Indigenous Children in Care Up 65 Per Cent Since National Apology
3 February 2015 at 9:41 am
Since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008 the number of indigenous children in care has increased by 65 per cent, according to a new report.
The latest Report on Government Services (ROGS) released this week by the Productivity Commission revealed that 14,991 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care as of 30 June 2014 – accounting for almost 35 per cent of all children in care.
The national peak body for Indigenous children and families, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) said the report painted a “chilling picture” that was unfortunately disproportionate – with Indigenous children making up only 4.4 per cent of Australia’s total child population.
Chairperson of SNAICC, Sharron Williams, said the situation was a “disgrace”.
“It’s safe to assume that today, seven months on from the June 2014 figures, well over 15,000 of our children are living in protective care,” Williams said.
“The bewildering reality is that since Prime Minister Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children placed in out-of-home care has increased by 65 per cent.
“This is beyond a crisis, it is a national disgrace. If non-Aboriginal children were being removed from their families at a similar rate, there would be calls for an immediate national inquiry.”
Williams said State Governments needed to focus on early intervention and family support programs as a way to strengthen vulnerable families.
“The rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are coming into contact with the child protection system is spiralling upwards at an alarming rate,” she said.
“The Productivity Commission’s recent Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report noted that the rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders has increased by over 400 per cent in a decade.
“We need to recognise and build on the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait families and communities to support and nurture their children.
“The latest ROGS reveals that last financial year state-territory governments spent $3.3 billion on child protection and out-of-home care services — a figure that has increased by $543.4 million since 2010 — and $300.8 million on intensive family support services.
“This imbalance must be redressed, so that Governments invest much more in proven intensive family support services, integrated early childhood education and care services, healing and cultural programs, and supporting communities to protect and care for children.”
Williams said child protection systems operating in the states and territories were experiencing stress and suffering from feelings of “powerlessness and distrust of the systems by Indigenous families and communities”.
“Many practical alternatives are emerging to improve child protection processes and safeguard the best interests of our vulnerable children. It is now time for governments to start listening to our families and communities to stem the tide of child removals.
“Ultimately, addressing the underlying disadvantage in Aboriginal communities —such as lack of adequate housing, financial security and education — is at the core of improving the lives of our children and families.
“Governments must empower our communities and organisations to help reduce the levels of family violence, drug and alcohol misuse and mental illness, caused by disadvantage and poverty, that are contributing to child abuse and neglect.”