Queensland makes 'new stolen generation'

Margaret Wenham | www.news.com.au | August 11, 2009

Queensland's reformed child protection system is creating a new "stolen generation", says a group of concerned Brisbane elders.

Supported by government statistics showing the number of indigenous children being removed from their homes has risen nearly 140 per cent over the past four years – and from constant close contact with many families caught in the system – the group, Aboriginal Women for Change, want reform.

"When Prime Minister (Kevin) Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation in February 2008, he said 'this must never happen again', AWC founding member and Anglican minister Alex Gater said yesterday.

"Well, it is happening again and we don't want lip service, we want action."

Ms Gater said the group, comprising herself and six other women, intended to muster Brisbane's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to a rally outside Parliament House on August 20.

She said the group offered support and mentoring to young parents whose children were the subject of Department of Child Safety notifications, or who had children removed and were fighting for their return.

AWC member Vanessa Kirk said the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Care agencies, which were supposed to work with indigenous families caught in the child-protection system, were more likely to act as agents for the department rather than as an advocate or support service for families.

She said DOCS policy and procedure had to recognise the importance of traditional Aboriginal family values and the strong links between extended family and elder groups in many suburbs and regions that could assist struggling parents.

The department's young, inexperienced and predominantly white workforce – with its higher-than-public-service-average turnover of frontline staff – also was disastrous for Aboriginal families, she said.

The rallying call from elders followed the first meeting at Parliament House last week of groups working to highlight the over-representation of indigenous children in the system and give a voice to Aboriginal solutions.

Reforming child protection in Queensland : a review of the implementation of recommendations contained in the CMC's Protecting children report / Crime and misconduct commission Natioanl Library of Australia

Reforming child protection in Queensland - REPORT June 2007 - pdf

Support services and programs aimed at preventing child abuse, protecting children and supporting families affected by child abuse are primarily a state and territory responsibility. At present, the Commonwealth plays a relatively minor role in child abuse prevention through the funding of the National Child Protection Clearinghouse, the collection of data and a few specific programs. However, more public attention and concern about child abuse in recent years has seen an increasing role for all governments with respect to child protection policies, strategies and programs designed to help alleviate the problem. The Rudd Government has committed to developing a National Child Protection Framework which is likely to focus on more effective prevention strategies, inter-agency collaboration and data collection across jurisdictions.

Child abuse and protection in Australia
Background Note 18 March 2009 - by Janet Phillips, Social Policy Section - Parliament of Australia Library

Protecting Children is Everyone's Business - National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009–2020 - Commonwealth of Australia 2009

Child protection legislation

The Child Protection Act 1999 is the legal framework guiding the Department of Child Safety in child protection.

Core principles of the Act in relation to child protection are:

  • the welfare and best interests of the child are paramount
  • the preferred way of ensuring a child's welfare is through support of the child's family
  • intervention is not to exceed the level necessary to protect the child
  • family participation in planning and decision making for children
  • consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies in decision-making regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • children and families have a right to information
  • services are to be culturally appropriate
  • coordination, consultation and collaboration with families, other professionals, agencies and the community
    accountability of the department.

Source: Queensland Government

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves recently launched the Blueprint for Implementation: strategy for addressing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Queensland's child protection system (the Blueprint).

The Blueprint provides the Department of Communities with a strategic framework to implement recommendations of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Safety Taskforce's (the Taskforce) Together Keeping our Children Safe and Well report over the next 12 months.

The Taskforce was established in October 2009 to advise the department on strategies to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection system.

The Blueprint has been developed on the premise that the care, safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is our shared responsibility and that all children have the right to grow up in a safe and supportive family environment.

It recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a particularly strong need to be connected with their community.

To get the best outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, the implementation strategy highlights the critical need to partner and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and non-government organisations, support families earlier and build localised community and service capacity.

Four key areas had been identified as needing improvement:

  • sharing a common vision and commitment
  • providing the right services at the right time
  • ensuring the existence and application of sound legislation, policy, practice and procedures
  • building a robust network of Indigenous service providers.
  • The vision was for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to grow, with their families and connected to their culture, in a safe and nurturing environment.

There are eight key themes to the strategy:

  1. Work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to actively participate in policy, planning and service implementation related to their children, community safety, health, housing and wellbeing.
  2. Focus on Prevention and Early Intervention services and support families earlier.
  3. Design community-based service responses that focus on parent and family risk factors including drug and alcohol problems, family violence and unresolved issues of child abuse experienced that may lead to a cycle of child abuse and neglect.
  4. Strengthen non-government sector services ensuring they are an effective safety net for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
  5. Take a community development approach which includes partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the sector to build community environments and practises which are safe and conducive to family wellbeing.
  6. Scope, review and reform components of the child protection legislation and system which impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families and ensure implementation is monitored and evaluated.
  7. Strengthen service implementation and accountability across government and community sectors to better meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and their children.
  8. Take a holistic, collaborative and inclusive approach in policy planning and service implementation and include social disadvantage factors such as housing, education, health and wellbeing.

An advisory group will be established to monitor the Blueprint.

Last updated 21 December 2010

Source: Queensland Government