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MEDIA RELEASE 25.01.22: COMMUNITY LEGAL SECTOR CALLS FOR A DEDICATED COMMISSIONER FOR ABORIGINAL CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

 

Led by Aboriginal Family Legal Service WA (AFLS), the community legal sector has today published its ‘Call for a dedicated Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in Western Australia’.

Developed in response to the persistent and severe disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal children and young people in Western Australia, the report calls on the State Government to urgently create a separate, independent statutory position dedicated to the advocacy of Aboriginal children and young people.

AFLS CEO Corina Martin said the complex and systemic nature of the issues affecting Aboriginal children and young people across the state merited the establishment of such a role, which would be critical to improving the outcomes of Aboriginal children across the health, justice, education, and care and protection sectors, and to achieving outcomes under Closing the Gap.

“Aboriginal children and young people in Western Australia experience disadvantage at disproportionate levels” Ms. Martin said.

“They are 16.7 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection services than non-Aboriginal children, 36 times more likely to be in detention than non-Aboriginal children, and 17.8 times more likely to be subject to a community-based supervision order than non-Aboriginal children. They are also at higher risk of mental health problems than their non-Aboriginal peers, experience 3 times the incidence of developmental vulnerability upon entering primary school and have significantly lower school attendance than non-Aboriginal students.

The Closing the Gap Jurisdictional Implementation Plan for Western Australia from September 2021 reveals that Outcome 4 (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive in their early years), Outcome 6 (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students reach their full potential) and Outcome 12 (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are not overrepresented in the child protection system) are all considered by the State Government to be ‘highly aspirational’. There is a clear need for assistance from a Commissioner dedicated to Aboriginal children and young people to enable these outcomes to become achievable.”

The report calls for the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006 to be amended to:

  • Include the appointment and selection of a Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People by the Governor by commission under the Public Seal of the State on the recommendation of the Premier.
  • Specify that the appointment must involve an Aboriginal Reference Group and Aboriginal children and young people in the selection process.
  • Include that the remuneration and allowances of the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People must be the same as the remuneration and allowances of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, subject to the Salaries and Allowances Act 1975.
  • Specify that the Commissioner must be an Aboriginal Person with an adequate understanding of the various Aboriginal cultural groups, languages and respective protocols across Western Australia, and their own obligations to adhere to those cultural protocols when undertaking their functions in respect to any Aboriginal child or young person.
  • Specify that the Commissioner has, at a minimum, statutorily entrenched equitable functions and powers with the current Commissioner for Children and Young People.
  • Specify that the Commissioner is independent of the Government of Western Australia.

Ms. Martin said the recent appointment of an Aboriginal woman to the Commissioner for Children and Young People role in Western Australia was a good first step, but the requirements for the Commissioner to represent the best interests of all of Western Australia’s children and young people meant that a more dedicated focus was required.

Ms. Martin urged the State Government to follow the lead of South Australia, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and New South Wales in establishing dedicated Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner roles and said it was the obvious next step for a government genuinely committed to improving the lives of its Aboriginal children and young people.

Media Contact – Laney Gould, 9355 1502

MEDIA RELEASE 25.01.22: Western Australia trailing in keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children safe in their homes and out of the criminal justice system according to the 2022 Report on Government Services

Aboriginal Family Legal Service WA (AFLS), a key service provider for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims of family violence and sexual assault in the Pilbara, Kimberley, Mid-West Gascoyne, and Goldfield’s regions, has expressed concern over findings in the 2022 Report on Government Services, released today by the Australian Government Productivity Commission.

The Report on Government Services, which provides a public report card on the performance of Australian governments in the delivery of education, justice, health, community services, emergency management and housing and homelessness services, revealed that:

  • Western Australia had the second highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2021, with 57.5% second only to the Northern Territory, and 12% higher than the third highest Queensland at 45.5%.
  • Western Australia had the highest ratio of disproportionality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-17 years for child protection notifications.
  • Only 38.9% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care in Western Australia in 2021 were placed with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relative/kin, and 32% were placed with non-Indigenous carers who were not relatives/kin.
  • Western Australia had the second highest proportion of average daily number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-17 years in youth detention in 2020-21, with 76% second only to the North Territory, and 12% higher than the third highest Queensland at 64%.
  • Western Australia had the highest rate of Aboriginal young people aged 10-17 years in detention per 10 000 young people aged 10-17 years in 2020-21, with 40.9%, and well ahead of the national average of 23.3%.
  • Western Australia had the second highest rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people spending nights in custody in 2020-21, with 76.04% second only to the Northern Territory at 95.8%.

AFLS Chief Executive Officer Corina Martin said that the findings were concerning for Aboriginal families, children, and young people in Western Australia, particularly in light of recent allegations about racism within the Western Australian State Government.

“Aboriginal children and young people are among the most severely disadvantaged in our state” Ms. Martin said. “The findings of this Report indicate that our State Government is trailing behind other governments in preventing Aboriginal children and young people from entering the child protection and youth justice systems and speak to the demand for more targeted intervention opportunities for Aboriginal families, children and young people to keep kids out of care and away from juvenile detention.”

Ms. Martin urged the WA Government to partner with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to address the findings in the Report:

“Aboriginal people know what works for Aboriginal people. If the Government of Western Australia is truly committed to improving outcomes for its Aboriginal children and young people, we must see opportunities for Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal organisations to lead intervention programs that will keep our kids safe. Until then, we can only expect to see higher rates of disproportionality for our children and young people across the youth justice, child protection, health, education and other sectors.”

Media Contact – Laney Gould, 9355 1502

Help stop the spread of COVID-19

We can’t see COVID-19 but it effects everybody.

We are still providing legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence in regional Western Australia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But our procedures have changed to keep everyone healthy and safe.
From Monday 18 May our Doors will be open for face to face appointments.

Welcome

We support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors of family and sexual violence through community education, early intervention and legal advocacy.

Services

We provide legal and support services for all Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence or sexual assault.

Family Law

We can assist people with their family law matters when there are children involved. We represent clients in the Family Court WA, and help clients work out parenting agreements. We focus on what is best for the children.

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Child Protection

We assist people dealing with the Department of Child Protection and Family Support in childcare and protection matters. We can help you to talk to the Department about children remaining safely in your care.

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Criminal Injury Compensation

Eligibility advice for criminal injuries compensation, including for injuries, medical expenses and lost income. We assist with applications, and helping to obtain documents such as medical reports.

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Family Violence Restraining Orders

We help people who have been hurt by partners or family members. We can assist in applications for Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs) and will apply to the Court for an interim restraining order.

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Non-Legal Support

We provide non-legal support and case management in the form of community education and engagement, crisis intervention and client referrals. We can advocate for clients, and help in safety planning for families.

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Social Support

Our social workers provide culturally-safe and trauma-informed approaches. They help clients through the demands of their legal process, develop safety strategies, and build social and emotional wellbeing.

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“Thank you AFLS for your presentation to our nursing team. We continue to use your valuable resources and look forward to working with you again.”

ROBYN MACGREGORGOLDFIELDS MENTAL HEALTH INPATIENT SERVICE
Membership

Stronger Together

We encourage all Aboriginal people concerned about Family Violence to join our organisation. Our members are drawn from the six regions in which we operate, and also include Perth. You need to be at least 18 years of age to become a member.

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Campaign

Ochre Ribbon

Violence within Aboriginal communities against women, children and men has increased to alarming levels. The Ochre Ribbon Campaign highlights the need to stop this violence, and works to strengthen advances in prevention initiatives from other agencies and campaigns.

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