• "You don't just get taken away from your family out of the blue and expect to adapt." (AAP)
A Northern Territory teenager who ran away from 15 foster care homes and was forced to live on the streets said he longed to live with people from his own Indigenous culture.
1 Jun 2017 - 12:17 PM  UPDATED 5 Jun 2017 - 11:10 AM

The young man, identified as CJ, told the child protection royal commission he was angry and confused that he was never given a chance to stay with other relatives.

"You don't just get taken away from your family out of the blue and expect to adapt," he wrote in a statement.

"I always felt like I was alone in the system."

CJ said he was never given enough opportunities to see his parents and brothers.

"I would have at least liked to have been with Aboriginal people."

"Just the idea of being with family would have helped me I think, because I would have felt like I belonged," he said.

"And if they couldn't find family, I would have at least liked to have been with Aboriginal people."

CJ has been in and out of Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and was homeless in between foster homes while doing crimes to "look after" himself.

CJ, who has ADHD, was happy when he first arrived at Don Dale, stating 'it was mad having family around, but everyone started graduating to big jail.'

By the time he turned 16, CJ took off to Adelaide to live independently with his mates, the only family he felt he had at the time.

CJ soon developed depression and an alcohol addiction, but has never received drug counselling.

"I don't think I would have become the person I am... if I didn't go into care," he said.

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Around nine out of 10 NT kids in out of home care are Aboriginal, but only about 25 per cent of those kids are placed in kinship care.

Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Morrissey SC labelled this as 'abysmally low', considering NT law requires priority to be given to extended families and the broader Aboriginal community when kids are separated from their parents because of abuse or neglect.

Territory Families Out of Home Care Acting Executive Director, Marnie Couch said she would like those numbers to be much higher. 

"Every child deserves to be in kinship care where possible... where it doesn't compromise their safety."

Ms Couch said her department was working hard to recruit more kinship carers through a marketing campaign in five different languages, while also consulting families, local service providers, community leaders and councils.

But Mr Morrissey said many potential candidates aren't coming forward due to an 'endemic distrust' of the welfare department.

AAP

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