Aboriginal families continue to be disproportionately affected by statutory systems that separate children and young people from their families. While these systems ostensibly operate in the best interests of children, the outcomes achieved following statutory intervention are poor, particularly for Aboriginal children and young people.
AbSec spoke to more than fifty Aboriginal young people, families, Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal carers, practitioners and community members who have had either direct or indirect experiences with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
- Aboriginal children are more likely to be reported at risk of significant harm, and are more likely to be removed from their families. Further, having been removed from their families, Aboriginal children tend to stay in care longer, and are less likely to be returned home.
- Aboriginal communities have been calling for a universal support system that strengthens networks of care and optimises community supports so that children can thrive. Communities envision a service system that is holistic and culturally embedded, where supports are offered before more intrusive child protection approaches are needed.
- Support systems must be prioritised over removals. Child removal is not seen as an effective or suitable solution, but merely a means to perpetuate the cycle of trauma in First Nations families.
- The cultural and community knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal practitioners and organisations are seen as an important asset in working effectively with Aboriginal children and families. This includes helping families and carers to feel more comfortable in engaging with supports, identifying family and extended family networks to support family preservation, or to ensure children who are unsafe at home are still able to remain with their extended families and communities.
Overall, AbSec heard from community members that many see the child and family system as perpetuating harmful past policies. For many, it remains a deeply colonial system that destroys Aboriginal families, communities and culture. Even where it was accepted that the intentions of decision makers were good, it was felt that they lacked the understanding and cultural competency to achieve positive outcomes for Aboriginal children. Aboriginal children and families continue to bear the brunt of outdated systems, policies and practices that police, rather than support, families.