Achieving better health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people in OOHC

Submission to developing a Victorian state-wide OOHC health strategy
Indigenous child protection Indigenous health Aboriginal Australian youth Out-of-home care Victoria

Aboriginal children and young people in outof-home care are one of the most vulnerable population groups in Victoria to experience poor health and social and emotional wellbeing early in life and well into adulthood. The current health system for children is built around the premise that children have a consistent, able and willing parent/carer to be a knowledge bank of the child’s health history, navigate complex and siloed set of health systems and advocate on the child’s behalf. In lieu of a consistent parent/carer with the knowledge and authority to act, children in out of home care are falling through the gaps and are not receiving their basic human right of universal healthcare.

Key Findings:

  • Given that Aboriginal children and young people represent 20 percent of the out of home care population, an Out of home care (OOHC) health strategy needs to be inclusive of Aboriginal children and young people. This strategy needs to be holistic and trauma-informed to meet the complex needs of children removed from their homes.It should include Aboriginal-specific actions which address the cultural determinants of health as recognised in Balit Murrup: Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing framework.
  • Recognising the healing and protective role of culture for better health and wellbeing outcomes, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) are best placed to provide health services for Aboriginal children, ensuring they remain connected to culture and community. The Alliance recommends an introduction of a policy to see that all Aboriginal children and young people with non-Aboriginal carers enroll in health services at ACCOs.
  • The alarming poor mental health of children in OOHC requires urgent attention, with Looking After Children (LAC) data revealing that 42 percent of children and young people in OOHC displayed significantly higher emotional and behavioural difficulties compared to 10 percent in the general population.
  • In the absence of a consistent carer/parent/guardian to oversee the consistency and cohesion of child protection, health, wellbeing, education, cultural and community engagement, information sharing needs to be improved and centralised to benefit the child in the same way a parent would. At present children in out of home care can have numerous educational, cultural, health and mental health and case plans that fail to align and provide coordinated care.
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