To highlight the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system, the Family Matters campaign is this week coordinating a national series of community gatherings, talks, rallies and other events.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are almost 10 times more likely to be removed by child protection authorities than non-Indigenous children. Right now, around 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are living away from their homes, many separated from their families and culture.
Family Matters Co-Chair and CEO of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, Gerry Moore, said the current approach from government was not responding to the growing number of children living away from their homes.
“This is nothing short of a national crisis, and yet we are still seeing government picking away at the edges of policy reform,” said Mr Moore.
“Our communities, families and people are demanding action. We will not sit idly by and watch as an entire generation of children grow up without their own sense of who they are and where they come from.”
“We have seen some promising signs that some areas of governments are willing to listen to our solutions,” said Mr Moore.
- In Tasmania, the government recently adopted of all recommendations relating to child removal put forward by Tasmanian Commissioner for Children & Young People.
- In Western Australia, $20 million has been allocated towards a new pilot program to reduce the number of Aboriginal children removed by child protection authorities.
- New South Wales’ program to investigate every case of an Aboriginal child taken into out-of-home care was welcomed and should be adopted nationally.
- Queensland last year commenced adoption of reforms recommended by the Carmody Inquiry specific to reducing over-representation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children in the protection system.
“These actions by state legislators are to be commended, but if we are to have any hope of addressing this problem, it must involve all levels of government working together under a national strategy to turn around the situation, including nationally consistent reporting and targets to track their progress,” said Mr Moore.
“Aboriginal children have grown up safe and well cared for in family and culture for thousands of years – we have the answers and the evidence to raise our children safe and in culture,” said Family Matters Co-Chair and QATSICPP CEO, Natalie Lewis.
“What is so urgently needed is an approach that trusts Aboriginal people to deal with Aboriginal business, one that includes genuine collaboration and partnership, empowers communities and involves long-term all-of-government support across the country.”
“The consequences of not doing this are profound: devastating families; deepening intergenerational trauma; severing children’s cultural bonds; triggering poor life outcomes; and eroding culture and community.”
“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report, we need to see deliberate, committed action from all levels of government, to ensure that in another two decades our nation, and our people, are in a very different position,” she concluded.
Family Matters events being held around Australia this week include:
- Political panel discussion at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne
- Public event in Rundle Mall, Adelaide
- Child removal theme at Child Aware Approaches Conference, Brisbane
- Community and industry day at Footscray Community Arts Centre