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The solution is clear: Family Matters 2019 report

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‘Without substantial efforts to refocus policy and investment on prevention and early intervention, children will continue to be at risk of separation from their families, communities and cultures.’

CELA covers the key points raised in the annual Family Matters Report for 2019, which focuses on ways to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia’s child protection systems.


The annual Family Matters Report 2019 highlights the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are still missing out on early childhood support and being over-represented in child protection systems.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience disadvantage across a range of early childhood areas, are (2.6 times) more likely to be developmentally delayed at the age of five and attend childcare services at half the rate of non-Indigenous children,” says Family Matters Co-Chair Natalie Lewis.

The most shocking trend is the escalation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care, and the increasing incidence of them being removed from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support systems.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 37.3% of the total out-of-home care population, but only 5.5% of the total population of children in Australia.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are now 10.2 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children.

 

Most worrying, fewer of these children are being placed with indigenous families.

  • In one year alone, there was a significant drop in the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care placed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers, from 49.4% in June 2017 to 45% in June 2018, and has declined from 65.3% in 2006.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care are seven times more likely to be on permanent care orders until the age of 18. This means they are at serious risk of permanent separation from their families, cultures and communities.

“If we do not change our course of action the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care will more than double in the next 10 years,” warns Family Matters Co-Chair Richard Weston.

To the report authors the solution is clear:

‘Without substantial efforts to refocus policy and investment on prevention and early intervention, children will continue to be at risk of separation from their families, communities and cultures.’

‘A key premise of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009 – 2020 is that redressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care requires an increased focus on prevention and early intervention. However, in 2017-18 only 17% of child protection funding was invested in support services for children and their families, while 83% was invested in child protection services and out-of-home care. This proportion has remained constant over the past three financial years.’

The Family Matters Report 2019 calls for:

  1. A national comprehensive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy that includes generational targets to eliminate over-representation and address the causes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child removal.
  2. Investment in quality Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled and integrated early years services through a specific program with targets to increase coverage in areas of high Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and high levels of disadvantage.
  3. Establishing state-based and national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioners to enable improved government accountability and oversight.
  4. An end to legal orders for permanent care and adoption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, replaced by a focus on supporting their connections to kin, culture and community.

Family Matters is Australia’s national campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture. It aims to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 2040.

‘Pockets of hope’ in Aboriginal-led policy solutions

REPORT EXTRACT – from the Foreword by Family Matters Co-Chairs Natalie Lewis and Richard Weston

Through the work of the Family Matters campaign, we have the distinct privilege to witness the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of care. Where children and families thrive together, despite adversity.

These are people and places that have experienced healing and hope; pockets of brilliance that do not capture the attention of research agendas, or feature prominently in collections of literature about what works.
These approaches and the people and communities that nurture them, are not visible in the evidence base that shapes policy and dictates investment. We are characterised too often as the problem and not the solution. This must change.

This year’s Family Matters report puts a spotlight on the amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations across Australia that support our children and families to be strong and healthy. These initiatives include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led early intervention and prevention services in Queensland, new models of kinship carer finding and support in the Northern Territory, Aboriginal-led policy development and service design in New South Wales, and delegation of statutory authority to ACCOs in Victoria.

We are seeing momentum in some states and territories to adopt dedicated strategies to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care. In Queensland, implementation of the Our Way strategy continues to strengthen community-controlled service design and delivery. In Victoria, through the Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, we have seen significant investment to support the transition of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care to ACCOs. Western Australia has recently announced its intention to develop a new strategy, formed around the four building blocks of the Family Matters campaign, to reduce the over-representation of our children in care. Family Matters has consistently called for this kind of comprehensive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy at the national level.

 

 

Download the full report at familymatters.org.au

 


Family Matters – Strong communities. Strong culture. Stronger children. is led by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children and a group of eminent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from across the country. The campaign is supported by a Strategic Alliance of over 150 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations.

The Family Matters Report is a collaborative effort of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the Family Matters campaign, Griffith University, University of Melbourne and Monash University.

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