Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, has called for action on the over-representation of Indigenous children and young people in the child protection system, and for greater support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability.
Commissioner Gooda’s Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015, tabled today in Federal Parliament, describes Indigenous child protection as “one of the most challenging issues confronting our communities.”
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are approximately nine times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“Our children are our most precious resource and their innocence and their right to be safe, healthy and free from violence must be protected at all costs.
“We need to empower and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to break free from the cycle that brings them into contact with child protection authorities in the first place.”
The report calls on state and territory governments to establish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioners in their jurisdictions to oversee child protection reforms. The Commissioner also wants federal, state and territory governments to establish a National Institute of Indigenous Excellence in Child Wellbeing to coordinate research into Indigenous child protection.
Commissioner Gooda said more needs to be done to ensure the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to their culture and identity.
“The importance of cultural identity cannot be understated given what we know about culture as a protective factor for our young people,” the Commissioner said.
The Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015 makes 21 recommendations, including six measures to support and protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.
The Commissioner said the full extent of disability within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community must be ascertained, and programs and policies to address their needs must be monitored through a robust evaluation framework.
“Closing the Gap agreements should include a target for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability as an area for future action,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“We need to ensure there is culturally competent and appropriate engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS should draw on the expertise and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ensuring that local services and employment is prioritised.”
The report also examines Indigenous social justice and Native Title issues, including the impact of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, constitutional recognition, welfare and remote communities. It also reflects on progress in land and native title, and provides a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who want a new process of engagement for native title and land ownership.