Government and community agree there is a problem. The Stolen Generations policies and practices, in combination with persistent social inequity, have created an ongoing legacy of disproportionate child protection interventions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities across Australia, and significant under-investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led and controlled solutions. Things are getting worse, not better.
Family Matters reports set out what governments are doing to turn the tide on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC, and the outcomes for children and their families. The reports contribute to efforts to change the story by explaining the extent of the problem and reporting on progress towards implementing evidence-informed solutions that aim to eliminate, within a generation, the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living away from their parents and families in statutory OOHC.
State and Territory governments were invited to contribute to this report. Some jurisdictions have specific strategies targeted at reducing overrepresentation (Qld, SA, NSW, Vic), or an OOHC reform agenda that includes strategies or targets to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC (NT, Tas, WA, ACT). However, it is clear that without substantial and effective policy initiatives to strengthen prevention and early intervention and embed all five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in family support, child protection, and OOHC, progress toward achieving the campaign goal will continue to be minimal.
As detailed later in this report, if the tide is not turned, we project the population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in OOHC will more than triple by 2036, and the level of over-representation will also increase. The trajectory over the next 20 years has worsened since the last Family Matters report.
The report considers government efforts across all five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: prevention, partnership, participation, placement and connection. These elements are discussed with a particular focus on strategies and progress relating to policies, practices and investments that are likely to drive early intervention and prevention to work with families to enable them to care safely for their children, and to keep children connected to their family, community, culture and country. Understanding and applying all five elements recognises that they are inter-related and work together to achieve the Family Matters campaign goal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children growing up safe and cared for in family, community, and culture.