• Protesters march against the ever rising number of Indigenous children still being removed from their families, as seen in 'After the Apology'. (SBS)Source: SBS
As the state budget looms, groups fear the NSW government won't factor in funding to implement critical recommendations made in their own review of the child protection system.
Shahni Wellington

2 Mar 2020 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 2 Mar 2020 - 10:26 AM

Aboriginal children and young people continue to be alarmingly over-represented in the care and protection systems, the last data showing they make up almost 40% of those in out of home care in New South Wales.

While the state government has been handed a road map for change, there are doubts on whether those in power will follow through.

In 2017, the government announced an independent review of the New South Wales child protection system as it relates to Aboriginal children.

The Family is Culture review made 125 recommendations, including structural and legislative reform and establishing a new, independent Child Protection Commission.

Despite an urgent need for action, the New South Wales Government has only committed to "preparing advice on their suggested response" by 30 June 2020 – more than 7 months after the release of the report. 

On Monday, more than twenty Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations penned a letter to the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian and the Leader of the Opposition, Jodi McKay.

It reads:

"This is now over to you to demonstrate real action, real change for the thousands of Aboriginal children and young people impacted by the NSW child protection system.

"We cannot continue to stand by and witness the NSW Government continue to destroy the lives of Aboriginal children, families and communities. 

"We are calling on you to ensure that implementation of all 125 recommendations in the Family Is Culture report commences from 1 July 2020, and as such, call on your government to demonstrate this by allocating resourcing in the 2020/2021 NSW Budget."

Delays at a monumental cost

The report released its findings in November last year and highlighted that the state government is failing to protect Aboriginal children in its care.

Based on the current rates of removal of Aboriginal children from their families, more than 400 Aboriginal children will be removed from their family as the public awaits the government’s response.

NITV News contacted the New South Wales government regarding these concerns, including the Premier and the Treasurer, and were told it is committed to providing permanency for children in out-of-home care.

"The recommendations of the Family Is Culture report will be considered carefully and in their entirety," a spokesperson for Gareth Ward, Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services said in a statement.

"The Department of Communities and Justice is preparing preliminary advice in relation to the recommendations, which is expected to be delivered in the first half of 2020." 

Time to step up

The campaign includes Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, including SNAICC (National Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children), AbSec, AbCare and the New South Wales Women's Legal Service.

Tim Ireland, CEO of AbSec - the NSW Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation - said the state government needs to step up.

“Aboriginal communities are frustrated by seeing report after report gather dust on Department shelves while the outcomes for our kids only get worse," said Mr Ireland.

"The time for change is now, and that change must come from Aboriginal people."

Currently in New South Wales, 40% of children in out of home, or foster care, are Indigenous - nearly 10 times the rate of non-indigenous children.

That's despite only 5% of children in the state identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The trend is not contained to New South Wales.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, all jurisdictions with available data shows the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care was higher than that for non-Indigenous children.

In 2017–18, the national rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children receiving child protection services was 163.8 per 1,000 Indigenous children - 8 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.

The NSW child protection system is still in a state of crisis when it comes to protecting Aboriginal children
OPINION: AbSec has this week released its annual report card indicating that in the past 12 months, the number of Aboriginal children reported at risk of significant harm has risen by more than 15 percent and more than 33 percent since 2015.