Every year, we report that more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are permanently disconnected from their family and culture with no chance of reunification. Now is the time for transformation.
The Family Matters Report 2021, launched today at the 9th SNAICC Conference, shows that our children continue to be removed from family and kin at disproportionate rates. This is despite overwhelming evidence about the harm this causes to children, families and communities.
This report makes for uncomfortable reading. Our children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care or permanent care, a figure that continues to increase every year. This should be unacceptable,” Family Matters Co-Chair and SNAICC – National Voice for our Children CEO Catherine Liddle said.
All children deserve to know who they are, grow up connected to their Mob, family and kin – learn their stories and pass them on to future generations. Yet sadly, for many of our children, this is taken away from them.”
At 30 June 2020, there were 21,523 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care and permanent care with 79% (17,068) permanently living away from their birth parents.
There has been no shortage of commitments from governments, but not nearly enough action,” said Family Matters Co-Chair Paul Gray, a Wiradjuri man and Associate Professor at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS.
“Recent changes in child protection measures that have been framed as solutions – such as arbitrary short timeframes for reunification and streamlined pathways to permanent care orders – only entrench many of the problems our children and families face.”
Children are predominantly placed with non-Indigenous carers, with the proportion of children placed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers dropping from 53% to 42% between 2013 and 2020.
We continue to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who report that their voices are marginalised. They are increasingly concerned that there is lots of talk, but communities are not being heard,” Dr Gray said.
“With 84% of government child protection funding spent on intervention and out-of-home care, and only 16% invested in supporting our children and families with early intervention and prevention services, we have a fundamentally flawed system that urgently needs fixing.”
Commonwealth, state and territory governments committed to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031 through the National Agreement on Closing the Gap – yet according to the report, representation is expected to increase by 54% by 2030.
The report highlights the impact of poverty, homelessness, intergenerational trauma and social exclusion on families, and the inadequate responses.
The report puts a spotlight on the phenomenal efforts of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, who are working closely with our children and families in a culturally safe environment, providing wraparound support and giving families a voice in decision-making about their children,” said Ms Liddle.
“Under the new 10-year National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, governments have committed to changing the system to prioritise preventative measures that strengthen our families instead of punishing them.
“Through the National Framework and the National Agreement, we can set a clear and resourced pathway to transform Australia’s child and family service systems and uphold genuine self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Together we can make a difference.”– Catherine Liddle, SNAICC CEO and Family Matters Co-Chair