IN the lead up to National Child Protection Week, WA has recorded a fall in the number of children in care for the first time since 1997.
There has also been a decrease in the number of Aboriginal children in care for the first time in the past 25 years.
“WA has recently recorded a 2.8 per cent decrease in the number of children coming into out-of-home care in the last year – 5498 down to 5344,” says WA child protection minister Simone McGurk.
“Significantly, the number of Aboriginal children in care has reduced by 0.8 per cent. This is the first reduction since 1996.
“The state government remains strongly committed to ensuring children’s right to safety and protection from harm is absolutely paramount.”
Ms McGurk says she will be taking part in a number of events for National Child Protection Week (September 5-11) including an official event at the department of communities’ Fremantle head office on September 8.
She says everyone in the community needs to step-up to ensure the safety of children.
“This year’s theme for National Child Protection Week – Every child, in every community, needs a fair go – is all about equality and making sure that every child and family in every community across WA has what they need to thrive,” she says.
“Child protection is everyone’s business. For children to grow in a safe and healthy environment, this means partnering with families and communities, and ensuring everyone understands that we are all responsible for keeping children safe.”
Following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the state government is currently progressing the Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021, which proposes changes to require ministers of religion to report child sexual abuse. This includes extending mandatory reporting to information gained during confession.
“The horrors that were uncovered by the royal commission make the case for these laws, which are being debated in the legislative council this week and are expected to pass state parliament this year,” Ms McGurk says.
“The community has a right to expect that our children are safe, especially within the institutions that we trust to protect them.
“The two-year Aboriginal family-led decision making pilot being rolled out in WA’s mid west-Gascoyne region and Mirrabooka is the next step in strengthening our child protection system through Aboriginal involvement in child protection matters
“This pilot will test how Aboriginal family-led decision making can best work in WA, and complements a wide range of other initiatives, including the Aboriginal in-home support service and expansion of Aboriginal community controlled organisations in WA.
“The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 currently before parliament also proposes changes that would require Aboriginal representative organisations to be consulted for better placement consultation and cultural support planning for Aboriginal children in care.”
To find out more about National Child Protection Week go to the website napcan.org.au/get-involved-2021/