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AFLS calls for dedicated commissioner for Aboriginal children

The community legal sector has called for a dedicated commissioner for Aboriginal children in Western Australia in a report calling on the state government to take urgent action. 

user iconLauren Croft 31 January 2022 Politics
AFLS calls for dedicated commissioner for Aboriginal children
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Led by the Aboriginal Family Legal Service WA (AFLS), the community legal sector published its call for a dedicated commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people in Western Australia report this week in response to the “persistent and severe disadvantage” Aboriginal people have experienced in the state. 

The report includes contributions from the AFLS, as well as Kimberley Community Legal Services, Regional Alliance West, Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service, Women’s Legal Service WA, Fremantle Community Legal Centre, RUAH Legal Services, Southern Aboriginal Corporation, Community Legal WA, Peel Community Legal Service, SCALES Community Legal Centre, Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre, Pilbara Community Legal Centre, and Circle Green Community Legal. 

 
 

AFLS chief executive Corina Martin said the complex and systemic nature of the issues affecting Aboriginal children and young people across the state merited the establishment of a dedicated commissioner, which would help improve the outcomes of Aboriginal children across the health, justice, education, and care and protection sectors and achieve Closing the Gap targets.  

“Aboriginal children and young people in Western Australia experience disadvantage at disproportionate levels,” she said. 

“They are 16.7 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection services than non-Aboriginal children, 36 times more likely to be in detention than non-Aboriginal children, and 17.8 times more likely to be subject to a community-based supervision order than non-Aboriginal children. They are also at higher risk of mental health problems than their non-Aboriginal peers, experience three times the incidence of developmental vulnerability upon entering primary school and have significantly lower school attendance than non-Aboriginal students.”

The report calls for the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006 to be amended to include the appointment and selection of a commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people, an appointment which the sector said must involve an Aboriginal Reference Group and Aboriginal children and young people in the selection process. In addition, the report specifies that the commissioner must be an “Aboriginal person with an adequate understanding of the various Aboriginal cultural groups, languages and respective protocols across Western Australia, and their own obligations to adhere to those cultural protocols when undertaking their functions in respect to any Aboriginal child or young person”.

Ms Martin said the recent appointment of an Aboriginal woman to the Commissioner for Children and Young People role in Western Australia was a good first step, but the requirements for the commissioner to represent the best interests of all of Western Australia’s children and young people meant that a more dedicated focus was required.

She urged the Western Australian government to follow the lead of South Australia, Victoria, the ACT, Queensland and NSW, which all have dedicated Aboriginal children’s commissioner roles.