The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) yesterday released its 2020 ACT Election issue brief: Supporting Canberra’s Women, Children and Families.
In its issue brief, ACTCOSS called on a new ACT Government to commit to measures including reform of the child protection system, increased investment in specialist women’s services and additional support for children and young people in the out of home care system.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: “Canberra is often touted as a great place to raise a family. But for families who are struggling there is insufficient support to help them stay together and live safe and supported lives.
“In 2018-19, more than 900 children in the ACT were in out of home care or another supported placement. More reform is needed to build a child protection system capable of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children, while working to keep families together or connected.
“Key reforms that can help to achieve this include: an independent review mechanism for child protection decisions in the ACT; better access to advocacy and support for women, children and families; and the implementation of restorative practices in the child protection system.
“A restorative child protection system brings people together to determine how the best outcomes for children and families can be achieved. Restorative practices include the provision of early support to prevent child removal and methods such as family group conferencing.
“These reforms are particularly important for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children, young people and families in the ACT who are overrepresented in our child protection system.
“At a minimum, the next ACT Government must implement all the recommendations of the Our Booris, Our Way review into the care and protection of Aboriginal children in the ACT.”
Dr Campbell said: “Domestic, family and sexual violence continues to erode the health, safety and wellbeing of people in our community.
“We need additional investment in community-based specialist women’s services including domestic violence, legal and housing and homelessness services.
“The ACT has made progress in recent years on addressing funding needs, but gaps remain including for women on temporary visas and women with disability.
“A forward-thinking Government will also commit to greater violence prevention through implementing Respectful Relationships Education at a minimum standard in all ACT schools.”
ACTCOSS has called for more investment in the ACT’s out of home care system including the extension of supported placements for all young people in out of home care up to the age of 21 years and access to an aftercare service for young people up to the age of 25 years.
“Everyone in the ACT has a right to live free from violence and in a safe and supported environment. We need a strong commitment from the incoming ACT Government to address these ongoing gaps,” Dr Campbell concluded.
Women’s Legal Centre ACT CEO, Ms Elena Rosenman: “Whatever the reason care and protection have become involved with a family, these matters usually have two factors in common: longstanding trauma, compounded by the inherent power imbalance between the institution and an individual.
“Women can be extremely vulnerable when they are involved in these processes, which is exactly the times processes must be fair, transparent and accessible. Legal assistance in these matters can try and balance the scale.”
YWCA Canberra CEO, Ms Frances Crimmins: “We call for visionary and evidence-based primary prevention strategies that eliminate violence before it starts and creates a future without violence for Canberra girls.
“There is evidence demonstrating that young people are failing to grasp key concepts of sexual consent and awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and violence. We need comprehensive and evidence-based primary prevention methods that address the issue of gender-based violence in the community before they take hold.”
Find the ACTCOSS 2020 ACT Election issue brief Supporting Canberra’s Women, Children and Families here.
Find other issue briefs at ACTCOSS’s ACT Election page.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.