Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in NSW are over 10 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to live in out-of-home care. While the long-term consequences for these children will vary widely, it’s clear that the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care has a deep and long-lasting impact on individuals, families and communities.
These high rates of child removal are expected to increase over time. Modelling based on current trends indicates that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care nationally will almost triple in size by 2035.
To address these alarming trends, PIAC is working with the ALS on a unique partnership that seeks to address systemic legal issues leading to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NSW child protection system.
‘More than 20 years after the Bringing them Home report, these alarming trends in Indigenous child removal represent an urgent call to action’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor. ‘Legislative and policy reform as well as increased accountability of decision makers is essential to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.’
‘The ICPP combines the Aboriginal Legal Service’s years of experience in representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in care and protection proceedings, with PIAC’s expertise in strategic litigation and policy advocacy, in order to drive the necessary change,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.
‘There is a legal component to the removal of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child,’ said Principal Legal Officer of the ALS Care and Protection team, Gemma Slack-Smith. ‘The ICPP provides the resources and strategic approach we need to address legal issues we see repeatedly in child protection cases.’
The project has been developed following a year of consultations which identified legal barriers as a contributing factor to the increasing rates of removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Identified reforms include:
- comprehensive implementation of the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle;
- permanency planning that respects the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to family and culture;
- risk and safety assessment that is culturally appropriate and free from bias; and
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in decisions across the child protection and family systems.
Brooke Greenwood, who leads the project, works between the ALS Care and Protection team and PIAC to coordinate a strategy for achieving these reform priorities using a combination of law reform, policy advocacy and potential test cases.
‘We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children flourish when they are safe and connected to their culture, families and communities’ said Brooke Greenwood. ‘This project is a rare opportunity to address systemic legal issues that lead to disproportionately worse outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NSW child protection system.’