Genuine engagement and consultation required

Thursday 16 November, 2023

Tasmanian Aboriginal children and young people continue to be overrepresented in out-of-home-care and in youth detention.

This is often the result of intergenerational trauma, the impact of history on Aboriginal peoples and services not holding a deep understanding of the family and kinship dynamics of Aboriginal communities.

The Commission of Inquiry Report makes several recommendations for all children and young people and specifically calls out recommendations to improve outcomes for those who are Aboriginal. And rightly so.

With Aboriginal children 5 times more likely to be in out-of-home care compared to non-Aboriginal children. In youth detention, the population of Aboriginal youth regularly makes up to 40% of the population, far greater than the population of Aboriginal youth in Tasmania. Specific and targeted solutions are truly needed to see this change.

There are references in the Commission of Inquiry recommendations that include ‘in partnership with Aboriginal communities’ and there are also references to ‘a recognised Aboriginal organisation’.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service wants to see genuine engagement and consultation with a wide range of Aboriginal communities and organisations to support the best outcome for Aboriginal children and young people.

It is important to acknowledge that there are many Aboriginal organisations and communities across Tasmania.

There are Aboriginal organisations which support community in their region with a broad range of services and there are a number of organisations that work across Tasmania, who support all Aboriginal communities – such as TALS, the legal service for Aboriginal people in Tasmania.

It is often overlooked when consultation is considered with the Aboriginal community in Tasmania that we are a diverse community and spread across the State.

While it may be efficient to select one organisation in Tasmania and call that consultation, Tasmania is a large land mass with many Aboriginal communities, and this includes on our islands.

One voice is not true consultation and does not take in the opinions, views and experiences of the many. The Commission of Inquiry report even recognises this by stating ‘Aboriginal organisations and communities may have divergent views’ and encourages engagement with as many Aboriginal organisations and communities as possible.

A long-drawn out consultation is not what is being suggested here, because change is needed now.

But the opportunity to contribute, and be resourced to contribute, will ensure our diverse community is genuinely engaged. It will ensure our voice(s) are heard and that we have the opportunity to contribute to solutions for all of our children and young people.

As the Commission of Inquiry Report highlights, change must be led by Aboriginal communities across Tasmania. Communities’ plural is key here.

This will best see the development of robust, sustainable and impactful solutions that truly realise the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and is the best way for the Aboriginal children and young people of Tasmania to have the supports they need and deserve.

Media contact: A.Mark Thomas, M&M Communications, 0422 006 732

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