The Family Matters reports set out what governments are doing to turn the tide on over-representation 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.
This year, Family Matters reports limited progress to redress over-representation and the drivers of child protection intervention. While some promising policies and initiatives have been introduced, government efforts continue to be broadly piecemeal and ineffective in responding to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities. Currently, there are 20,421 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, making them 37.3% of the total out-of-home care population. The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is 10.2 times that of other children, and disproportionate representation continues to grow. As detailed in this report, if the tide is not turned, we project the population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out-of-home care will more than double in the next 10 years, and the level of over-representation will also increase. Growth in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander out-of-home care population is higher than expected in previous years, and as a result the trajectory over the next 10 years is worse than was reported in last year’s Family Matters report.
The report is structured in three parts:
- Current data and trends in over-representation in out-of-home care: In order to understand the extent of the problem, it is important to detail the current situation and trends in child protection intervention in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. This part describes data relating to children’s interactions with child protections systems, and provides a projection of how over-representation is likely to increase over the next 10 years if current conditions are maintained. The report also includes a description of the types of child protection data that are publicly available; new data provided by state and territory governments; and key data gaps that need to be addressed to properly gauge progress. It includes input provided by governments on their efforts to eliminate overrepresentation.
- Data on economic, social and community level factors: The causes of over-representation in outof-home care, both before and after child protection intervention, are many and complex and relate to the inter-generational trauma that has resulted from discrimination and unjust intervention in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and community life. This part focuses on available data that reflect a number of the drivers of over-representation and the level of access to service supports that can address these issues, as well as available data that measure progress toward parity in child and family economic and social circumstances.
- Participation in decision-making and respect for culture: Connection to culture is a human right and proven to be critical to the safety and wellbeing of Indigenous children across the world. In order to effectively respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, and enable their cultural rights, government must work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and support their selfdetermination in child protection matters. This part examines indicators of participation and partnership: resourcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled agencies and involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, representatives and agencies in child protection policy design, decision-making and system oversight. It explores the extent to which our child protection systems support and maintain cultural identity and connection for children.