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Child Safety at Brahminy Foundation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Tags: Brahminy, Child Safety

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Minister, would those Aboriginal child placement principle guidelines that you were talking about a moment ago be the ones that were last updated in February 2006?

Mr Jaensch - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I thought so. The other guidelines that have come out of the department, which we have, is the guideline for adolescent risk of suicide assessment, which was last updated 20 years ago.

Mr Jaensch - I would be happy to take a question on that from you at the appropriate time, Ms O'Connor, so we can answer that.

Ms O'CONNOR - We have departmental guidelines relating to highly at-risk young people that are 14 years, 20 years out of date.

Madam Deputy Speaker, if we step back from this situation, and remind ourselves that children on care and protection orders are the responsibility of the state - the state is their parent for the time that they are on a care and protection order - does a parent send a child with behavioural issues, who has had an extremely traumatic background, 3000 kilometres away for treatment? I do not think that is what a good parent does. A good parent does not punish their child by sending them 3000 kilometres away, because it feels like punishment to those children. Banishment.

Mr Ellis interjecting.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Deputy Speaker, we have just had an interjection from Mr Ellis, who is fairly new to the place. I will let Mr Ellis know that at no time, in the previous government, were children on care and protection orders, as I understand it, sent to the Brahminy program. The practice of sending children who are in the care of the state to the Northern Territory began, as I understand it, in 2017 under this Government.

What the minister failed to mention is that the Commissioner for Children and Young People has no jurisdiction at all over those young Tasmanians. The Australian Childhood Foundation is not statutorily responsible for those children. The minister is, and the secretary of the department. The Commissioner for Children and Young People should be able to have oversight over every young person in the child safety system in Tasmania. The problem is, these kids are not in Tasmania.

It is bad practice to banish children who have had traumatic backgrounds, who have significant behavioural issues, and for whatever reason are unable to live with their families.

I had a conversation with the Commissioner for Children and Young People when this issue first arose, and I asked why there is no local Tasmanian response to these kids. That is not a question the commissioner herself can answer. I asked what would be required to have an appropriate and well-resourced bush therapy program here in Tasmania for young people who need that support and guidance, and who need to be given that strength to go onto life and live successful lives and stay out of trouble.

These are the four basics, as I understood it from my conversation with the commissioner. You would need to have a facility that had the appropriate clinical and therapeutic supports in place. Any facility that deals with Aboriginal young people should be close enough to culture, to family and to country, and there needs to be an element of remoteness to a facility like this.

We can do this in Tasmania. It is a question of political will. We have to do better by these kids. We have seen shocking video overnight of a young person who borrowed a car and went for a joy ride and was travelling down a dirt road somewhere in the back of the Northern Territory at more than 100 kilometres an hour. That is a failure of parenting; that is a failure of this state, to make sure that the young people for whom it is a parent are safe - because that child for that time was not safe.

We have a program which is being run by a person who has changed their name, who describes themselves as the principal Indigenous practitioner who is not Aboriginal, who for some reason or another is hiding from his past. That raises enormous red flags. I will go to the letter that Mr Jaensch wrote to me when I asked about the terms of reference and how narrow they were, my concern that they were not going to deal with the historical allegations of mistreatment, and were not going to deal with the questions over Mr Brahminy's identity. The minister says -

Regarding Mr Allan Brahminy, I am advised that the Department of Communities Tasmania does not purchase services from Mr Brahminy. The contractual arrangements are with the organisation, Many Colours 1 Direction, of which Mr Allan Brahminy is the principal practitioner.

It is primarily a matter for Mr Brahminy to answer questions regarding his identity, as they relate to him and not the program. The department will, however, consider how concerns raised regarding Mr Brahminy's identity impact on the program and the safety and the wellbeing of the young people involved. This is our key consideration and responsibility.

I will say again, it is obvious that when you have a person who is responsible, by delegation from the State of Tasmania, for some of our most at-risk children, who has changed their identity - that is, they have not been honest about who they are and what their background is - you have to ask yourself as the responsible parent - in this case the State of Tasmania - whether it is in the best interests of the child to send them to a facility that is run by a person who has changed their background story.

If I was a parent of these children, there is no way I would send them to a person who was not honest about their background. No good parent would. This is a matter where you have handed over parenting responsibility to a man whose identity has been fabricated.