The ROGS (report on government services) Report 2016, released by the Productivity Commission, raised again the concern about the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection in the ACT.
The numbers are not just high (a quarter of all children in protection) but also increasing, from 22% to 26% in recent years, which the Minister labelled as a 'small increase'! In the last decade the number of indigenous children and youth in protection has increased nearly 93%, whilst during the same period, the number of non-indigenous children and youth was less than 3%.
Today, in the Assembly, I asked the minister for Children, Disability and Youth, why these numbers were so high, why did so many indigenous children and youth require out of home placement. The Minister agreed that this was a critical issue in our community, but was unable during the question time to give an answer. The Minister referred us to the Step Up for Our Kids program, a program implemented more than 12 months ago - yet which has to date made little or no difference. As part of the changes has been the overwhelming reduction of financial support for foster families, it is perhaps not surprising that the number of foster carers in the ACT are at critical levels.
This is a difficult issue, and one that requires an extensive revisit of the solution - preferably with the support and inclusion of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander community of the ACT. Over the next months I am looking forward to meeting with the indigenous people to see how they would tackle this and other difficult issues facing the members of their community.