Over the past six months, I have visited communities across South Australia to talk with Aboriginal people about their recent experiences of removal and placement of Aboriginal children and young people into care. Others have met with me privately or provided a written submission.

I acknowledge the strength and resilience that community members have shown and thank people for entrusting me with their stories so that together we can bring about positive change for Aboriginal children and young people.

These stories are helping us to build a picture about how the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle is applied in removal and placement decisions.

Engagement has commenced with sector stakeholders, including employees in the Department for Child Protection.

Themes emerging from community engagement include:

  • Limited referrals and support to families before problems escalate
  • Insufficient and late involvement and participation of children and families in decision-making
  • Lack of engagement with the Aboriginal community to identify and support Aboriginal family members when placing children in out-of-home care
  • Insufficient connection of children in out-of-home care to family and culture, especially in non-Aboriginal placements
  • Lack of partnerships with the Aboriginal community in design and delivery of policy and services
  • Lack of cultural knowledge and capability across the service system
  • Deficit-focused practice for working with Aboriginal children and young people and families
  • Lack of accountability for decision-making.

The Inquiry team has reviewed more than 500 documents from State authorities, including policies, procedures, reports and training programs. I’m pleased to also have Dr Fiona Arney and Alwin Chong leading a literature review.

In the new year, our focus will shift to gathering more data and evidence through case file and administrative data reviews.

We will examine key themes from the forums and written submissions and test emerging findings through a series of hearings.

Please remember the closing date for submissions has been extended to 28 February 2023.

Thank you for your ongoing interest in this Inquiry. I wish you a happy and safe festive season.

April Lawrie | Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People