safe program, the suspension of care placements and allowances for children without a care order, and a review of carer allowances in general.
We support the findings of the Tune review and want to see genuine action from the Government to apply the recommendations.
We agree that a new entity such as the proposed NSW Family Investment Commission is needed to direct funds to where they are needed most and provide more tailored support to families. We would like to see this taken one step further, with the introduction of an Aboriginal child and family commission who can direct specialised and tailored funding, and ensure accountability for Aboriginal children and families.
The Tune review’s central finding is that the system focuses too much on out-of-home care and crisis response, which is not only expensive, but fails to address issues before they get out-of-hand. We’ve long known this to be true, which is why AbSec has repeatedly called for greater investment in early intervention and family support services, particularly that are Aboriginal-led, designed and delivered.
The review shows that more than anyone, Aboriginal children are being let down by this broken system. Aboriginal self-determination needs to be at the centre of a redesigned system. We want to see our communities empowered to co-design and deliver the services needed to preserve families and ensure the safety of children.
“We will only close the gap between numbers of Aboriginal children and non-Indigenous children in out-of-home care when we listen to the needs of Aboriginal families, empower them to design the solutions to issues disproportionately affecting their communities, and make the system accountable to those whose lives it affects,” Tim Ireland said.