Closing the Gap target for children in out-of-home care not being met

Indigenous, News | Posted June 24, 2021
Closing the Gap target for children in out-of-home care not being met

By Dr Lisa J. Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer, OzChild

Closing the Gap means everyone can enjoy a long and healthy life, that children can thrive and achieve their full potential while maintaining a connection to culture, community, and family.

Sadly, a report released by the Productivity Commission reveals the target to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031 is not on track to be met.

In fact, instead of reducing the number of First Nations kids in care the number has increased. Nationally in 2020, an increase of 2.1 per 1000 children on the number in 2019. Even more worrying is the prediction the number will double in the next ten years!

In Victoria, South Australia and in the ACT, the increase in numbers is alarming, and the bells should most certainly be ringing for all of us.

While important steps have been taken, the quest to Close the Gap is far from over. These findings are a stark reminder of the need to look at the priority reforms put in place to improve outcomes for our First Nations People.

Our ability to effect real change is not being met. The right to self-determination by Indigenous communities through the delivery of high-quality, culturally safe, and responsive programs and services that meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country is not being delivered.

If we are to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care we must get serious about it, starting with real action and real partnership to improve the experience of First Nations People when working with services.

Our governments must invest in the right support transferring power and resources to community. Aboriginal children should be with their mob and that includes being supported by an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. Funding is vital for community-controlled organisations to ensure they have what they need to deliver early intervention services for Aboriginal families.

The reality is we must do things differently, we cannot keep going down this same track if we are to keep families together.

The effect of the removal of children, not only from their parents, but from their culture and community is immense.

Removing children doesn’t break the cycle, if anything it contributes to a worsening cycle, we know that.

Intervening early, preventing the removal of children is paramount in keeping kids with family, with community and a vital part of breaking the cycle. Building trust and partnerships within communities to build and progress self-determination is essential if we are to make any kind of difference.

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