In 2010 the Queensland Government apologised to people who as children were in the care of the State and inappropriately placed in Queensland adult mental health facilities. As part of this apology the Government undertook to plan formal reconciliation in consultation with those who were harmed, all of whom are now adults – read the apology statement here (PDF 102KB).
In 2016, the Honourable Cameron Dick, Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services, approved a strategy to reconcile with those who were harmed. This strategy established a process to fulfil the commitment made by the Government when it apologised.
On 17 October 2017, Minister Dick, the Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, the Honourable Shannon Fentiman, and senior officers of Queensland Health and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services spoke with the people, or their nominated support person, who have participated in a reconciliation process. The purpose of these conversations was to advise that the Queensland Government had approved a Reconciliation Plan which includes an ex gratia payment for each person and additional supports and to set out the next steps in the reconciliation process.
These principles have guided how the strategy has been implemented:
- acting consistently, fairly, respectfully and sensitively
- minimising the risk of re-traumatisation by:
- having a sound understanding of the prevalence and nature of trauma arising from interpersonal violence and child sexual abuse
- recognising and being responsive to the social and cultural contexts which shape the needs and healing pathways of those who have been harmed
- recognising the importance of trust and relationships in overcoming trauma and supporting healing.
- recognising the lived experience of those who have been harmed and having regard to their individual needs
- respecting requests for confidentiality
- accepting the implications and undertakings in the state’s apology
- not taking advantage of those who were harmed
- working collaboratively and negotiating in good faith.
The Department of Health undertook the following steps to ensure that there was meaningful and respectful engagement with the people who have been harmed, and that a formal reconciliation could occur:
Step 1 - We listened
The first step involved determining what formal reconciliation meant for the people who were harmed. It was important that each person had an opportunity to articulate their thoughts in a safe and respectful environment.
The Department of Health worked closely with the Mental Health Commissioner to identify an independent and respected individual to meet with each person (accompanied by their support person if preferred). The independent individual was Ms Betty Taylor, who has worked across the domestic violence and sexual assault sector for the last 30 years and is widely respected for her expertise and compassion.
After speaking with each person, Ms Taylor provided advice and recommendations to the Department of Health about what reconciliation meant to those harmed.
Step 2 - We developed a way forward
Once the Department of Health received this advice, it met with relevant agencies, including the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, to develop an interim proposal for the Government based on each person’s thoughts and ideas about a Reconciliation Plan. This step provided more clarity on what the Government could do.
Step 3 - We sought Government approval
Ms Taylor provided the Government with a report capturing the broad themes from the meetings and recommendations for reconciliation.
The Government approved a Reconciliation Plan that responds to these recommendations.
Step 4 - We undertook to work with those harmed
The Reconciliation Plan is being provided to the affected people for their consideration. The Department of Health will work with those who have been harmed and relevant agencies, to implement the approved plan.
The Department of Health is progressing the strategy in close collaboration with other Government agencies including the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
The former Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, played a key role in establishing contact with people who have suffered harm when in the care of the State and inappropriately placed in an adult mental health facility. The Department of Health will continue to work closely with the Queensland Mental Health Commission.
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