This report considers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in child protection decision-making. The report analyses current legal, policy and systems effectiveness in enabling the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in decisions made for their children.
The Bringing them Home report highlighted the tragic consequences of excluding an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural perspective from decisions that brought about the Stolen Generations. Sixteen years later, this report questions how far we have come to ensure those voices are never again left out.
The research captures the perspectives of services and practice leaders that support and advise government departments and courts in child protection cases. It describes the value and influence of cultural input in promoting decision-making in the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The advocacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations has driven increasing recognition of the importance of independent, representative participation in child protection decision-making. However, this research highlights significant resourcing and accountability gaps that are limiting genuine participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The research identifies reforms needed to ensure the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities count when decisions are made for their kids. It proposes stronger models of cultural advice and support, as well as delegation and transfer of decision-making authority as potential solutions.
This report will be useful for:
Policy makers and researchers: explore the detailed enabling factors and barriers to genuine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in decision-making. See the evidence of the importance of participation and the opportunities to strengthen legislation, policy and systems effectiveness.
Government child protection services: investigate the possibilities for improved decision-making in the best interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Find ideas for strengthening practice and relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.
Children’s courts and legal practitioners: Reflect on the value of cultural input to inform decisions on care and protection applications. Understand the inter-play between international human rights standards, and Australian legislation and service systems in providing the participatory framework.
Child protection and family support non-government organisations: Mainstream organisations: consider the possibilities of strengthening support for children and families by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations: know the rights of you and your community to be involved in decisions and advocate for a stronger role.
Students of social work and related fields: Learn why involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in decisions will be important to your future practice. Find the evidence, tools and arguments to advocate for and develop good practice when you enter the workforce.