Vulnerable Aboriginal children have been failed by Victoria’s child protection system and only a better understanding of the particular cultural needs of these children and families will improve outcomes, says Jesuit Social Services, following the release of a landmark report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People.
The Taskforce 1000 report, tabled this week, found that many children taken away from their home suffered physical, mental and cultural neglect across the child protection, police, education and health systems.
“In Victoria the rate at which Aboriginal children experience out-of-home-care placements is among the highest in the country. In 2014, Aboriginal children were nearly 12 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to have experienced an out-of-home-care placement. Urgent action is needed to prevent another Stolen Generation,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
The report contains 77 detailed recommendations and calls on the Federal Government to commit to Close the Gap targets aimed at reducing the number of Aboriginal young people in detention and in the child protection system.
Ms Edwards says the Taskforce 1000 report illustrates the importance of early intervention.
“Many of the 980 children and young people whose circumstances were investigated in compiling this report had experienced parental alcohol and drug abuse or family violence.
“Evidence shows us that children who have contact with the child protection system are at a higher risk of entering the youth justice system. Preventing vulnerable children from this engagement is key to creating safer communities, and we all have a role to play in achieving this.”
An example of a culturally appropriate service providing support to at-risk Aboriginal young people is Jesuit Social Services’ Barreng Moorop, delivered in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA). Barreng Moorop works intensively with 10-14 year old Aboriginal children, and their families, with involvement or at risk of involvement with the police. The organisation also works with remote communities in Central Australia, to support people to advocate for their own needs.
Ms Edwards says that Jesuit Social Services supports a therapeutic response that addresses the needs of vulnerable children, particularly those in the state care system who come into contact with the justice system.
“It is also crucial to note that many Aboriginal children and young people in the out-of-home care and youth justice systems have experienced disadvantage in areas such as health, housing and education. If vulnerable people are to flourish, they need support to engage with vital support services to allow them to flourish.”
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