My last policy commentary highlighted data from the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services concerning government expenditure in 2014-15 on providing services to children who had experienced, or who were at risk of experiencing, child abuse and neglect.
To recap, the Report found that, nationally, around $4.3 billion was expended on child protection, out-of-home care services, family support services and intensive family support services in 2014-15 (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 2016). That amount represented a 5.8% increase compared with the previous year. Of total national expenditure, out-of-home care services represented 56.2% or $2.4 billion.
The Report also contained a wealth of other data that sheds further light on other aspects of child safety and wellbeing. I wanted to draw particular attention to progress in applying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.
According to the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC, 2013), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle:
…aims to ensure government intervention into family life does not disconnect children from their family and culture. The development of the Child Placement Principle in the late 1970s was driven by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Care Agencies (AICCAs)…with states and territories agreeing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children should be raised in their own families and communities, and if placed in out-of-home care for protective reasons, should be placed with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander carers. (p. 2).
Against that background, it is concerning to read in the latest Report on Government Services that:
Nationally, at 30 June 2015, 50.8 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were placed with relatives/kin (35.9 per cent with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relatives/kin and 14.9 per cent with non-Indigenous relatives/kin). A further 16.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were placed with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers or in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential care. Proportions varied across jurisdictions. Nationally, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care who were placed with relatives/kin, other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers, or in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential care has decreased over the past 10 years (from 75.7 per cent at 30 June 2006 to 67.1 per cent at 30 June 2015). (emphasis added)
The Third Action Plan (2015-18) under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 contains important commitments by State and Territory Governments to ‘continuing to fully implement the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle’ and ‘to ensure that the five domains of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection) are applied to the implementation of strategies and actions identified in the Third Action Plan’ (COAG 2015).
Clearly, this is a matter of great importance. It remains imperative that all parties move as quickly as possible to improve significantly the pace at which this Principle is applied.
Dr Brian Babington
20 October 2016
Commonwealth of Australia 2015, Driving change: intervening early. National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020. Third action plan, 2015-2018, retrieved from <https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/12_2015/pdf_third_action_plan_for_protecting_australias_children.pdf>.
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care 2013, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: Aims and Core Elements, retrieved from <http://www.snaicc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/03167.pdf >.
Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision 2016, Report on Government Services, retrieved from <http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services>.