More kinship and foster carers are urgently needed to keep up with high rates of Indigenous children in out of home care, according to a new campaign.
‘My Forever Family’ launched in New South Wales on Wednesday that aims to attract more Aboriginal people to become foster carers and help maintain cultural connections.
Currently, almost 40% of Australian kids receiving out-of-home care are Indigenous, despite making up only 5.5% of all children.
Wiradjuri man and Playschool presenter, Luke Carroll, chose to become an ambassador for the new campaign after growing up with his mother as a kinship carer.
"This is something that's pretty close to my heart," Mr Carroll said.
"35 years ago my mother took on board my cousin whose mother, my aunty, couldn't take care of her in the capacity that she needed,"
"I gained another sister at the time, and my mum - Being the proud, black woman that she is, made sure that my cousin had a loving family," Mr Carroll said.
The latest annual report from Family Matters - a group dedicated to addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out of home care - showed Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their homes than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being placed with Indigenous carers dipped to 45% in 2018, down from 49.4% the year before.
It's these continued alarming statistics that Mr Carroll said show the urgent need for our children to maintain connections with their communities.
"Culture is part of our being as Aboriginal people, and it's very important for us," Mr Carroll said.
"I want to help promote this and ask people to come on board and help those kids out there who need a loving family to be in and need that care,"
"If you’re able to take on board some foster kids, you’re in the right position to, please do so,"
"My Forever Family is a great organisation to contact and they can point you in the right direction. So please… Our beautiful kids out there that need help, I would love them to be with Aboriginal families," Mr Carroll said.
South Sydney NRL star Braidon Burns is also on board to help recruit carers, having had his own personal experiences with the foster care system.
Mr Burns recently became the legal guardian of his younger brother Dray.
He said in a statement, “You don’t have to be perfect to share our community with our kids, you just need to provide a safe and nurturing family home.”
Positive results for Queensland reform
Across the border, Queensland has moved into the next phase of addressing issues within the states out of home care system.
‘Changing Tracks 2017-2019’ was the first of seven consecutive action plans developed by the state government and Family Matters, that aims to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in Queensland grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture.
Positive signs in the 2019 report showed the state had the lowest rate of over-representation in out of home care nationally. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care has stabilised, after 14 consecutive years of increases.
This week, the 2020-2022 action plan was released.
Co-Chair of Family Matters, Dr Gerald Featherstone said there's been some progress in slowing the growth of the number of children in care.
“Only 42 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care are living with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kin," he said in a statement.
"We are hopeful that implementation of a Kinship Program will see more of our children remaining with family and our families being supported to take up this role,” Mr Featherstone said.
Part of the newest action plan involves Family Matters calling for a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy to be overseen by an independent national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner.