AbSec News

Joint Press Release

The state’s peak organisations for Aboriginal children, families and legal services have cautiously welcomed the passage of a bill to reform the NSW child protection system but much more is needed.

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Family is Culture) Bill 2022 seeks to implement 13 of 25 legislative reform recommendations made in the 2019 Family is Culture Report, which found that the child protection system is actively harming Aboriginal kids.

Before sector and community pressure led to the introduction of the Bill, the NSW Government had initially deferred these legislative reforms until at least 2024.

“Legislative reform has been identified by community as a priority, and we commend the NSW Government for bringing forward the timeframes for these important changes,” said AbSec CEO, John Leha.

“With that said, we feel many of the reforms in the Bill should have been stronger. The Family Is Culture Report was crystal clear in calling for major and transformational changes to the system, and that’s what is so desperately needed by Aboriginal families and communities,” Mr Leha said.

The NSW child protection system takes children from their homes and families at a far greater rate than non-Indigenous children. The Family is Culture Report made 126 systemic recommendations designed to reform the system and ensure better outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and communities.

“The Bill is a good first step, but there is much more that needs to be done,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (ALS).

“We’re asking the Government to commit to all 126 recommendations of the Family Is Culture Review, including the 12 remaining legislative reforms. The NSW child protection system needs a top-to-bottom overhaul, not just tinkering around the edges. These next six to 12 months will be critical,” Ms Warner said.

AbSec and the ALS are calling on the NSW Government to work in genuine partnership with their organisations and communities, noting the consultation process to date has fallen short of what is needed.

They are also calling on the Government to embed a quality assurance and review process into their implementation plan, ensuring Aboriginal communities are adequately consulted at all steps of the way.

“Self-determination and accountability to community are at the heart of the Family Is Culture mandate,” Mr Leha said. “We really need the NSW Government to live up to those principles, as we continue to work together to uphold the rights of Aboriginal children and families.” 

AbSec and the ALS have published a framework for assessing the NSW Government’s progress on reforming the child protection system. They will shortly release an annual report analysing the Government’s performance against the framework.

Media contact: Mathew Mackie, Communications and Memberships Manager – mathew.mackie@absec.org.au