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The Queensland Government yesterday launched Our Way, a new strategy to improve the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including addressing their over-representation in the child protection system.

Minister for Child Safety Shannon Fentiman said the $162.8 million investment was the first instalment in an ambitious 20 year program to end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care.

“We want to deliver genuine, collaborative support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents to ensure children grow up safe and cared for surrounded by family, community and culture,” Ms Fentiman said. 

Minister for Child Safety Shannon Fentiman said it was critical that action be taken to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous children in a number of areas.

“Far too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still coming into contact with the child protection system. We need to support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families so children can grow up safe and cared for surrounded by their own family, community and culture.

“Breaking the cycle of disadvantage is not something that can be achieved overnight, and we know it is vital we work in close partnership with local communities.

“That’s why Queensland is proud to become the first state government to work with Family Matters to develop a shared commitment to ensure the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.”

In partnership with Family Matters — a national campaign led by more than 150 Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations around Australia — the government also announced Changing Tracks, the first of a series of action plans which make up the 20-year Our Way strategy.

Key programs in the first action plan include:

  • $150 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Services.
  • $6 million for the Empowering Families Innovation Fund, comprising of $1.5 million for the First 1000 Days Australia program with Melbourne University
  • Establishing the Queensland First Children and Families Board to guide the Our Way strategy and its implementation; and
  • Maximising kinship placements for children in out-of-home care.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Mark Furner said Our Way would assist parents with additional support and resources they need for a better future.

“I know as I travel around the state visiting Indigenous communities the vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are cared for by loving and supportive parents and their extended families,” Mr Furner said.

“By working in partnership across agencies, and with affected families and their communities, Our Way strives to deliver a flexible and culturally appropriate response to achieve generational change where it is needed.

“This is a national first from the Palaszczuk Government that I hope will be considered by other states to help us as a nation accelerate progress on Closing the Gap of disadvantage.

“It is another important partnership in Queensland’s ongoing reconciliation journey.”

Minister Fentiman also announced that applications were now open for the Empowering Families Innovation Grants, a new program designed to ignite radical new ideas that will strengthen families, support reunification and encourage greater stability and permanency for children in care.

“Let’s get Queenslanders involved in putting forward ideas to help deal with the complex disadvantage that affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland,” she said.

“Funding of up to $100,000 is now available under the Empowering Families Innovation Grants to provoke ideas from people who are bold, radical and disruptive in their thinking.

“Let’s reimagine what might be possible to make things better for our children and families.”

Please visit www.qld.gov.au/empoweringfamiliesfund for further details.

Co-chair of Family Matters Queensland, Ms Natalie Lewis, said the partnership approach to developing the strategy reflected a change in the way the Queensland Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities work together.

“As a result of our open and honest engagement with the Queensland Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations are being empowered to craft a new narrative for the futures of our children, families and communities,” she said.

“This is a deliberate and long overdue departure from business as usual, and places Queensland firmly at the forefront of addressing the national crisis of disproportionate representation of our kids in out-of-home care.” 

For further information visit www.qld.gov.au/ourway.  

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