Frontline child safety workers can expect visits from the newly minted minister who has set off to hear first-hand about experiences of the departmental staff and foster carers.
Indigenous leader Warren Mundine says Australia must take a “common sense approach” when it comes to Aboriginal children in the foster care system as protection should be a priority.
“It’s quite clear the child’s interest comes first,” Mr Mundine told Sky News host Andrew Bolt.
“Their safety, their education, their health, and everything comes first.
“When you take them out of a dangerous situation, then you gotta put them back in that dangerous situation … where’s the common sense?”
On May 21 Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s new cabinet was sworn in meaning the only Far North MP with a ministerial portfolio, Craig Crawford, was entrusted with perhaps the most challenging government department, when handed the child safety portfolio.
Mr Crawford walks into an embattled sector amid high profile deaths of children housed in residential care homes, increasing child removals and the booming cost of child protection.
According to the 2023 Report on Government Services released earlier this year $1.2b was spent in 2021-22 on child protection care services in a skyrocketing increase on a $354m outlay in 2012-13.
On Friday Mr Crawford met with Cairns frontline child protection workers and on Tuesday headed to Townsville ahead of visits to Mackay, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Roma and Charleville.
“All of us want to see children in safe and secure homes. This is the very essence of what defines our humanity as a society,” he said.
Cairns foster carer Lisa Houliston has been a carer for many years.
Ms Houliston and her husband Clayton are the local faces of the statewide “We need more foster carers, like you” campaign and have also acted as short term carers for other children.
“It’s sort of like the extreme sport of parenting,” she said.
“If you are dealing with kids with high needs, you have to replace furniture and fix walls or replace things that are essential to them due to damage.”
Acutely aware of children disadvantaged by poor choices beyond their control Ms Houliston wanted to help make a difference.
She said though there had been joy the foster experience had been peppered with heartbreak when letting go emotionally of kids returned to kin.
“We have had children that once the supports were removed it was very hard for them to stay on track and we do know the kids went back into care,” she said.
“You are always hoping for the best but sometimes it does not pan out.”
Hearing of the Barron River MP’s new portfolio Ms Houliston acknowledged a recent 17 per cent increase in her carer allowance but said amid cost of living pressures it was not enough to make ends meet.
“With the cost of living being so expensive (the increase) is too little and a bit too late,” she said.
“They should have perhaps increased payments a few years ago and increased it again earlier this year.”
Minister Crawford said he wanted to hear first-hand about the experiences of foster and kinship carers charged with looking after some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.
“Foster and kinship carers are the backbone of the child safety system. We value them enormously,” he said.