On National Sorry Day, Family Matters acknowledges the Stolen Generations who were forcibly removed from their families, and the ongoing impact and trauma that prevails from historical government policies embedded into our child protection systems today.
After 23 years since the Bringing Them Home report was tabled, our Stolen Generations continue to experience higher rates of adversity than Indigenous people who were not removed, with poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes. This continues to impact on our children, families and communities today.
It is deeply concerning that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being removed from their families at 10.6 times the rate of non-Indigenous children, pointing to a ‘new stolen generation’.
Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child has a right to grow up in connection to their community, strong in their culture and identity to realise their full potential,” said Family Matters Co-Chair, Richard Weston.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are 17 times more likely to be in juvenile detention, and they are 2.6 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than other children when they start school.
It is evident that intergenerational trauma can be passed through the generations and is still impacting today’s younger generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It affects behaviour and relationships, which leads to problems in school, increases families risk of vulnerability, and can lead to government intervention.”
With the decreasing rate of placement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with Indigenous carers, our children are at risk of losing their connection to culture. From 2018 to 2019, it dropped from 49.4% to 45% and there has been a continuous decline from 65.3% in 2006.”
Family Matters has long called for greater investment in early intervention and prevention services, and support for family carers, to redress the over-representation of our children in out-of-home care.
It is concerning that best practice models of family-led decision-making, evident in Victoria and Queensland, are not reflected across the country.
A recent joint statement by SNAICC and Noongar Family Safety and Wellbeing Council called for Western Australia’s Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 to include greater depth of consultation with a child’s extended family members in the decision making process. Currently, the Bill allows for an Aboriginal child to be removed from their parents following consultation with only one of the child’s family members.
Family Matters is also concerned that AbSec – NSW Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation faces 50% reduction in funding levels at a time when advocacy for systemic and legislative change within the child and family sector is crucial. The Family Is Culture Review found that Aboriginal children in NSW are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal children, with reports of traumatic removal of babies, and children suffering abuse from their carers.
SNAICC, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the Family Matters campaign, joins more than 140 organisations and commissioners calling for a national commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in Australia.
Mr Weston said,
SNAICC and Family Matters continue to call on a dedicated national commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to help ensure that government commitments are being implemented and that our children’s rights are being respected.”
We are proud that Family Matters Co-Chair Natalie Lewis will now lead as Commissioner for Queensland Family and Child Commission, joining commissioners in Victoria and South Australia to work towards improving outcomes for our children in those states.
A national commissioner dedicated to advancing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people is essential to end the intergenerational impact of trauma, and ensure we never again have a Stolen Generation.”– Richard Weston, SNAICC CEO and Family Matters Co-Chair
Family Matters urges the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to work in true partnership with the Coalition of Peaks in formulating the new Closing the Gap Partnership Agreement to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children remain connected to culture and community.