The Australian Government has been emphatic that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 are at the same level of risk as non-Indigenous people over the age of 70 and should self-isolate. The response to supporting vulnerable children and their families must be similarly emphatic and robust.
- The response to COVID-19 is creating many additional challenges for both kinship and foster carers. The impacts are often felt more acutely by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship carers who provide a high level of care for children in their communities, often with less support and facing higher levels of social and economic disadvantage and discrimination than other carers. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship carers are grandparents and many are in the high COVID-19 risk category above 50 years of age.
- Restrictive measures imposed due to COVID-19 have limited access between children in outof-home care and their parents and family members. Reduced contact can have devastating impacts on children, and particularly for babies, very young children, and mothers who may still be breastfeeding. Reduced contact can be harmful for children and parents’ attachments, wellbeing and prospects of reunification. Alternative contact arrangements, such as by video conference, are often not appropriate for young children and children with disabilities.
- SNAICC recommends that governments invest additional resources into the implementation of cultural support plans during the recovery from COVID-19 to address reduced cultural contact for children during the pandemic.
- Governments need to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to provide clear advice and protocols for carers on maintaining children’s cultural connections and relationships in the context of social distancing measures.