Every Aboriginal child placed in out of home care in NSW last year is set to have their case reviewed.
Over the past five years, there has been a 15% increase in the number of Indigenous children entering out of home care, compared to 3% for non-Indigenous children. Of the 20,000 children in care across the state, approximately one third are Aboriginal. Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard has said these rates cannot be justified given that only 3% of the population is Aboriginal.
“We’re going to go through every single case to see how many of those children perhaps shouldn’t have been removed in the first case, but who can be restored with support,” he said.
“We’re hoping that will send a clear and loud message that we have to be rethinking this whole process.”
A committee of Aboriginal community members will carry out the review into around 1,200 cases, led by University of NSW Law Professor Megan Davis.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle
The announcement follows two Victorian reports released late last year which found widespread failures in implementing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle. This principle prioritises that children are placed within their family and kin networks where possible, or with other Aboriginal carers.
Suellyn Tighe of Grandmothers Against Removal says the rising numbers need to be addressed:
“The connection to family, language and culture is being lost, and the children’s identity is being affected. The trauma effects from that are clearly stated in the Bringing Them Home report.”
The Improving Outcomes in Out of Home Care conference, taking place in Sydney this May, will examine strategies for breaking cycles of disadvantage through child focused support. Speakers include Priscilla Collins, CEO of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. She will be speaking on ‘Increasing Aboriginal community control of OOHC’, as well as participating in a panel discussion on ‘Making improved indigenous outcomes a national priority’.