NSW Government reforms overlook Aboriginal children and families
Monday 11 December 2017
There’s one big problem with the latest child protection reforms proposed by the NSW Government: where are the Aboriginal kids?
In a 44-page discussion paper outlining the Department of Family and Community Services’ proposed changes to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and the Adoption Act 2000, the word ‘Aboriginal’ appears just eight times.
“These proposals reflect extremely limited engagement with Aboriginal communities,” said Tim Ireland, AbSec CEO.
“Even worse, it seems there’s no clear strategy to address the over-representation of Aboriginal children in the NSW system – even though 37% of all children removed from their families are Aboriginal, and our kids are more than 10 times more likely to end up in out-of-home care.”
At the heart of the Government’s proposals is an effort to streamline processes for guardianship orders and adoptions of children in state care. It’s part of a broader move to provide more permanent placements for kids in care.
Together with the Aboriginal communities we represent right across NSW, at AbSec we continue to oppose blanket approaches to permanent care orders for Aboriginal children and young people. This means we won’t support the blanket approach of adopting Aboriginal kids – not now, not ever.
“We strongly believe Aboriginal children are best placed within their own extended families and communities, secure in their culture,” Tim Ireland said.
“We need more efforts to support families and keep them strong together – not to permanently tear them apart.”
We are concerned that the Government’s proposals remove some current safeguards providing oversight of Aboriginal children while they’re in out-of-home care, reducing opportunities to return children home. With less visibility over our kids’ welfare, and less pathways for families to reunite, it’s certain this will lead to even more Aboriginal kids losing their families and their Aboriginal identity.
AbSec has approached the Minister for Family and Community Services with a number of concerns, including:
- Lack of genuine community consultation over these proposals
- Lack of transparency around the evidence driving these reforms (i.e. the results of the recent Tune Review, which have not been made public)
- Lack of a specialised strategy for Aboriginal children and families.
“We are now calling on the Minister to do the right thing and properly engage AbSec and the Aboriginal community,” Mr Ireland said.
“Our people want a greater say in matters that affect our children and families.”
We’re not just pointing out problems; AbSec’s work is also about providing solutions. Our submission to the Minister includes possible reforms to safeguard Aboriginal children and young people’s best interests, and to build respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles in the statutory system.
“It’s essential that the NSW Government works openly and honestly with us and with our communities – because we can’t allow our kids to continue entering care at a rate 10 times greater than non-Aboriginal children.”