Family is Culture

Aboriginal children now make up 43% of children in out-of-home care in NSW, despite only making up 5% of children in the state. They are 11 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous kids.


In 2016, the NSW Government commissioned an independent review into the disproportionate and increasing number of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care, including a deep-dive into the circumstances of 1,153 Aboriginal children and young people entering out-of-home care from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016.

The Family is Culture Review Report was released in November 2019, detailing a child protection system in crisis. The report described a system lacking in accountability that maintains a resonance with historical practices of child removal used against Aboriginal communities, along with numerous other concerning trends. The final report made 126 recommendations for structural change to the child protection system and over 3,000 recommendations about specific children and young people.

After the release of the report, AbSec, together with a collective of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations, sent a letter to the then Premier, the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, to demand real action and real change for the thousands of Aboriginal children and young people impacted by the NSW child protection system. We also distributed a media release to draw attention to the continued suffering inflicted on Aboriginal children, families and communities within the outdated and biased child protection system.

The NSW Government provided a brief response to the Family is Culture Review Report in July 2020, establishing an Aboriginal Knowledge Circle and Aboriginal Deputy Children’s Guardian. AbSec called the three-and-a-half page response “unremarkable” and highlighted the failure to engage with Aboriginal communities and organisations in developing their response.

Since the initial response, the NSW Government has released two progress reports. Neither of these reports or the initial response were developed in consultation with our communities. Throughout these reports there remains a significant number of crucial recommendations that have been delayed or ignored. AbSec, along with numerous other community organisations, continues to call for the full implementation of the Family is Culture recommendations in partnership with Aboriginal communities, starting with the five areas our communities have identified as priorities for implementation. These are:

  • Strengthening system accountability and oversight – including establishing an independent commission with at least one Aboriginal Commissioner and an Aboriginal Advisory Body appointed in consultation with the Aboriginal community;
  • Expediting the suite of legislative reforms to strengthen safeguards for Aboriginal children and young people and their families;
  • Significantly greater investment in early support and keeping families together – at least equal to the proportion of Aboriginal children in the child protection system and directed through an Aboriginal commissioning framework;
  • Embedding the Aboriginal Case Management Policy and Practice Guidance – including the establishment of Aboriginal Community Controlled Mechanisms, Community Facilitators and Aboriginal Family Led Decision-Making;
  • Embedding Indigenous data sovereignty – establishing the systems, structures and processes to enable communities to collect, own and use their data.

What now?

Two years on from the release of the Family is Culture Review Report, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care continues to increase. AbSec and the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) have come together to release a community report card framework to hold the NSW Government to account in implementing the Family is Culture recommendations. Future report cards are planned to monitor and report on the progress of the NSW Government from the perspective of Aboriginal communities.

View the framework: Honouring Family is Culture – community monitoring & reporting framework

As the peak organisations for Aboriginal children and legal services, AbSec and the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) have condemned the NSW Government’s failure to deliver the crucial reform required to stop the removal of more than 900 Aboriginal children from their families each year.

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care continues to increase!

If you believe Aboriginal children have the right to grow up safe and strong in their culture and community, sign the petition and tell the NSW Government to stop delaying these crucial reforms.