THE Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre has raised concerns over a new Aboriginal liaison officer role announced under the redesign of the state’s child protection system.
Human Services Minister Jacquie Petrusma announced on Sunday that funding would be provided in the state budget to support 31 additional child protection workers to better protect Tasmanian children.
This would include senior practice consultants, administrative unit coordinators, and Aboriginal and hospital liaison officers.
The TAC said it was a part of studies that were involved in the redesign but was not consulted specifically about the Aboriginal liaison officer role and would rather see an increase in its decision making responsibilities.
Department of Health and Human Services secretary Michael Pervan said the TAC was consulted during the child protection redesign process.
“The TAC attended the reference group meeting on December 16, 2015, specifically to address the reference group on the Indigenous experience of the child protection system,” Mr Pervan said.
“Aboriginal liaison officers will play an important role in the new system, assisting child protection services to understand social and cultural differences when Aboriginal families are subject of a child protection notification, investigation or placement.
“As with all child protection cases, the removal of the child is a last resort. When Aboriginal children are taken into care, child protection will attempt to place them with an approved Aboriginal carer.”
TAC northern regional manager Lisa Coulson said the announcment was concerning for their staff who already supported Aboriginal families.
Ms Coulson said the TAC had been part of the consultation process around child protection but not specifically about the appointment of the liaison officers.
“We have intensive support for Aboriginal families throughout health services. We have paediatricians, counselors, child psychologists – we already have the resources to support families really closely,” she said.
“I think it will be very difficult for liaison officers to come in and to be able to provide a level of support that we do.
“I would have liked the TAC to have been consulted before this announcment was made to discuss the role we currently already have.”
Ms Petrusma announced that $12 million would be used to redesign the system to better protect young people.
This included $3.6 million to refocus the child protection intake service into an advice and referral service and $8.5 million would go towards the establishment of child safety teams.