Minister Eyes System Reform

NSW Minister for Families and Communities, Kate Washington, was in the Silver City this week to discuss local issues with Broken Hill’s Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

The Barrier Truth sat down for a chat at Bells Milk Bar with the minister and mother about the current “crisis-driven” child protection system.

At the tail end of raising three teenagers, Minister Washington admitted it has always been challenging being a parent. However, with global lockdowns, screens, and other cultural shifts taking place over the last decade, she recognises many parents today require additional support services.

“I’m here this week to meet the team at DCJ and to thank them for the work they do and to let them know that as a government, we really value them,” said the minister.

“We understand work in the child protection sector is complex and it’s challenging, and as a new government we’re looking at ways we can better support them so that they can better support the vulnerable families, children, and young people under their care.

“In my role as the minister for child protection, it’s my job to build connections across communities to help make communities stronger, however, right now we’re just trying to manage a system that’s in crisis.

“What we are embarking on is a significant reform piece to try and flip the system.

“It’s not just about the crisis, we want to make sure they’ve got the supports that they need to stay together and to stay safe.”

When we asked the minister to explain the current child protection “crisis”, she told the Barrier Truth too many children are currently being supported by staff in hotel and motel rooms due to a lack of foster carers.

“The whole system has spiralled into a fully crisis-driven model where we’ve got kids in hotels and motels because there’s a lack of foster carers.

The minister acknowledged a change in culture is key to improving the lives of children, young people, and families.

“I feel like the broader solution to all of this is a culture change. It’s about that sense of community connection and bringing back the village that it takes to raise a child. It’s building community, making sure families – if they’re struggling – that they’ve got somewhere to turn.

“If you’re a foster parent and you’re struggling with the child that you’re caring for, we need to make sure that they’ve got the support that they need, and that they’ve got a strong, supportive community around them as well.

“I think we’ve stepped away from that sense of community, and that’s what makes individuals stronger – it’s what makes families stronger and keeps communities connected and strong.

“A cultural shift is needed so there’s a sense that every child is everyone’s responsibility,” said Ms Washington.

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