Urgent reforms needed for Aboriginal families in the NSW child protection system
Thursday 13 Februray 2020
On the 12th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal children, families and communities in NSW are still disproportionately impacted by government policy and the child protection system, as demonstrated by our Report Card.
Based on new data from the Productivity Commission, the Report Card highlights the performance of the Department of Communities and Justice (formerly known as the Department of Family and Community Services — FACS) across a range of measures, including the number of Aboriginal children in notifications, investigations, the provision of family support and experiences in out-of-home care (OOHC).
The number of Aboriginal children and young people entering OOHC increased between 2018 and 2019, while the total number in OOHC decreased slightly over the same period. We are also seeing declining numbers of Aboriginal children being placed with their Aboriginal family or kin.
Yet, the number of Aboriginal children reported at risk of significant harm continues to rise, while the number of Aboriginal children in finalised investigations decreased. This contrasting trend, and what it means for Aboriginal children and young people, needs further clarification from the Government.
- In 2019, 21,268 Aboriginal children reported at risk of significant harm — a 33 per cent increase since 2015.
- In 2019, 6,754 Aboriginal children and young people in OOHC – a 0.18 per cent decrease from 2018, and an 8.8 per cent increase from 2015.
- 13.4% of investment is directed to family support, a reduction of almost one per cent compared to last year, and more than four per cent compared to 2015.
- In 2019, 8,076 Aboriginal children in finalised investigations— a 27 per cent decrease since 2015.
- In 2019, 4,047 Aboriginal children in substantiations – a 13.7 per cent decrease since 2015.
- 5.4 per cent decrease in the number of Aboriginal children placed with Aboriginal family/kin compared to 2015.
We need to see change
The Report Card complements the Family is Culture review released in November 2019.
Chaired by University of NSW Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Megan Davis, this independent review highlights the need for significant reforms to systems and practice, including prevention and early intervention through Aboriginal community-led solutions, as well as more transparency and accountability across the system.
AbSec calls on the NSW Government to deliver on all commitments it has made regarding Aboriginal children, families, communities and community organisations. This includes the establishment of a state-wide network of holistic Aboriginal community controlled organisations, investing 30 per cent of early intervention funding for Aboriginal families and organisations, full implementation of the Aboriginal Case Management Policy, the transition of Aboriginal children in OOHC to Aboriginal services, and equitable investment directed to Aboriginal children and families through Aboriginal organisations.
The experiences of Stolen Generation survivors show the impacts of forced removal and separation from family, community and culture not only last throughout a lifetime, but impact the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Unless governments pursue a new approach, the number of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care is expected to triple over the next 20 years.