Wednesday, 17 May 2023


Child protection

Child protection

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:56): (224) My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, and it is regarding another quite amazing community meeting that I attended in Dandenong just last week. The minister was invited to this meeting, but she could not attend because she was at the Yoorrook Justice Commission giving important testimony. I was very pleased at this meeting to see some departmental representatives, because the purpose of this meeting with the Indigenous community in Dandenong was to provide feedback to government about a meeting that I attended last November.

Now, last November when this current minister was not the minister for child protection, the then minister was invited. He could not come. He was defending the seat of Bundoora, which I think has a margin of, I do not know, about 16 per cent, so he needed to be on campaigning matters. Members of the department were invited. They could not come They erroneously told the organiser Kylie Bell that it was because of the fact that the election was upcoming, because in the caretaker period they could not possibly turn up to such an important community meeting and just listen to Indigenous elders and the broader Indigenous community at the epicentre of Labor’s Indigenous child removal crisis.

We know that in Victoria one in nine Aboriginal babies are removed by this government – the worst rate in the country, but things are even worse than that in Dandenong. It was an extraordinary meeting last November. Notes, which I am currently holding, were provided to the members of the department who were good enough to finally show up last week – as I showed up again and as Ms Hermans showed up. Numerous members of the Labor Party in addition to the minister – who had a very, very good excuse for not attending; I am not criticising her for a moment – were invited to attend. None of them could. The local lower house member was invited to attend, I was informed by the organisers, but she was too busy. Ms Hermans was not too busy; she showed up. And so we sat there and we listened.

I am currently in the process of putting every single element of feedback on the record into a question on notice to the minister, who always responds to my questions on notice – and I am sure she will in due course. My adjournment matter, though, tonight is this: the action that I seek from the minister is to commit to the significant reorientation of child protection funding that has been called for by the Indigenous community in Dandenong, which of course has been called for by me and those of us on this side of the house for many years.

In the feedback that was provided to the minister’s officials the other day, members of the local Indigenous community said this. They had great concern that:

… the funding in OOHS is being placed in the wrong place 86% placed on removing children –

this is the language of the local Indigenous community –

and 14% to community services to support these children and placements.

This is a matter I have been talking about for years. The Indigenous community has been talking about it for years. I would love a response from the minister.