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Policy report

Reviewing implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: South Australia 2020

First Peoples child protection First Nations youth Child welfare First Peoples families Out-of-home care Residential care South Australia

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:

  • Data indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be overrepresented in the South Australian child protection system.
  • While the South Australia Government’s high-level policy aspirations are laudable, stakeholders are concerned that there is a lack of detailed policy measures being undertaken to translate them into practice. Despite steps being undertaken by the South Australian Government to embed the ATSICPP, community leaders continue to call for systems to heal unresolved transgenerational collective traumas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. Stakeholders reported that a key shortcoming in South Australia’s reform efforts is meeting the cultural needs of children, young people and families.
  • In June 2020, the Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People's office was made aware of five separate instances of Aboriginal babies being removed from their mothers at hospital antenatal or birthing units across regional and metropolitan Australia. It has been reported that far too often Aboriginal infants and children are removed and relocated from family with their family having little or no say in ongoing decisions. Further commitment and investment in preventative measures is required to effectively implement better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
  • Best practice evidence recognises that Aboriginal-designed and led approaches to facilitating and enabling the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in child protection decisions support stronger engagement and lead to better outcomes. No such obligation is in place for consulting with the child’s Aboriginal family. Sector leaders continue to report that DCP policy about what meaningful shared decision-making looks like and where it should occur is opaque and very poorly understood. In relation to child participation, despite having some emphasis on considering the views of the child in legislation, there remains no express policy focus on Aboriginal child participation in decision-making.
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