Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 10 times more likely to be living in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children, a new report reveals today.
The Family Matters Report 2019 found more than one third of the total number of children in child protection are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, despite Indigenous kids only making up 5.5% of the total number of kids in Australia.
With 20,421 Indigenous children not living with their parents, the campaign group’s co-chair, Richard Weston, said the “increased rates of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids from their family” is at “crisis level.”
“Higher levels of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage has been passed on from one generation to the next,” Weston told HuffPost Australia.
“We’re at a crisis, for sure. The data is telling us in the next 20 years if we don’t do something different the current levels of our children going into out-of-home care are going to treble.”
Aboriginal children in NSW are nearly twice as likely to be on a permanent care order compared to the national average, meaning after two years in care, the system will not try to reunite the child with its parents.
The report also shows children living with members of the Stolen Generations are more than four times as likely to have missed school without permission, and more likely to have poor health and have cash flow problems, with one in three Indigenous people living below the poverty line.
Weston warns that unless a new intervention and prevention strategy is put in place, then millions of taxpayer money could be wasted.
“The child protection system spends something like $6bn a year. That has been increasing about 10% per annum over time... but for us, we just see our kids increasingly being removed from their families,” he said.
“So taxpayers aren’t getting much value out of the child protection system. Kids being removed should be a last resort rather than a first response.”
Family Matters is calling for targets to eliminate over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in child removal and increased early years services in areas of high levels of disadvantage.
The campaign group also wants state-based and national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioners, and an end to legal orders for permanent care and adoption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The report comes as a private members bill was introduced on Monday by Centre Alliance MP Rebekah Sharkie to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
The Law Council of Australia said the move would help improve justice outcomes for some of Australia’s most vulnerable children, especially young First Nations people.
“How is it that a child can’t sign up to Facebook until the age of 13 but can be placed in detention at the age of 10? It makes no sense and has long-term impacts,” Law Council President, Arthur Moses said.
“There is clear evidence childhood detention increases the risk of adult imprisonment.”