South Australia’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People on Wednesday released her report into the state’s removals and placements of Indigenous children.

The inquiry was launched in June 2022 to examine policies, practices and procedures used by the state government when removing and placing an Indigenous child.

Throughout her investigation, Commissioner April Lawrie heard from more than a thousand people including children and their parents as well as those working in the sector.

The report highlights 48 findings and brings 32 recommendations.

Some of the key issues raised in the report include:

  • South Australia’s child protection agency doesn’t have a defined strategy to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people.
  • There is insufficient funding to meet the demand for culturally appropriate early intervention services.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child placement principle has been taken out of the hands of Aboriginal communities.

Commissioner Lawrie told NIRS News that she found systemic racism and cultural bias contributing to the disproportionate rates of Indigenous children in out of home care.

South Australia “has a child protection system that heralds from the legacy of the protections era, so embedded in it is systemic racism and cultural bias, and these very things contribute to the disproportionate rates of Aboriginal child removals”.

She says half of all Aboriginal children have had least one child protection notification and while Aboriginal children only represent around five per cent of those under 18 in South Australia, they make up almost 38 per cent of of all children in out of home care.

Around 70 per cent of Aboriginal children in out of home care in South Australia have been placed with non-Indigenous carers.

“There’s a very good reason why this inquiry was conducted, to produce solutions to turn the curve”.

Some of those solutions Commissioner Lawrie has put forward include:

  • There needs to be a change in the way decisions are made, to include Aboriginal families in decision making.
  • Reinstate the primacy of the childs best interest and embedding the full Aboriginal child placement principle as the paramount consideration when considering their safety.
  • Abolish assessment tools that have proven to be culturally bias towards Aboriginal people which limits the likelihood of reunification of children with their families.
  • Empower communities and implement a distinct kinship care system.

Commissioner Lawrie says we are approaching levels akin to the Stolen Generations and if nothing changes today, we can expect 140 in every 1,000 children in South Australia to be in out of home care by 2031.

“Failure to act means the cycle will continue”.

(IMAGE: Supplied)

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