Family Matters recognises the work of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, with the findings from the Royal Commission’s final report highlighting the crucial need for a paradigm shift in the approach to the care and protection of our children.
What is required now is for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to work with our leaders in the Aboriginal community-controlled sector to ensure the recommendations from the Royal Commission are fully implemented.
“We hope that some lessons from the past have been learnt. It’s been 20 years since the Bringing them Home report was released, yet many of its 54 recommendations, sadly, have gone unimplemented.”
– Natalie Lewis, Family Matters Co-Chair
Recent research conducted by Family Matters supports the key findings of the Royal Commission. Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Northern Territory are 11.3 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children. Not only is this higher than the national average of 9.8 times, but if we refuse to act now, this shocking rate of over-representation will rise exponentially over the next two decades.
Systems within the Northern Territory fall drastically short of meeting the fundamental rights and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
Amongst key recommendations from the Royal Commission are the implementation of an early intervention family support program and Commission for Children and Young People, as well as a commitment from the Northern Territory Government to a public health approach to child protection and the prevention of harm to children.
A key area that has been identified by both Family Matters and the Royal Commission is the need to recalibrate investment in our child protection systems.
“Over 80 per cent of expenditure, nationally, is spent on tertiary child protection systems, which continually produce poor outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. We need to focus far more of that investment in the prevention and early intervention space to enable families to access the supports they need to keep their kids safe at home.”
– Natalie Lewis
The recommendations of the Royal Commission align with the building blocks outlined in the Family Matters Roadmap, which are essential to ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture.
With the Commonwealth Government acknowledging that the recommendations of the report “have wider implications for all jurisdictions”, we look forward to securing the support of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in committing to the Family Matters principles and an approach that allows our children to thrive.
While the spotlight is on the NT, other jurisdictions should not seek cover in the shadows, but use this as an opportunity to reflect on the operation of their respective systems – all of which show disproportionate representation of our children – and prioritise reforms to fix what’s broken.”
– Natalie Lewis