Three reasons to get behind Family Matters

Last week, SNAICC’s ground-breaking Family Matters campaign was officially launched at Parliament House, Canberra. Families Australia was proud to stand alongside SNAICC and scores of other community representatives and organisations.

The SNAICC Family Matters Roadmap (2016) states:

Family Matters – strong communities, strong culture, stronger children 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. Family Matters aims to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, by 2040.

This campaign is vitally important for at least three reasons.

First, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children involved in out-of-home care remains unacceptably high.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Child protection Australia 2014-15:

Indigenous children are over-represented across the child protection system compared with non-Indigenous children. In 2014–15, Indigenous children were:

  • around 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services in general or to be the subject of substantiated abuse or neglect
  • 9 times as likely to be on a care and protection order and
  • around 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care.

The report also stated that as at 30 June 2015, there were 15,455 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between 0 and 17 years in out-of-home care.

In policy terms, efforts must be expanded and accelerated through initiatives such as the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 to help families overcome problems that lead to child abuse and removal.

Second, fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being raised in culture than we want.

When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed from their families they are not being placed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family or carers at a rate that is consistent with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle. In fact, the rate of removal continues to increase.

According to the recent Australian Government Report on Government Services:

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)…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:

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.

Third, it’s not the Australia we want.

The massive disproportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care compared with others sits alongside many other indicators that speak to entrenched disadvantage and vulnerability that is experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in areas such as health and education. Families Australia joins with others who want to see these gaps being closed at the earliest possible time.

Dr Brian Babington
14 November 2016

References

Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing 2016, Child protection Australia 2014–15, retrieved from <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129554728>.

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 >.

Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care 2016, The Family Matters Roadmap, retrieved from <http://www.familymatters.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TheFamilyMattersRoadmap.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>.