In Parliament this week, Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna welcomed the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Child Protection) Bill 2021.
Ms Sheed said the bill includes further Aboriginal child placement principles, more advice and assistance when there is concern for the wellbeing of an unborn child, prevention of witnesses in family violence being personally cross-examined by parties of the alleged violence, the provision to support young people making the transition to adulthood, and other important changes.
“During my time as a family lawyer and as an independent children’s lawyer, I saw many tragic instances of family breakdown and child displacement, which can cause long-term trauma for children,” Ms Sheed said.
“In First Nations families we often see grandmothers providing long-term care for their grandchildren and this form of kinship care is seen as culturally important as well as maintaining the familial links.
“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported 1 in 18 Aboriginal children were in out-of-home care from 30 June 2020 – that’s 11 times the rate for non-Indigenous children. Shepparton has the second highest First Nations population outside of metropolitan Melbourne, and it is a great concern to my community to see an over representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. This bill seeks to help close this gap of over-representation of Aboriginal children in care by 45 per cent by 2031.”
Ms Sheed said there was strong evidence when children in out-of-home settings reached adulthood, without any financial or social support they were at a higher risk of turning to drug and alcohol abuse and crime – and were often left homeless.
“In a Deloitte research report called Guiding young Victorians in care into adulthood, it was reported that extending state care from 18 to 21 would halve their homelessness rate, multiply their higher education participation by 2.5, and reduce their alcohol and drug dependence from 15.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent,” Ms Sheed said.
“This bill is seeking to do exactly that. By offering a safety net to these vulnerable members of our community and giving them choices once they reach adulthood, it will give them the chance to succeed in whatever path they take.
“In January, Victoria became the first jurisdiction to extend Home Stretch to all young people leaving foster, kinship, and residential care up to the age of 21 rather than leaving them to have to find their own way in life when they reach the age of 18 years.
“The bill ensures that those who do leave their care situation will be given practical help to find and set up a home as well as the financial assistance they need to take that first step to living as an independent adult. On top of this, they will be supported with assistance to get into education, training, or the workplace as well as the relevant health and community services they require at this crucial period of their lives.
“These provisions will help steer our young people on a positive path of securing a safe place to live, gaining an education or trade, and continuing to feel a part of the community.”
Elaine Cooney 0447 820 466│firstname.lastname@example.org