Government urged to break the cycle of trauma for Indigenous children
22 May 2019 at 5:10 pm
Indigenous groups are calling on the re-elected Morrison government to take concrete action on the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
To mark the Family Matters Week of Action (20-26 May), SNAICC – National Voice for our Children is pushing for a national strategy for Indigenous children, with generational targets that address the causes of child removal and ensure access to early education.
Muriel Bamblett, SNAICC chairperson, said the complexity and depth of the issue required a holistic national strategy in order to make any real progress.
“The incoming federal government has a responsibility to demonstrate commitment and leadership by starting this process, premised on the principles of self-determination and partnership agreed under the Closing the Gap refresh process,” Bamblett said.
“We need to see better commitment from our federal leaders to break the cycle of trauma for our children and families, and support evidence-based, community-led solutions.
“So many Aboriginal children aren’t able to access early years education, which is such a crucial time in their education journey. It’s clearly an area that Australia should and must be doing better.”
There are more than 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have been removed from their families and are currently in out-of-home care (OOHC), a figure that advocates say represents a national crisis.
Indigenous groups have pushed for the Closing the Gap targets to be revised in partnership with the Indigenous community after the latest progress report revealed only two of seven targets were on track.
Revised COAG targets announced in December featured child removal action as an “optional” target but Indigenous groups and Labor have called for this to be included as a fully-fledged target.
Bamblett said through the Closing the Gap refresh, the government had shown a clear desire to work with communities to address this crisis.
She said advocates were hopeful that a strong relationship with a new Indigenous minister could produce some real change for children and families.
She added that throughout the National Week of Action, child welfare groups and individual supporters from across Australia were encouraged to raise awareness about the escalating number of Indigenous children being removed from their family.
“[We seek] to foster an environment where there is wellbeing, safety and stability for all children,” she said.
“For Aboriginal children this means fostering a greater sense of belonging by growing up in family and community, and in a society that respects and values who they are as Aboriginal people.”
Key components of a national strategy identified by SNAICC include increased investment in family support and reunification services, a framework for developing the Indigenous community-controlled sector, and a program to increase Indigenous early education and care services in at-risk areas.
Last year’s Family Matters Report found that in 2016-17, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 10 times more likely than non-indigenous children to grow up in OOHC.
Less than half of these OOHC children were living with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander family members or carers.