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Policy report

Reviewing implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: Northern Territory 2020

First Peoples child protection First Nations youth Child welfare First Peoples families Out-of-home care Kinship care Residential care Northern Territory

This review is part of a national series that highlights that there has been significant work undertaken in states and territories to strengthen adherence with the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP), but that overall implementation remains poor and limited. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be separated from family and culture at alarming rates, and there are a lack of comprehensive approaches to involving children, families, and communities in decisions and services related to the care and protection of children.

Key Findings/Recommendations:

  • The Northern Territory Government has continued to progress promising legislative and policy changes to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system. These include important overarching policy directives supporting different elements of the ATSICPP, including local decision-making and partnerships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs). The commencing legislative reforms include an increased emphasis on early intervention and prevention services, increased child and family participation in decision-making, and a higher threshold requirement for permanency orders.
  • While Territory Families highlighted high recruitment rates of kinship carers, it is unclear whether this has translated into increased placements of Aboriginal children with kin or Aboriginal carers. Further, the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction which does not report placements of Aboriginal children with non-indigenous relative/kin. Consequently, non-indigenous family are included in the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relative/kin’ category. This is highly problematic, inaccurate, and impedes the ability to measure the implementation of the Placement element of the principle, which specifies that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kin should be prioritised.
  • Partnership activities are ongoing and have significant potential to meet the aims of this element. However, critical representation of Aboriginal children, families, and organisations would be improved with a dedicated commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people with the requisite powers to conduct investigations into systemic issues impacting Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. There remains no dedicated Aboriginal peak body that could be involved in the design of policies and services impacting on Aboriginal children and families.
  • W​hile strategic frameworks, policies, and procedures demonstrate a commitment to the goals and intentions of the ATSICPP, there are significant gaps in their implementation as evidenced by the data and community views of inconsistent, culturally unsafe, and poor practice. Thus, further work is required to achieve the desired outcomes.
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