Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN
There are six young Aboriginal Tasmanians banished to a remote facility in the Northern Territory because of another failing of your Minister for Human Services. Can you explain why at-risk children on care and protection and youth justice orders are still at Many Colours 1 Direction facility in the Northern Territory despite serious allegations of mistreatment from former residents and their families and credible evidence of the man who runs the place is not who he says he is?
Your minister has initiated a review of the program with narrow terms of reference that do not encourage previous residents or their families to come forward and do not deal with the allegations of a fraudulent identity. Your minister says those young people are in safe hands, but how can we trust a word he says?
The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act is clear that Aboriginal children in out-of-home care should be placed with or near kin, connected to culture and country, not banished to a remote facility run by an apparent fraud thousands of kilometres away. Why are those children still there in contravention of the intent of the act? Why does your Government have no apparent plan to bring them home?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Clark for her question. I do not have a lot more to add in answer to this, so I will repeat some of what I have said.
The Department of Communities Tasmania utilises the Many Colours 1 Direction program for a small group of young people on care and protection orders and/or youth justice orders who have extraordinary needs and where care approaches in Tasmania have failed or are not suitable.
Where the full spectrum of services cannot be sourced in Tasmania we will source them where they are available, just as we do in other service sectors and we make no apologies for that. This is to get the best outcome for the young people involved.
The Government is aware of allegations raised in the media and we have put in place a review which is under way. There are six young people currently placed at Many Colours 1 Direction who are all in the long-term out-of-home care program. The department contracts Many Colours 1 Direction to provide a trauma-informed residential placement for young people in collaboration with the Australian Childhood Foundation.
There was a direct visit by a Tasmanian child safety manager in September and, through regular ongoing contacts with their child safety officers, I am advised that those young people are safe and well and making good progress in their placement. The guardian for the young people, the secretary of the department, conducted a video call, as I have previously said, with the young people on Friday last week to ascertain their views and give them direct access to their guardian. During that call, the young people expressed their clear desire to remain in the program. Their views will be sought and confirmed directly as well as part of the review.
We have to remain focused on what is best for these young people and resist the temptation for a kneejerk reaction -
Ms O'Connor - The Commissioner for Children has no jurisdiction over those kids - they are beyond her reach.
Mr GUTWEIN - I understand that there is positive progress being made and these young people are turning their lives around, which is what matters - and I think you know that, Ms O'Connor.
We will continue with the review. As the results of that review are brought to our attention we will provide more detail on this matter. I urge the parliament to focus on the young people in this case. There has been a visit in September, there has been direct contact with the secretary of the department as of Friday last week, and there is engagement. The feedback is that the progress they are making is assisting these young people to turn their lives around. I very strongly argue that we should allow the review to take its course.