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Our Children, Our Dreaming: A Call for a More Just Approach for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2013
12 pages
This paper examines the scope and nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in Australia's child protection services and outlines strategies for how this can be more effectively addressed.
In 2011-12, there were 32,979 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children ages 0-17 subject to notifications of abuse and neglect; 10,058 were subject to substantiated notification; 13,268 were subject to care and protection orders; and 13,299 children were living away from their family homes. The level of over-representation of these children and families increases the further their cases proceed within the intervention process. Once removed from their families' care, the children are not sufficiently supported in maintaining their connections with family, community, and culture. Since 2006-07, the level of over-representation at each stage of the child protection process has continued to increase. For the purpose of this paper, strategies for more effectively addressing the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities have been identified through a review of the literature, and organized under six themes. The six themes are rights, culture, and self-determination; trauma, disadvantage, and child abuse and neglect; holistic response; community responsibility and control; partnership; and sustainability. Each of these themes and the strategies identified are interconnected. Together, they provide a comprehensive, integrated approach for addressing the underlying issues identified as leading to the continuing removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities. Under each of these topics, this paper proposes strategies that will contribute to stronger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families that will prevent child abuse and neglect. When child protection is needed, proposed strategies will attempt to meet child protection needs without children having to abandon family, community, and cultural ties. 40 references