An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner will be established in the ACT in response to the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the Territory’s child protection system.
The move will cost $3.6 million over four years and follow a model co-designed with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community.
The establishment of the Commissioner was a recommendation of the 2017 Our Booris, Our Way review, a systemic analysis of the child protection system.
The Government says the Commissioner will advocate for improved services and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, including those in the child protection system.
The announcement comes after the Productivity Commission highlighted in January that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continued to be overrepresented in the child protection and youth justice systems across the country, including in the ACT.
It found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the ACT are:
- 13 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children
- 16 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in detention and five times more likely to be under community-based supervision orders, and
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 10 to 13 are almost 20 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous children in the ACT.
The report prompted the ACT Council of Social Services to urge the ACT Government to implement all 28 recommendations from the Our Booris, Our Way report, including establishing the Commissioner.
Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne said the Our Booris, Our Way review provided a clear understanding of how to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
“One of the recommendations presented was the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner to provide monitoring, advice and advocacy on the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” Ms Cheyne said.
She said the new Commissioner role had been co-designed with the community, in a process facilitated by the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, to ensure the role met community needs.
“The co-design process resulted in a proposed model for the establishment of the Commissioner which I have presented to the chamber today, along with the Government’s response to the co-design report,” she said.
“I am pleased to confirm that the Government response agrees to all aspects of the proposed legislative model for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner developed by co-design participants.”
The foundations for the role of Commissioner were informed by key human rights standards, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The government is now developing legislation to establish the Commissioner, which is expected to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly later this year.
“This is an important step forward in the ACT Government acting to promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in our community,” Ms Cheyne said.