CEO, QUEENSLAND ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CHILD PROTECTION PEAK
Natalie Lewis is a descendant of the Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi) Nation and is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP). Her professional experience has been acquired in Queensland and in the United States in the areas of youth justice and child protection, providing direct service, program and policy development and organisational leadership over the past twenty years.
Natalie currently serves on the National Executive of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, and is co-chair of the National Family Matters Campaign. She also holds appointments on the Qld Domestic and Family Violence Implementation Council, Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse Steering Committee and the Queensland Policy Leaders Forum. Natalie was an active member of the Expert Advisory Group to the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry and remains strongly involved in the implementation of the reform agenda.
Respect our rights, nurture our children, hear our voices – Government accountability to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families
Most Australians take for granted the right to grow up happy, safe and well, surrounded by family. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, growing up with family and culture is not only a human right, but is crucial to assisting the healing process from intergenerational trauma caused by decades of injustice.
Yet despite numerous legal and policy frameworks protecting their rights, today the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is almost ten times that of other children, and only continues to grow.
Decades of research, policy and legislative change have been inadequate to shift paternalistic approaches to genuine empowerment and self determination.
This keynote address will speak to the urgent need for transparency and accountability from all Australian Governments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities, and offer community-led, practical solutions to some of the endemic issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities when they come into contact with child protection systems.
To ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive into adulthood, we must secure:
- Commitment to a COAG target and strategy, developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care by 2040
- A nationally consistent longitudinal data collection that transparently reports on safety and well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- Full legislation of each of the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in all jurisdictions
- Recognition of the right to self-determination and cultural authority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Governments must learn from mistakes of the past and start to trust Aboriginal people to drive solutions for their children, families and communities.