The Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie has today released a preliminary report from her Inquiry into the removal and placement of Aboriginal children in South Australia.
The Inquiry, launched in mid-2022, has been examining how the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle is applied in the removal and placement of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.
The principle was designed to recognise the importance of safe care for Aboriginal children within family and culture.
The report draws attention to early issues and includes 17 recommendations to the South Australian Government’s proposed reform of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017.
The Commissioner’s preliminary observation is that policy, service development, practices, and procedures do not lead to the principle’s effective application. As a result, the government is not achieving the objectives of:
- reducing the numbers of Aboriginal children and young people removed from their families
- ensuring Aboriginal children and young people grow up safely in the care of their kin, community and culture, if removed.
Nearly 1,000 people have shared their experiences and stories, including Aboriginal children, young people, families, Elders and community members together with people working in child protection and family support services.
The Inquiry has also included a review of literature and policy documents to better understand issues and systemic responses, with more than 890 documents reviewed and 22 case file audits completed to date. A total of 44 submissions were received from 21 organisations and 23 individuals.
The Commissioner will soon be conducting a series of public hearings before the Inquiry makes its final report, anticipated before release early next year.
Commissioner Lawrie said Aboriginal children were over-represented in child protection at devastating rates.
“A child’s cultural identity develops through connection to family, community and Country,” Commissioner Lawrie said.
“Disconnection will only continue the cycle of disadvantage, poverty and trauma.
“South Australia needs a system that enshrines connection to culture, family and community as a birthright for Aboriginal children. Family and culture is everything.”