By Leanne Francia, NCWQ Child, Youth and Family Adviser
NAIDOC week was celebrated in July under the theme Voice. Treaty. Truth – working together for a shared future with a range of celebrations and activities around Queensland. July 2019 saw the launch of the National Indigenous Australian’s Agency which will be focused on working through the Reconciliation Action Plan adopted by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2018, to advise the office of the Prime Minister on whole of government priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Agency will take the lead and co-ordinate Commonwealth policy development, program design, implementation, and service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Queensland Rape Laws
Recent months also saw the Queensland government announce it will seek removal the 110-year-old loophole, the archaic ‘mistake of fact’ defence, that allows accused rapists to avoid conviction. The Queensland Law Reform Commission will consider this matter before making recommendations to the Queensland government in early 2020.
Reporting of Women’s Death in Family Violence
Sadly, a figure that is well known involves family violence where one woman a week is murdered by either a current or former partner in Australia. Greens Senator, Larissa Waters has now written to the Minister for Women, Marise Payne asking her to set up a national toll that tracks details of women killed by family violence, not unlike the National Road Toll.
Concerns – Queensland Children Being Held in Adult Watchhouses
Of further concern was the reporting in the news of the high number of children being held in isolation in maximum security adult watch houses, a figure which has reportedly surged over the last eighteen months. One such report involved a 12-year-old girl who had been kept there for nine days in a ‘suicide smock’. These children are normally detained when there is no room in youth detention centres. What is often difficult in these cases, is that these children are not serious offenders, but often victims of serious child abuse and neglect, and the subject of Child Protection Orders. Continued advocacy around these children is needed, with only available options at present, arguably causing more harm to these vulnerable children and youth.
Queensland Youth and Volunteering
Queensland as a state has the largest volunteering workforce and there is growing support for children and young people to volunteer in Queensland. Volunteering can be an important part of informal learning for young people and provide them with the opportunity to develop skills and experiences that support them in the work force later in life. Last year the Queensland Family and Child Commissioner undertook a ‘Growing Up in Queensland’ project which engaged 7,000 young Queenslanders aged between 4 and 18 years. Participants agreed that volunteering was a good way to gain skills and improve future employability, however they raised concerns over the need to be 18 years or older to volunteer. To address this barrier the Queensland Family and Child Commissioner and Volunteering Queensland are currently working with volunteering organisations to look at ways to increase youth involvement.
Family Law Reform
In conclusion, as was mentioned in the newsletter submissions have now been made at a State level in relation to reform within the Australian family law system. Since the reforms have been recommended the Australian Institute of Family Studies has been holding forums to discuss key reforms that are needed within the family law system. Change is needed and it is important that these issues, particularly as they relate to the safety of women and children remain front and centre of family law reform.