Report Card Uncovers Failures in Aboriginal Child Protection
13 February 2019 at 4:55 pm
The New South Wales government is failing to appropriately support Aboriginal children and families, according to a report card released to mark the 11th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations.
AbSec, the NSW peak body for Aboriginal children and families, reported that the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) was failing in five out of seven measures for Aboriginal kids receiving child protection.
Looking at the most recent FACS data between 30 June 2016 and 30 June 2017, the group found the number of Aboriginal children reported at risk of significant harm rose by 6.7 per cent, Aboriginal children in out of home care rose by 2.6 per cent, while Aboriginal children receiving an intensive support service fell by 3 per cent.
On anniversary #Apology11 we must reflect on our past but also confront the shameful reality of our present. I acknowledge the lived experiences of our families who remain impacted by not only by past but contemporary experiences of child removal. #StopForcedAdoption @AbSecNSW
— Natalie QATSICPP (@CEOQATSICPP) February 13, 2019
Most positively, Aboriginal children entering out-of-home-care decreased by 19.7 per cent. But Paul Gray, acting CEO at AbSec, said he remained concerned.
“While many will no doubt welcome this, there needs to be greater clarity and transparency to understand what is behind this reduction,” Gray said.
“Overall, the findings are worrying and need to be considered and assessed. As it shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to address the gaps in the system.”
The report card’s release marks the 11th anniversary of then-prime minister Kevin Rudd’s National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February 2008.
Today, from sunrise to sunset, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag will fly next to the national flag, above Parliament House, to mark the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February, 2008.
#NationalApology #Sorry pic.twitter.com/yiPdX1yIik
— Australian Parliament House (@Aust_Parliament) February 12, 2019
FACS secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter also offered an apology in line with the federal government in 2017.
“In looking to the future we need to understand how we arrived at where we are today and ensure that we do not repeat the past injustices earlier performed against Aboriginal people,” Coutts-Trotter said.
“As an agency, FACS has a significant role in protecting children and young people and we are committed to doing our very best to influence and improve the long-term outcomes for Aboriginal children in NSW.”
The NSW government came under fire in November last year for attempting to reform child protection and adoption laws so that a birth parent would have a two year period to be reinstated as the primary carer before FACS was allowed to search for an alternative permanent home.
Indigenous groups warned this would result in a second stolen generation, by making it easier for Aboriginal children to be adopted out of the care and protection system and placed with a brand new family.
AbSec said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were now over 10 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children with the number of Aboriginal children in the out-of-home-care system increasing every year.
Gray said the experiences of stolen generation survivors showed forced removal and separation from family, community and culture not only lasted throughout a lifetime, but also impacted the lives of their children and grandchildren.
AbSec has called for the establishment of an Aboriginal child and family commission to provide leadership and support for the system’s work with Indigenous people, by directing investment to community designed and delivered support services, and improving transparency and accountability.
We’re at the rally to #StopForcedAdoption @ Hyde Park. @June_Oscar is speaking both in her role as Social Justice Commissioner & as an Aboriginal grandmother. “We’re black women, we don’t give up & we’re strong.” She calls for family support & services co-designed with community. pic.twitter.com/aI83fENLUK
— AbSec (@AbSecNSW) February 13, 2019
“Unless governments pursue a new approach, the number of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care is expected to triple over the next 20 years,” Gray said.
“We are calling on governments to put an immediate end to the old failed policies of permanent removal, and to embrace our solutions, Aboriginal-led solutions, as part of a rights-based Aboriginal child and family system.
“This was the promise of action within the apology, and it is long past due.”
The report comes a day ahead of the expected release of the federal government’s annual Closing the Gap report, and follows Queensland becoming the first state to release a whole-of-government report card on closing the gap.
Queensland’s report was described as a “reality check”, after Indigenous Queensland men were found on average to die almost eight years earlier than non-Indigenous men.