Family Matters is disappointed that today’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) again shows increased numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed by child protection authorities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are now 9.8 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than their non-Indigenous peers (increasing from 9.5 times in the previous reporting period).
In only one year, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care has increased from 15,455 to 16,846 (at 30 June 2016), which means Indigenous children now represent 36.3 per cent of all children in statutory out-of-home care (up from 35 per cent in the previous reporting period).
These shocking figures can be attributed to the widely recognised failure of our early intervention and child protection systems to embrace evidence-based holistic strategies, attuned to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
While total expenditure on child protection related services increased 7.7 per cent (to $4.8 billion nationally), still only 17 per cent of this was spent on prevention and early intervention focused family support services, a proportion very similar to spending in previous years. This lack of progress is in direct contradiction to the stated policy direction of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which calls for investment to be increasingly directed to prevention.
Simply put, we’re investing in responding to incidents that place children at risk, rather than preventing them from happening in the first place.
“All evidence shows that the rate of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into out-of-home care cannot change without a focus on intervening early to support, strengthen and heal families.”
– Gerry Moore, Family Matters Co-Chair
In line with the Family Matters immediate change priorities, and in light of todays startling statistics, we urgently call for:
- A COAG target, and comprehensive strategy developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, and,
- Increased proportional investment for family support services, to comprise 30 per cent of all state and territory annual child protection expenditure, and for the Federal Government to prioritise effective family support services for families at risk of child removal and reunification as a key policy objective.
The persistent, escalating rate of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into out-of-home care is a national crisis that requires a clear and concerted national response.”
– Gerry Moore