First Nations should not have blue cards: Australia

After an investigation revealed that the system depends on “irrelevant information, overpolicing, and subjective assessments,” the family and child commissioner for the state of Queensland has urged for the requirements to obtain a blue card for First Nations kinship carers to be eliminated.

Since 2001, residents of Queensland who work with children have been required to obtain a blue card. Also, crimes including drug trafficking, murder, and abuse of children, preclude a person from being eligible for a blue card. However, according to a report compiled by the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC), blue cards constitute further roadblocks in the process of reuniting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children along with their family.

According to the findings of the investigation, screening with blue cards is “not designed” for kinship care. Kinship care can refer to children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent living with relatives, close friends of the family, or a person who is a part of the community in which they were raised and speaks their language.

According to the report, the criteria for determining whether an individual is eligible for a blue card include “irrelevant information,” “overpolicing,” and “subjective assessments of an individual’s character by police and other sources at the time of an offense,” rather than “the risk of harm to a child.”

Natalie Lewis, the commissioner of the QFCC, believes that the requirements for holding a blue card should be eliminated for First Nations kinship carers; nevertheless, she believes that the government should keep its existing departmental evaluation procedure, which includes checks of criminal background. According to this recommendation, individuals who have been convicted of major offenses, such as causing harm to children, would still be barred from caring for children in any capacity.

The rate of First Nations children being placed with relatives in Queensland is the second lowest in Australia. According to the most recent data provided by the QFCC, just 21.7% of Indigenous children who have been placed in care in Queensland are doing so with kinship carers.

Lewis stated that if the “constraints of the current system” are not resolved, it will mean that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children will continue to be put with strangers or in residential care rather than with kin.

“That is not in best interests of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children as well as is therefore not acceptable,” she said. “That is not in the best interests of any children.”

For many years, Katter’s Australian Party has advocated for a reform of the way blue cards are issued in the state of Queensland. Robbie Katter, the leader of the KAP, attempted to bring an amendment to the Working with Children Act in 2021, but he was unsuccessful. If passed, the change would have made it mandatory for community leaders in Indigenous areas to administer and evaluate blue card applications.

The individuals seeking employment in the field of child care would have been included in the scope of these proposed modifications in addition to kinship carers. The amendment would not have applied to crimes that are considered to be more serious, such as murder, kidnapping, or sexual assault, and it would have included offenses such as larceny, drug trafficking, and unlawful entrance into a vehicle.

“The overreach and highly damaging unintended consequences of Queensland’s blue card system have been known for many years,” Katter said in an interview with media Australia. “These are at the heart of my blue card bill, which I have put before the Queensland parliament three times.”

“Whether it’s knocking back First Australians trying to rebuild their lives and get back into the workforce or preventing kids from being cared for by their family members in their own communities, these are intolerable side effects of the system which, I would argue, is doing very little to keep kids safe. Whether it’s knocking back First Australians trying to rebuild their lives and get back into the workforce or preventing kids from being cared for by their family members in their own communities, these are intolerable side effects.

Katter stated that the government of Annastacia Palaszczuk was “paralyzed” and “afraid to act” regarding the matter.

“In the words of Palm Island mayor, Mislam Sam, we need the government to be brave,” he said. “We need the government to be brave.”

Yvette D’Ath, the Attorney-General of Queensland, expressed her satisfaction with the QFCC findings and stated that she would collaborate closely with Craig Crawford, the Minister for Child Safety, in order to provide a response to the recommendations.

“We acknowledge that we can do more for kinship carers,” D’Ath said. “While we have done a lot to improve strategies to support First Nations blue card applicants, we recognize that we can do more.” We should, to the extent that we are able, assist relatives in taking care of their own families, which will relieve some of the strain on the system of foster care.

“Because they are still able to maintain connections with their families, it leads to better outcomes for children.”

D’Ath stated that the Department of Child Safety’s goal is to raise the percentage of children who are cared for by relatives to 70 percent by the year 2026.

She stated, “I’ve also been informed that the most recent data shows 5,592 children in care were placed with kin. This is 335 more children than during the same time period the previous year.”

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