Victoria’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed, has today marked the tabling of the Commission’s annual report in the Victorian Parliament by strongly supporting the call for dedicated Aboriginal children’s commissioners in all states and territories, and the establishment of a new National Commissioner role with independence from government.
The creation of state, territory and national Aboriginal children’s commissioners was a recommendation of the recently launched Family Matters Report 2019 and a position paper launched last week by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children.
‘We’ve seen at a state level in Victoria that having a dedicated Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People allows a very specific focus on their wellbeing and cultural needs. We need this to be in place across all states and territories, with a National Commissioner to draw together this work and advance it as a national priority,’ Commissioner Mohamed said today.
Victoria’s Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, expressed strong support for the establishment of commissioners for Aboriginal children in all jurisdictions.
‘With Andrew Jackomos as Victoria’s inaugural Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, and now with Justin Mohamed more than a year into his role as our second Commissioner, Victoria is seeing a sustained focus and clear benefits for Aboriginal children and young people that needs to be mirrored across Australia,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.
The Commission’s annual report makes clear the serious challenges still facing Aboriginal children and young people across Victoria’s child protection and youth justice systems, where they remain starkly over-represented.
‘Tragically, we have seen this over-representation extend to the Aboriginal children and young people who die by suicide within a year of their involvement with the child protection system.
‘The intergenerational trauma, disadvantage and persistent discrimination reflected in these unacceptable realities demand the intensive focus that dedicated Aboriginal children’s commissioners can give,’ Commissioner Mohamed said.
He said the benefits of a focused approach were clear.
‘This year in Victoria we have reviewed the Aboriginal Children’s Forum, advocated for a greater youth focus for the Aboriginal Justice Forum, continued to press for the timely transition to Aboriginal carers for Aboriginal children, and for their guardianship in care by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations.
‘We have also joined the call to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and have laid strong foundations for the Koori Youth Just Taskforce and the Commission’s related, independent Our youth, our way inquiry,’ Commissioner Mohamed said.
That report will be tabled in Parliament next year, with national implications for tackling Aboriginal over-representation in the youth justice system, Commissioner Mohamed noted.
‘Our overriding aim in this work is to stem the disproportionate removal into care and justice involvement of Aboriginal children and young people in the first place,’ he said.
‘The solutions to the issues facing Aboriginal children and young people must be led by Aboriginal people, and be achieved through recognition of culture, and through deep engagement with Aboriginal children and young people themselves, with their families and with their communities.
‘We need to see this at a state, territory and national level as a matter of urgency,’ Commissioner Mohamed concluded.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People
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