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Aboriginal Affairs - Ashley Youth Detention

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tags: Aboriginal Tasmanians, Ashley Youth Detention Centre, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, you might be aware that there has been a sharp spike in the number of Aboriginal children ending up in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre and that the current rate of indigenous children at Ashley is four times the rate of non indigenous children incarcerated at Ashley. What is your response to that and what are you, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, doing to make sure that we are reducing the risk of Aboriginal children ending up in the juvenile justice system and being brutalised at Ashley, and that we are supporting young Aboriginal kids once they end up there?

Mr JAENSCH - Without, for a moment, seeking to diminish the concern or importance of the matters that you raise, the number of young people at Ashley in total is very small. As you know, the percentage composition of that by age, gender, Aboriginality and otherwise, can change dramatically with just one or two people arriving or leaving. So, statistically talking about the proportion of young people at Ashley is a little tricky and we need to consider it in context.

Ms O'CONNOR - I hear that.

Mr JAENSCH - Yes, it is really important thing to keep in mind. The most important things we can be doing is investing upstream in ensuring better outcomes for young Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and more opportunity for them and their families.

Ms O'CONNOR - But could you just go specifically to how you respond, and it is a Closing the Gap issue as you know, to the increased risk of Aboriginal children ending up in the juvenile justice system and at Ashley, and whether there are tailored responses?

Mr JAENSCH - There are. As part of our election commitments, we have two important initiatives that will further embed the Aboriginal child placement principle for children in out of home care, who are amongst those most at risk. First, to work with Aboriginal community organisations to develop Aboriginal led case management service models for Aboriginal children in out of home care; and to work with Aboriginal community organisations to identify and build capacity for Aboriginal family group conference facilitators to oversee those conferences that relate to Aboriginal children and young people.

As part of our 30 day commitments, post-election, the Department of Communities has already initiated discussions with Tasmanian Aboriginal community organisations regarding the new initiatives. Under our State Budget, we are also providing $1.46 million to continue funding under the Strong Families Safe Kids program for Aboriginal liaison officers who are located within Aboriginal community organisations and operate as the Strong Families Safe Kids advice and referral line within those communities as well.

Another thing is, when it comes to the Closing the Gap implementation plan, while there are lots of different views and alignments of views across Aboriginal community organisations, one of the strongest and first is taking care of kids. It is one of the areas that is also a national priority and it will be one of the first we are investing significantly in and seeking to bring in federal funding for it as well as a statewide activity to help young Aboriginal people get to their start in life.

CHAIR - Mr Tucker, I will go to you for one question because we have to make up the time from the changeovers that we've had. We are going for another three minutes so the question is yours.