Indigenous children continue to be over-represented throughout the child protection system and in Foster and Kinship Care placements. On 30 June 2017, the rate of substantiated harm/risk of harm was 46 per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia, and 22.6 per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Queensland.
This means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were almost seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be the subject of substantiated reports of harm/risk of harm. A greater number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (34.1%) were the subject of substantiations of neglect when compared with non-Indigenous children (19.8%).
At 30 June 2017, 17,664 children in out-of-home-care were identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, at a rate of 58.7 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in every 1,000 children. This is 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community (HREOC) 1997 report, Bringing Them Home, concluded that some of the underlying causes for the poor outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and for the over-representation of Indigenous children in child protection and in out-of-home-care were:
We believe that the best way to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is to increase supports to families and communities to prevent family breakdown and decrease the number of Indigenous children removed from their families for welfare related reasons. In 2016–17, 57% of Indigenous children in Queensland were placed either with relatives/kin, other Indigenous caregivers or in Indigenous residential care.
That figure is still too low, with 43% of Indigenous children living in non-indigenous placements. We are committed to working together with families to support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in homes where they are culturally supported and connected.
A strong relationship with the community is the cornerstone of our organisation as it is with all Indigenous agencies. It is only in this way that effective, accountable services that meet the specific cultural and spiritual needs of Indigenous children, their families and the community will be managed and delivered.
Positive outcomes for Indigenous children in the child protection system will only be achieved if identity and connection to family and culture are actively maintained. We support the implementation of the Child Placement Principle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. Where it is necessary to remove a child from the day to day care of their family, a child should be placed with another family member or community member. Only as a last resort should Indigenous children be placed with non-related, non-Indigenous people in foster care or other settings.
Therefore, we support placements with relatives as the highest priority and also recruit, train, assess and support Indigenous peoples as foster carers so that Indigenous children can be placed with non-related Indigenous families. To ensure that our workers have the skills and knowledge to support carers, all team members, within three months of commencing employment, and annually, participate in the following training: