ACT appoints first commissioner for First Nations children

Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts is an award-winning human rights advocate, lawyer and Fulbright Scholar

ACT appoints first commissioner for First Nations children

The ACT has appointed Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts as its first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Commissioner.

Turnbull-Roberts is an award-winning human rights advocate, lawyer and Fulbright Scholar. She is a Bundjalung Widubul-Wiabul woman with experience in the impact of the child protection system on First Nations peoples. In her new role, Turnbull-Roberts will work to protect and promote the rights, interests and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT, individually and at a systemic level.

Turnbull-Roberts was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal in 2019. She is undertaking research as a Fulbright Scholar, intending to develop new ways of changing the child protection system in Australia and enhancing best practices in the lives of First Nations children.

Having survived the out-of-home care system after being removed from her family at the age of ten, she aims to leverage her role to protect and promote the rights, interests, and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT.

The appointment follows an extensive recruitment process conducted in collaboration with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, aligning with the ACT government's commitment to implementing recommendations outlined in the 2019 Our Booris, Our Way Report. This report, in consultation with First Nations peoples, paved the way for creating an independent commissioner role to advocate for the rights of Indigenous children and young people.

ACT minister for human rights Tara Cheyne said, "I am thrilled that Ms Turnbull-Roberts, an inspirational leader in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and advocate for First Nations children, has agreed to serve as the ACT's inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Commissioner.

Turnbull-Roberts expressed her excitement and honour at undertaking this critical role, emphasizing her dedication to creating positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

"I look forward to working with First Nations families and communities as we strive to end discrimination and ensure the rights of First Nations people are heard – in particular, addressing the urgent pipeline of child removal and incarceration. I invite all to come on this journey and work together in creating fundamental change," Turnbull-Roberts said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People Advocate Barbara Causon will remain in her interim role until Turnbull-Roberts takes office on 26 February 2024 for a five-year term.

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