Child protection systems continue to fail First Nations children, most recent figures show

New statistics released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in May highlight the continuing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection systems across Australia, and demonstrate the urgent need for reform.

‘Child protection statistics have for some time now been showing us the dramatic over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children in these systems,’ said PIAC Senior Solicitor, Jonathan Hall Spence.

On 30 June 2020, 1 in 18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home-care, 11 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.

‘Concerningly, this report paints a picture of a child protection landscape that has  improved or stayed roughly the same for non-Indigenous children; at the same time as it has worsened for First Nations children,’ said Mr Hall Spence.

AIHW found that the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Islander children’s contact with child protection systems has increased since 2016 (from 15.1% to 16.6%) while non-Indigenous children’s rate of contact in the same time has decreased (2.2% down to 2.1%).

The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children subject to child protection orders (removed) has also increased since 2016 (from 5.7% to 7.7%) while the rate of non-Indigenous children being the subject of child protection orders has stayed steady (at 0.7%).

Leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations including AbSec , the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and SNAICC – National Voice for our Children marked Sorry Day (26 May) by drawing attention to the continuing over-representation of First Nations children in care and calling for urgent action.

‘It’s clear that the current approach is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,’ said Jonathan Hall Spence.

‘We stand with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations, who are calling for more emphasis on early intervention and a greater role for First Nations groups in delivering the services that will help keep families together.’

‘In NSW, we have the landmark Family is Culture Review Report from 2019 which outlined a comprehensive blueprint for reform, echoing the recommendations of the  Bringing Them Home Report 23 years ago. Governments have been provided with the solutions, they need to get down to the business of implementing the changes that will have a real impact on the lives of First Nations’ children, families and communities.’

‘Family Matters: Strong Communities. Strong Culture. Stronger Children,’ is Australia’s national campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture. You can find out more about the Family Matters campaign here.

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