The annual report on child protection from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW ) shows that the numbers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care are steadily rising - from 12,358 in 2011 to 15,455 in 2015.
Compared to the rest of the population, rates of Indigenous children in out-of-home care are nine-and-a-half times higher, and they’re also seven times as likely to be receiving child protection services in general.
The AIHW report says the legacy of the Stolen Generations, poverty and “cultural differences in child-rearing practices’’ might account for indigenous children’s over-representation in the child-protection system.
“Drug and alcohol abuse and family violence may also be contributing factors,’’ the report says.
“Indigenous children are also over-represented in other areas related to child safety, including hospital admissions for injuries and assault, experiences of homelessness, and involvement in the youth justice system.’’
It’s a rising tide that the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) CEO Gerry Moore says needs urgent government attention.
“It's very frustrating and this is why all governments, both state and federal, need to work together along with the peak organisations along with the community controlled organisations,” says Mr Moore.
While the report shows that taxpayers spent $3.6bn on child-protection services in 2014-15 — a 6.7 per cent increase in the space of a year- Mr Moore says Indigenous organisations have not seen an increase in funding.
He maintains that many Indigenous organisations in the sector have faced funding cuts or uncertainty under the federal and state government cuts.
“This has an effect on the decision making of peak organisations because basically the Aboriginal voice has been silenced,” he says.
KARI is the biggest Aboriginal foster care organisation in NSW and they say, considering the lack of commitment from governments, the rise in statistics in not surprising.
“Four years ago FACS [Family and Community Services] hired consultants to come in and streamline the foster care system and now we have no money for intervention, prevention or restoration,” says KARI CEO Paul Ralph.
“Why would you be surprised if you leave something for four years unattended and then things worsen?”
NSW is home to 40 percent of all Indigenous children in out of home care- over 6000 children.
Mr Ralph says due to the cuts, Indigenous children are ending up in mainstream services and not getting the specialised care that leads to a better out of home care experience.
“Getting our children to non-Indigenous services is a travesty- it’s not a way forward and it crosses the pathways of the stolen generation,” says Mr Ralph.