23 May 2022
The NSW Government is currently calling for sector and community responses to its Family Is Culture legislative review discussion paper.
Peak Aboriginal organisations AbSec and the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) have jointly published an alternative briefing paper, outlining our serious concerns with the Government’s framing of the issues and sidelining of community-led reforms.
We urge you to consider our briefing paper before making your submission to the Government. We ask you to stand with Aboriginal communities in this most vital and urgent of issues – fixing a broken system that strips our children of their families, communities and culture.
Family Is Culture is an Aboriginal-led, independent review into how the NSW child protection system treats Aboriginal children and families. Completed in 2019, the review found “the current system is broken” and “there is no single reform that will solve the many problems”, recommending a holistic overhaul of the system by way of 126 recommendations for structural change.
Yet since the Family Is Culture Report’s publication, the NSW Government has largely pursued an agenda of piecemeal changes that do not honour the need for sweeping reform.
The Government’s failure to effectively act is reflected in the data. The overrepresentation of our kids in out-of-home care has continued to increase since the release of the Family Is Culture Report. Since 2017-18, the NSW child protection system has increased removals of Aboriginal children by 36%. Aboriginal children are now 12 times more likely than their non-Aboriginal peers to enter out-of-home care.
Each day reforms to the NSW child protection system are delayed, an additional three Aboriginal children are removed from their families under a legislative framework that we already know to be broken. That’s more than a thousand of our kids each year.
Where the Family Is Culture Review Report has already identified failures in the current child protection system, the Government’s discussion paper is attempting to re-litigate these findings by asking the sector whether existing provisions are adequate. The paper features a number of leading questions which appear to guide respondents into suggesting that the legislative reforms recommended by Family Is Culture are not supported or preferred.
The Family Is Culture Review was the largest, most comprehensive review ever done into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal kids in the NSW child protection system. Its report is the result of two years of widespread consultations, and an in-depth review into the case files of 1,144 Aboriginal children in the system. It must be regarded as the authoritative source of truth on this subject. Our Aboriginal peak organisations, representing our communities, support the implementation of its recommendations in full.
We are calling for a two-stage process where 16 legislative reforms proposed in the Family Is Culture Report are implemented this year, and the remainder are subject to a one-year review process led by Aboriginal peaks, to be completed by the end of 2023. This proposal was put to the NSW Government prior to the release of its discussion paper.
Please read our briefing paper and support us in capturing the true intent of the Family Is Culture Review – transforming the child protection system to do right by Aboriginal children and families.
TIMELINE: Family Is Culture, the disappointing government response, and our advocacy for meaningful reform
The NSW Government commissions the Family Is Culture Review into the disproportionate and increasing number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.
The Family Is Culture Report is released, making 126 recommendations for structural change to the child protection system.
After more than seven months, the NSW Government provides a response of just three-and-a-half pages to the 494-page Family Is Culture Report. The Government establishes an Aboriginal Knowledge Circle and Aboriginal Deputy Children’s Guardian, but defers action on all legislative reforms until 2024 – some five years after the report’s release.
The NSW Government releases its first progress report, showing limited improvement.
The NSW Government's second progress report is released (dated May 2021). There is still no consultation or engagement with Aboriginal communities in developing the response, nor any progress on the priorities identified by our communities.
AbSec and the ALS publish a community report card framework to hold the NSW Government to account in implementing Family Is Culture recommendations.
We provide advice to the Minister on law reform, proposing for 16 legislative changes to be implemented this year (out of a total of 25 recommended in Family Is Culture).
Without warning or consultation with us, the NSW Government releases a discussion paper pursuing a different agenda. We do not believe the paper presents an accurate picture of how the system is working for Aboriginal children and families, nor does it faithfully reflect the Family Is Culture Report.
We publish our own briefing paper as an alternative, community perspective on the legislative reforms that are desperately needed for Aboriginal children and families. Our paper is crystal clear on the reforms that Aboriginal communities want to see legislated in 2022.
27 May 2022
The deadline to make a submission to the Government in response to their discussion paper. We encourage all organisations and individuals to read our briefing paper and consider the issues we raise before submitting their response.