Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are now nearly ten times as likely to be removed from their family as non-Indigenous children – a disparity which continues to grow.
A new report released by the Family Matters campaign reveals a shocking trend in the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.
“If we continue on this path, carved out by the flawed approaches of consecutive governments, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care will more than triple in the next 20 years,” Family Matters Co-Chair Natalie Lewis says.
The report is only the second ever released to examine the trends associated with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care. It shows that despite some increased focus and attention from various governments, the over-representation of Aboriginal children being removed from their families continues to escalate at an alarming rate.
The report provides a comprehensive analysis of child protection systems in every state and territory, judged against a series of building blocks to ensuring child safety and wellbeing.
The disproportionate representation of our children, and the failure to adequately provide for their wellbeing and ensure fulfilment of their rights, are characteristics common to all states and territories across Australia.
Why are so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out of home care?
Professor Muriel Bamblett, one of Australia’s leading experts on Aboriginal child welfare, says there is a distinct lack of early intervention for families in need of support.
“The issue is clearly related to poverty and the level of disadvantage that Aboriginal communities experience,” she says. “The stats tell us that 88% of children in care in Victoria, for example, are there because of family violence, drugs and alcohol, mental health etc. But have we got an effective approach to these issues that stem from poverty and neglect? No, we don’t. It’s quite obvious that these are the big issues that we need to be able to address.”
Yet, the Family Matters report shows that only 17% of the child protection budget is spent on services aimed at preventing issues for families before they develop, while the bulk of spending is invested in reacting to problems when they arise.
Supportive and preventative services – designed to build the capacity of families to care for children and allow children to thrive – are crucial to addressing the problem.
Governments need to come to the table, to resource our vision for a better future for our children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been forthcoming with solutions to these issues for many years. We need to work together now to prevent another generation of children growing up separated from their family, culture and connection to country.
Header Image: Rob McKechnie/Save the Children