PeakCare’s 2017 Annual General Meeting was uplifted by words of wisdom offered by guest speaker, The Hon. Shannon Fentiman MP and an expert panel comprising of Michael Hogan, Director General, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services; Cheryl Vardon, Principal Commissioner, Queensland Family and Child Commission; Natalie Siegel-Brown, Public Guardian; Natalie Lewis, CEO, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak; Lucas Moore, State Coordinator, CREATE Foundation; and Susie Edwards, Coordinator, Family Inclusion Network, Southeast Queensland.

Following a warm Welcome to Country by Ashley Ruska, the Harris Fields Cultural Choir captivated the audience with their powerful voices and evocative performance. They set the scene for the thought provoking conversations that followed.

Guest speaker, Ms Shannon Fentiman noted that the achievements over the year would not have been possible without collaboration and the close working relationships between government and non-government partners such as PeakCare. Ms Fentiman spoke about both the challenges dealt with during the year and the milestones achieved that have resulted in promising outcomes for the future. She enthused, “We have seen improvements, such as a 28% reduction in children and young people entering the child protection system since 2013.”

In commenting on the milestones achieved, Ms Fentiman specifically thanked Ms Natalie Lewis and Mr Gerald Featherstone for their work in promoting the Family Matters campaign at both a national and state level, and for having the courage to speak boldly about what was needed to bring about significant and meaningful reform.

Ms Fentiman said that changes made to child protection legislation have now given self determination “real teeth”. She said that we now have a 20 year strategy, Our Way and Changing Tracks in place, as a result of people advocating strongly and boldly.

Ms Fentiman said that the establishment of Family Wellbeing Services that are community controlled is another milestone that reflects commitment to and the government’s support of the messages contained within the Family Matters campaign. She acknowledged that there is much left to do, but said that this work was now underway – “I feel real optimism and excitement.”

Ms Fentiman thanked PeakCare for its work in progressing the Hope and Healing framework for residential care services and the partnership with PeakCare in preparing for the introduction of minimum qualifications for residential care workers.

Ms Fentiman noted her excitement about the future for child protection in Queensland, “with developments in tertiary, secondary and primary areas all firing at the same time.” She said that we are now seeing improvements in outcomes for children and families as a result of these efforts.

Ms Fentiman also said that although issues can emerge from time to time with the potential to divert us, we have stayed focussed and achieved a great deal together. Ms Fentiman thanked all those present for the work they do and said that it had been a “privilege and a pleasure” to work alongside them as Child Safety Minister.

Next week’s edition of e-News will report on highlights from the panel discussion, so stay tuned!