Rights of First Nations children protected with Commissioner enshrined in legislation

Rights of First Nations children protected with Commissioner enshrined in legislation

by Freya Lucas

October 04, 2021

First Nations children and young people in South Australia will be given a stronger voice with the position of Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People now established in, and protected by, legislation.

 

The passing of the Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) (Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People) Amendment Bill 2020 has given the Commissioner legislative provisions equivalent to those of the Commissioner for Children and Young People, including powers to conduct systemic inquiries as needed.

 

More must be done to improve the outcomes of Aboriginal children and young people as a community, South Australia’s Minister for Education John Gardner said.

 

“Aboriginal children and young people are disproportionately represented within the state’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and youth,” he added.

 

“They are more likely to be absent from school and generally have poorer health outcomes than non-Aboriginal children and young people.

 

“They are also more likely to be subject to out-of-home care and the criminal justice system.

 

Acknowledging that the challenges that lead to these circumstances are complex, he noted the Government’s belief that the Commissioner will be able to assist in improving government services for Aboriginal children and young people.

“It is a very important piece of legislation that will give a voice to many Aboriginal children and young people in a formal way, with the Commissioner acting as their megaphone.”

April Lawrie was appointed as South Australia’s inaugural Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in late 2018 under the Constitution Act and until now has been working in partnership with the Commissioner for Children and Young People. The new laws give her independent authority.

 

Key areas of focus for her role include improving health, education, child protection and justice outcomes.

 

Minister Gardner commended Ms Lawrie, a proud Aboriginal woman from the Mirning and Kokatha peoples from the Far West Coast, for the work she has done in the role over the past three years.

 

“Ms Lawrie has been a vigorous advocate for Aboriginal children and young people throughout South Australia in this role and has devoted her time to raising awareness of issues across the service system,” he said.

 

“I was pleased to personally call Commissioner Lawrie when the Legislative Council passed the bill so that we could share our mutual pleasure about this significant step forward.”

 

To learn more about the Commissioner’s work, please see here

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