Identifying risk early and helping families before removal could reduce Aboriginal over-representation in the child protection system, an inquiry has been told
The number of Indigenous children in the child protection system will double over the next decade if nothing is done to address over-representation, an inquiry has heard.
Royal commission hearings examining the experiences of Indigenous people with disability and their contact with child protection services continued in Brisbane on Friday.
Commissioners heard that just over 20,000 Indigenous children were in the system in evidence provided by chief executive of the peak body Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, Richard Weston.
"If nothing is done to address that over-representation, then within 10 years time we will see that figure at 40,000," he said.
Mr Weston said the system was not geared toward identifying risk early and connecting families with services before the removal of their kids.
"The system pretty much operates on a report, substantiate, remove process," he said.
An Aboriginal mother from South Australia gave evidence that she was left confused about whether or not she had an intellectual disability after an assessment with a child services psychiatrist.
Commissioners were told a subsequent assessment performed by a psychiatrist organised by her lawyers identified a mild intellectual disability and she received guidance to access NDIS support.
Thelma Schwartz of the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service told the hearing of an early intervention program operating in some regions of the state.
"Let's say it's an issue of not having adequate housing, it's an issue of drugs and alcohol, it's an issue of family violence. How do we address this to support you to take back control and make you safe, thereby your children safe?" she said.
Mr Weston said resources should be reallocated toward supportive programs delivered by Aboriginal run organisations.
He said the cost of keeping children in care was far greater than keeping them out.
"The taxpayer is not getting much bang for their buck from a $6 billion annual spend," he said.
NSW Department of Communities and Justice secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter told the disability royal commission hearing of the fear held by families and staff in the system.
He said parents were afraid of having children taken "for no good reason", while staff feared contributing to the serious injury or death of a child.
In his closing remarks, senior counsel assisting Lincoln Crowley said it was critical child protection systems recognise the ability of disabled parents to look after their children and provide support at an early stage.
He said this was critical so children were not denied the right to live with their family.
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