- McGowan Government invests $1.3 million to pilot Aboriginal Representative Organisations
- Aboriginal Representative Organisations will help empower Aboriginal families and support them to keep their children safe
- Armadale and Kimberley region confirmed as 12-month pilot locations
The State Government is investing $1.3 million to pilot Aboriginal Representative Organisations (AROs) over 12 months in Armadale and the Kimberley Region.
The Aboriginal-led organisations will promote greater authority for Aboriginal communities to support families to keep their children safe.
It follows amendments in the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 (the Act), which passed through State Parliament in October last year.
Amendments to the Act included provisions for Aboriginal Representative Organisations to ensure they are:
- consulted before a placement arrangement is made for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care; and
- given the opportunity to participate in the preparation and review of cultural support plans for an Aboriginal child.
These pilot sites are a first step in implementing these new legislative provisions.
AROs will have appropriate knowledge of community and culture in relation to a child. Their participation in cultural support planning will promote stronger connections to family, culture and Country, which is critical to the ongoing safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal children in care.
The introduction of the ARO pilot is part of a suite of reforms currently underway to support child protection processes and decisions that are culturally safe for Aboriginal children, their families and community.
This reform agenda is underpinned by the State Government's commitment to Target 12 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, to reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 percent.
The first priority of this work is to keep Aboriginal children safe in the care of their families. Where this is not possible and a child is removed from their parents, it is vital that decisions about the child and their placement are informed by appropriate cultural consultation.
The ARO pilot will build on the encouraging trend shown at the end of the 2021 reporting year, which saw the first reduction in the total number of Aboriginal children in care since 1997, and that trend is continuing.
Encouragingly early intervention strategies developed by Aboriginal people are showing positive results; of referrals made to the Aboriginal In-Home Support Service in 2020, 94 per cent of children remained safely at home 12 months later.
Work is currently underway to engage community-led consultation in the ARO pilot locations, which will help inform service models that are tailored to local needs.
The ARO pilot is anticipated to commence in mid-2022.
Comments attributed to Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
"The McGowan Government is prioritising child protection reforms that empower Aboriginal organisations and communities to have greater say in the decisions that help keep their children and families safe.
"This $1.3 million pilot is part of the State Government's commitment to promote initiatives that support the rights of Aboriginal children to stay connected to family, culture, community and Country.
"I am very proud of the efforts being led in partnership with Aboriginal organisations and the success of this approach is now apparent in child protection data. But I also acknowledge there is still more work to be done.
"Our first priority will continue to be the safety of children, and the Aboriginal Representative Organisations pilot will help increase our knowledge base and guide future Aboriginal-led child protection initiatives across Western Australia."
Minister's office - 6552 6600