How do we right the wrongs?
A landmark report, The Family Matters published in October 2019 by SNAICC presents an ever-emerging crisis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children.
ATSI children are
- being removed from their families at an ever increasing and alarming rate. In 2017 there were 17,664 ATSI children in out of home care compared to 9,070 in 2008.
- 3% of the total out-of-home care population, but only 5.5% of the total population of children in Australia.
- Now 10.2 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-ATSI children.
- Seven more times likely to be on permanent care orders, often away from country and community, until the age of 18.
Consider these facts:
- The data projects that if we don’t address the rates of removal, the number of ATSI children being removed from family will double again within the next 10 years.
- 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.
- Despite significant state and federal government commitments to increase the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled child and family support organisations, the actual investment remains limited.
- Without substantial efforts to refocus policy and investment in prevention and early intervention family support services, these alarming statistics will continue to rise.
In the face of these statistics “human decency” calls our nation to right the wrongs. The current situation is complex. Many ATSI children are suffering and live in communities with high levels of drug and alcohol abuse and violence. There are many indicators that communities are in distress. The crisis, and often reasonable response, is to remove children. However, if children are not returned safely to their home, culture and community within a short period of time restoration and reunification generally does not happen..
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Kenise Neill rsj