‘We want to see change’: Calls for national commissioner for Indigenous children
25 October 2019 at 4:13 pm
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are 17 times more likely to be in juvenile detention and 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care
More than 80 community groups are calling for a national commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to help uncover systemic issues impacting Indigenous children.
The push is being led by the peak body for Indigenous children, SNAICC, and is supported by state and territory children’s commissioners.
SNAICC chair Muriel Bamblett said Indigenous children and young people needed a dedicated voice at the national level.
“Victoria and South Australia have established state commissioners that have uncovered systemic issues that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” Bamblett said.
“It is time the federal government establishes a dedicated commissioner so our children’s rights receive a dedicated focus at a national level.”
This call follows the release of the Family Matters 2019 report, which found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people experienced widespread and persistent disadvantage.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people were 10.2 times more likely to be in out-of-home care and 17 times more likely to be in juvenile detention.
They were also 2.6 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than non-Indigenous children when starting school.
The report estimates that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families will more than double over the next decade.
Read more: ‘We have important things to say’ – Indigenous child briefs UN and calls on the Australian government to stop locking up kids
SNAICC CEO and Family Matters co-chair Richard Weston said past attempts at improving outcomes for Indigenous children had failed because no one was held accountable.
He said the Family Matters report showed there was a lack of coherence and consistency in how Australian governments delivered services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“A dedicated commissioner would help ensure government commitments are being implemented and that our children’s rights are being respected,” Weston said.
“A dedicated focus on advancing the rights of the current generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people is essential to end the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage.”
SNAICC has also released a position paper this week outlining how a national commissioner role should be established.
The paper said the role must:
- be established by legislation to ensure independence and autonomy from government;
- be filled by an Indigenous person with appropriate qualifications, knowledge and experience and appointed through a transparent process;
- be mandated with a clear scope and purpose for the role;
- be granted appropriate functions and powers to promote systemic change and accountability, including powers of inquiry and investigation; and
- be appropriately resourced to perform its role effectively.