By Jane Vadiveloo.
The current state of First Nations children in welfare is a national crisis. First Nations children are nearly 10 times more likely to be on a care and protection order than Non-Aboriginal children.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) explains:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in child protection and out-of-home care services compared to non-Indigenous1 children. The reasons for this are complex and are connected to past policies and the legacy of colonisation. Poverty, assimilation policies, intergenerational trauma and discrimination, and forced child removals have all contributed to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care, as have cultural differences in child-rearing practices and family structure (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [HREOC], 1997; SNAICC, 2016a; Titterton, 2017).1
Children’s Ground is dedicated to reforming the system to prevent children entering care and to stop the appalling over representation of First Nation’s children in welfare and incarceration. We want all children and their families to enjoy safety, dignity, cultural security and great life opportunities.
The current system of care is not meeting the needs of children and those children who are ending up in detention as young as 10 years of age and in serious risk of harm.
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory looked at how children were treated in detention centres and in the welfare system in the NT, and a final report was tabled in both the NT and Federal Parliaments on 17 November 2017 (Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, 2017). Overall, it was found that youth detention centres in the NT were not fit for the accommodation or rehabilitation of children and young people, and that children in detention were subjected to verbal abuse, physical control and humiliation, including being denied access to basic human needs such as water, food and the use of toilets (Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, 2017). It also found that the Office of the Children’s Commissioner Northern Territory is under-resourced to perform its full range of statutory functions in relation to the care and protection of vulnerable children in the NT.2
This National Child Protection Week we call for significant reform and action in response to the findings of the The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory
At Children’s Ground it is the families who have been intergenerationally impacted by the welfare and justice system who are leading change. Children’s Ground is designed to prevent the treadmill of children into welfare and incarceration. Families are creating places of safety for learning and wellbeing for children, families and whole communities. They are empowered and supported in their leadership and solutions to create a new future for the next generation. Through this hope is growing, change is happening.
In 2019 the National Child Protection Week theme is “Kids do well when parents are supported”. It is the families who hold the solutions and vision for a new future. At Children’s Ground we are seeing this change everyday. Children are surrounded by their families, valued in their culture, language and identity. It is the community who are creating and protecting environments that are physically, culturally and emotionally safe. This year we celebrate children, their families and their communities.
We invite you to support Children’s Ground to help us break the cycle of welfare and deliver hope and opportunity to children and families.
For further information in relation to National Child Protection week go to https://www.napcan.org.au/ncpw2019-theme/
For further information on First Nations children and their families see https://www.snaicc.org.au/
4 September 2019