On the 18 February 2015 the Northern Territory Parliament passed an amendment to the Care and Protection Act 2007 (NT) establishing a scheme of permanent care orders for children and young people on other long-term orders under the Act. Of key interest for this article is the issue of cultural identity.
The Act does not mandate a cultural plan for indigenous children, and there are no safeguards protecting the cultural identity of the child once placed on a permanent care order with either a non-Indigenous family or indigenous family (who may not be from the same kin group as the child). In an environment where the child will no longer have a clear legal voice in their family arrangement on completion of permanent care order proceedings, there is a real risk Indigenous children will lose connection with culture, community and country—a situation that has been identified as resulting in a myriad of negative consequences.
The Northern Territory legislation provides a timely opportunity to examine and question generally the appropriateness of the system of permanent care orders throughout Australia. This is especially relevant for Indigenous children as they are significantly over-represented in the child protection and associated out-of-home care system.