Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The latest quarterly report on the four-year Cape York Reform initiative tabled in State Parliament today shows encouraging progress in the four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Aurukun, Hope Vale, Coen and Mossman Gorge.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Curtis Pitt said the Family Responsibilities Commission Quarterly Report No. 12 indicated that fewer people were in breach of their social responsibilities under the trial and overall school attendance had increased since the trial began in 2008.

The Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) is one of the key planks of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial, aiming to restore Indigenous authority and social norms in the four trial communities.

“The FRC report provides a valuable outline of how communities are tracking against indicators such as school attendance, reported offences, case management numbers and notifications from government agencies to the Commission,” Mr Pitt said.

“The latest quarterly report shows that the FRC received 599 notifications from government agencies within its jurisdiction between April and June 2011, down from 677 in the January to March 2011 quarter.

“Across the four trial communities school attendance notifications steadied at 347, however attendance figures in two communities of Aurukun and Mosman Gorge were very encouraging.”

Mr Pitt said in Aurukun overall school attendance increased by 12.4 per cent from term 2, 2010 (57.7 percent) to term 2, 2011 (70.1 percent).

“This continues a significant increase since reform began in 2008,” he said.

“In term 2, 2008, before the trial commenced, school attendance in Aurukun had the poorest outcome of any other school in Queensland’s discrete Aboriginal communities, at 37.9 per cent,” he said.

“The news is not all good, though, with school attendance in Hope Vale down 4.9 per cent and Coen down by 5.6 per cent (from 83.5 per cent to 78.6 per cent).

”These falls have been attributed to children attending funerals and other community-wide events and it should be pointed out that as Hope Vale and Coen are small schools, any small variation in attendance will lead to larger percentage swings when compared with other schools.”

The overall Queensland State school average is 91 percent.

“These attendance rates are very promising, and have been achieved because of the strong partnerships between communities and governments,” Mr Pitt said.

The Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the results being achieved in Cape York are evidence of what we can achieve when individuals, organisations and governments work together.

“A new parenting program has commenced in Aurukun and aims to help parents develop strong parenting skills, improve school attendance and decrease notifications of absences,” Ms Macklin said.

“I am also pleased to see that people are actively choosing to take control of their finances through the trial. The report shows that since the trial began, 34 families have requested to take part in voluntary income management.

“Income management helps families ensure their welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children. It ensures that money is available for life essentials, such as food, clothing and rent.”

As part of a recent visit to Far North Queensland, Minister Macklin met with Commissioner David Glasgow and commended the Local Commissioners for their work.

“It is clear that we are making inroads in these communities towards re-establishing positive social norms and rebuilding Indigenous authority,” Ms Macklin said.

The Cape York Welfare Reform trial is a partnership between the four Cape York communities, the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership and regional organisations.

The FRC is made up of Local Commissioners, who are respected local people, and a retired senior magistrate.

The Local Commissioners hold conferences with community members, refer people to support services and when necessary recommend income management assistance.