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Published: 11 February 2021

With the Western Australian State Election looming, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has launched its 2021 Election Policy proposal document calling for an incoming government to take immediate action on the key issues such as child protection and Aboriginal children in care, mental health, climate change and workforce regulation.

In a joint statement, AASW CEO Cindy Smith and Western Australia Branch President Michael Berry, declared now is the time for an incoming government to challenge inequality and ensure that the most disadvantaged and marginalised communities in Western Australia are supported.

WA Branch President Michael Berry highlighted the devastating reality that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are much more overrepresented in out of home care in Western Australia, compared to other jurisdictions.

“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are 16.7 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be in the Out of Home Care system in Western Australia. This is the highest rate in Australia.”

“Even more concerning is the fact that, 52 percent of the 605 new Protection Orders were granted for Aboriginal children in 2019.”

“We are witnessing a chronic cycle where Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children entering and remaining in the child protection system for years. It points to a bigger picture where the child protection and family support services systems in Western Australia have failed them.”

AASW CEO Cindy Smith said that the AASW continues to call for action to address systemic failures of child protection systems across Australia.

“A prime example is that Australia is the only English speaking country that does not have professional registration of social workers.”

“Families can come into the child protection system, due to a complex set of circumstances and it is vital that they receive supports from highly trained and skilled professionals.”

“The statutory registration of social workers would be a significant public safety measure and reduce the risks to vulnerable people by assuring education, practice and professional development standards.”

“The AASW recommends the introduction of legislation to register social workers in Western Australia, as is currently occurring in South Australia, to protect the best interest of children and the community.”

“We look forward to working with the new government to further our policy proposals, which will ensure each individual is valued and is given the opportunity to thrive in a supportive environment,” Ms Smith said.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers