Legislative Council: Thursday, November 03, 2022


Vulnerable Indigenous Children

The Hon. C. BONAROS (15:01): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney-General and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question about vulnerable Indigenous children.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Vulnerable children living in some of South Australia's most remote communities are set to be left without a permanent, in-community mental health service, despite objections from elders, experts and one of the South Australian government's own departments. According to our national broadcaster, a draft of the new model of care for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) on the APY lands, which provides psychiatric and wellbeing support to children aged 18 and under, proposes staff fly from Adelaide into two communities on a fortnightly basis, with a psychiatrist to make up a minimum of two trips per year.

Previously, two qualified staff lived and worked on the lands for more than a decade but were removed without explanation more than a year ago. Our Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Brayley, has reviewed the FIFO model and found it would see children slipping through the cracks and recommended several changes, including doubling the workforce and insisting community-based staff are returned to the APY lands. My questions to the minister are:

1. Are you and your government concerned that children and young people living on the lands are not getting the mental health support that they need?

2. Does your government have plans to return full-time, qualified, community-based staff to the APY lands; and, if not, why not?

3. Why was this service cut in the first instance?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:03): I thank the honourable member for her question and her interest in the wellbeing of all South Australians. Certainly, providing services and the needs of people in remote communities is of interest to this government and is of particularly interest to me.

In very remote communities, including on the APY lands, there are many and complicated health and wellbeing issues that plague people living there. I think a statistic I read about two years ago was that the average life expectancy for a man born on the APY lands is 48 years, which in a country and particularly a state as prosperous as we are is, quite frankly, a disgrace.

The wellbeing of children is particularly important. In relation to why child and adolescent mental health services, which I think are provided through the Women's and Children's Health Network, were cut, that is not an issue I can give an answer to. I think that occurred under the former government. Certainly, I have had a number of conversations with my colleague the Minister for Health and member for Kaurna, the Hon. Chris Picton, about services to Aboriginal people generally and about services to Aboriginal people in the APY lands.

My understanding, but I will have to get more information, is what is being looked at is an integrated model of care for a range of services that the Women's and Children's Health Network provides to people, particularly young people on the APY lands. I am confident and I have talked to my colleague about making sure those services are effective as they can be.