Legislative Council: Thursday, October 19, 2023


Closing the Gap Annual Report

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the annual Closing the Gap report.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Data released from the most recent Closing the Gap annual report period indicated a worsening trend in the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, despite the goal of a 45 per cent reduction by 2031. Is the minister able to advise what measures will be taken in this specific task?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for her question. I know the honourable member would be reasonably familiar with the new Closing the Gap, the refresh that occurred in about 2019. I think the honourable member, as a minister in the former government, attended Closing the Gap joint councils on behalf of the South Australian government, so I appreciate she is quite familiar with what the Closing the Gap targets are.

The honourable member asked about outcome area 12, the rate of children aged 0 to 17 in out-of-home care. I know there are now regular releases of information in relation to the Closing the Gap targets. As has been outlined a number of times, there are many areas that we look at in Closing the Gap where we are just not making improvements as quickly as ought to be happening, and there are some areas where in fact it's getting worse.

In relation to the rate of children aged 0 to 17 years in out-of-home care, which is outcome area 12, that is something that we take very seriously as a government. I have meetings with a number of my colleagues, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who have responsibility in various Closing the Gap areas. I think I have one coming up, in the not-too-distant future, with the Minister for Child Protection, where we will discuss the range of strategies that are being implemented.

I know the Minister for Child Protection is looking at issues to do with making sure that Aboriginal children have the best possible chance of staying with their family and, if not, how there can be culturally appropriate placement of children. I know that Commissioner April Lawrie has recently released a report that the government certainly will be looking seriously at, and that will provide some guidance in looking at this issue.