Thursday, 9 February 2023


Child protection

Child protection

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:50): (35) My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, and the action I seek is for her to join with me in coming to Dandenong, which is really the epicentre of Victoria’s Indigenous child removal crisis, to meet with me with Indigenous leaders in that community.

During the election campaign I travelled to Dandenong to meet with the Aboriginal community forum committee. I had been invited there to talk with them – and more importantly listen to Indigenous people in that community – about the mass removal of Aboriginal children and babies. Members from all political parties were invited. The idea was that there would be a panel and that all of us would speak. It was in an election campaign, but despite the fact that I have been accused today by the fifth minister for child protection that I have faced off against in the past year of politicising these issues, I thought it was really important to go. It was the middle of the election campaign, but this is a very serious issue obviously, so I went – of course I went. No-one else came. The minister – Minister Brooks, who holds his seat by about 20 points – did not come. He is a good bloke, Colin, I like him very much, but he did not come. Members of other political parties were invited. Nobody came. Public servants were invited. They did not come. Anyway, I went, and I listened, because of course I do, despite the fact that the minister says that I politicise these issues.

What I heard at that huge community meeting of Indigenous people who have been so mistreated for so long by the state under governments no matter which persuasion – who cares, it does not matter – was that there was such deep trauma and they wanted us to listen. The minister has said on a number of occasions this week when I have asked her questions that she wants to work with me. Well, all right, great. That is nice. She said she cares deeply about foster carers, despite the fact that foster carers do not have the basic payments from the government to cover dental bills, for example, or school supplies, but that is fine. I am going to take this new minister – the fifth I have faced off against in the last two years – at her word. If she really wants to work with me, despite the fact that she accuses me of politicising Indigenous issues, then she should come with me in good faith to Dandenong to talk with Indigenous leaders there.

These issues are very much related to the issues that Mr Puglielli has just discussed and the issues that Mr Ettershank discussed. I would caution Mr Puglielli, who is new to this house, that he had better be careful talking about Indigenous issues in this place or he will be accused of politicising problems, but I agree entirely with what Mr Puglielli said. We funnel so many Indigenous young people into our criminal justice system, and we have got to have exactly the sorts of conversations that he talked about.

I would say quickly that I used to be a coalition government’s adviser on drug law reform, and I would echo the sentiments entirely of Mr Ettershank.