First Nations children are 10 times more likely to be living in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children and already experience increased risks of poor health and well-being outcomes. Special measures must be implemented to ensure that vulnerable children in contact with child protection systems are kept safe and maintain their connection to culture and identity as a high priority.
- COVID-19 is intensifying the stress and anxiety that families feel within child protection systems, compounding trauma and mental health issues. Restrictions on social contact have limited opportunities for children to connect with their families and cultures – connections that are vital to their immediate and long-term well-being.
- The NBN, internet, mobile phones and access to technology have become critically important to keeping the economy running and for maintaining important cultural and social connections. The crisis has highlighted the ‘technological divide’ that excludes many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from accessing these resources.
- It is recommended that governments 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.
- Governments need to allocate immediate emergency relief funding for Aboriginal community-controlled organisations that deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing family violence and support women and children to access accommodation and essential items.
As well as immediate funding certainty, further investment is required to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services to respond to the specific needs of families impacted by trauma, unemployment and financial hardship during the recovery from COVID-19. This aligns with the Closing the Gap Agreement which recognises that building the role and capacity of community-controlled organisations is a high priority to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.