Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Child protection


Child protection

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (16:39): (7) My question is to the minister for child protection. Minister, why does the Andrews Labor government remove one in nine Indigenous babies?

Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Victoria – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (16:39): Thank you, Dr Bach, for your question and for the opportunity to speak for the first time in this house. It was indeed a privilege to be sworn in in this place this morning. Thank you for facilitating that opportunity. Indeed I am very humbled to stand here with the commission as minister for child protection. When the Premier asked me to take on the role of child protection, this important role, I had a think about why it was that I came to this place in the very first place. I actually went back to some of my very early speeches, including my inaugural speech, but also to some of the speeches that I gave in relation to the child and wellbeing bills, the adoption act and others. The fundamental rights of those who are most vulnerable in our community are the very reason that I had the privilege to be in the Assembly for eight years and why I am standing here today.

Matthew Bach: On a point of order, President, the minister has now been on her feet for 45 seconds. This is not a maiden speech. Her contribution thus far bears no relevance whatsoever to the question that was asked. She should be made to come back and answer the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Dr Bach. The clock has just changed to 4 minutes, but there were 2 minutes left, and I think the minister was relevant to the role of child protection. She will lead to her answer to your specific question very soon.

Lizzie BLANDTHORN: Thank you, President. It is very sad that those opposite – or perhaps Dr Bach himself – do not think that protecting those who are most vulnerable goes to the very heart of the question.

There is absolutely no doubt that protecting those most vulnerable goes to also protecting those who have special needs in our child protection system, and Indigenous children are a very important part of that. The Premier’s comments in asking me to take on this role, and certainly in all of his public statements since I have had the fortunate opportunity and the privilege to take on this role, very much go to his passion and my passion for closing the gap in relation to Indigenous children in care. We have made it very clear – and certainly in the past couple of weeks, following the harrowing evidence that has been given so far at Yoorrook in relation to the truth-telling around Indigenous children in care, it is very clear – that it is the commitment of the whole of this government that the protection of all children, and in particular closing the gap for Indigenous children, is an important element of this portfolio.

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (16:42): I will ask an even more narrow supplementary. How many Indigenous Victorian children have been taken into care, Minister, since you became the minister for child protection?

Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Victoria – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (16:42): Thank you again for the question, Dr Bach. As I have said, the protection of all children in care is an important issue. The protection of Indigenous children in care is also fundamental to the role of the child protection system. One of the other things that we have made clear in the past few weeks in listening, and indeed over our journey of the reform road map from 2016 to the review in 2018 and onwards, is that closing the gap for Indigenous children in care is an important element. We will not, however, pre-empt the truth-telling process that is happening at Yoorrook and we will not pre-empt the conversations and the work that is being done around treaty. But at the same time, Dr Bach, we will be ensuring that all children in care – and all Indigenous children in care – are given the protection that they are entitled to.