On Tuesday 20 June 2023, The Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-Determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023 was passed in Parliament by the Victorian Government.
The Bill introduces a Statement of Recognition and principles for all decision makers involved with Aboriginal children and their families in the child protection system.
The Bill recognises that Aboriginal people are best placed to make decisions and deliver services that protect the best interests of Aboriginal children. The Bill expands the role of Aboriginal agencies delivering children and family services, with the goal of reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care in Victoria.
Why is this Bill important?
The Bill is an important step in our plan to meet the Closing the Gap National Agreement target to reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal children in care by 45 per cent by 2031.
- embeds the Victorian Government’s commitment to Aboriginal self‐determination in the legislative framework for children and family services, by introducing a Statement of Recognition and principles for all decision makers involved with Aboriginal children and their families in the child protection system
- introduces a Health Statement of Recognition and non-binding principles to the Health Services Bill 1988 and Public Health and Wellbeing Bill 2008
- enables the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) investigations pilot to progress by broadening the authorisation process under Section 18 (S18) of the Children, Youth and Families Act
- allows Aboriginal agencies authorised under S18 of the Bill to access to the child protection Client Relationship Information System (CRIS)
- strengthens the legislative provisions for the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle
- amends the Reportable Conduct Scheme to improve the effectiveness of the scheme
- provides necessary transitional provisions to support the new Social Services Regulator and the Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme
- empowers the Commission for Children and Young People to advocate on behalf of children and young people, and
- enables the Children’s Court of Victoria to make rules that delegate certain powers of a registrar or magistrate to a Judicial Registrar.
Strengthening provisions for the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program
Under the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program, authorised Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations can actively work with the child’s family, community, and other professionals to develop and implement the case plan and achieve their goals in a way that is culturally safe and in the best interests of the child.
The Bill streamlines the authorisation process for Aboriginal agencies to actively work with an Aboriginal child or a non-Aboriginal sibling without reference to a protection order, such as throughout the investigation phase.
Amending Reportable Conduct Scheme
The Bill introduces a suite of contemporary monitoring and enforcement powers for the Commission for Children and Young People.
These powers allow the Commission to monitor and enforce compliance with the existing requirement to notify the Commission about reportable allegations.
Advocacy function for the Commission for Children and Young People
Some children and young people need advice, information, and support to navigate the system if they are abused, threatened, feeling unsafe or unhappy about their experience in care.
The Bill provides the framework for an advocacy function at the Commission for Children and Young People. This, when implemented, will help provide independent, child and young person-centered assistance and advice which is respectful, culturally inclusive and trauma informed.
Access the Bill on the Victorian Legislation website.
For more information, please visit the Aboriginal children in care webpage on our Providers website.