NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth #ChildProtection debate #CloseTheGap : Media reports linking STI rates to the abuse of children without evidence have come under fire from #Indigenous community leaders and organisations @congressmob @Malarndirri19 @OnTopicAus

 

” Indigenous organisations have called out comments by politicians and media who have linked STI rates among Indigenous children to abuse without substantial evidence.

The federal Children’s Minister David Gillespie was quoted in News Corporation paper the Courier Mail saying he was shocked by the rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Indigenous children and appeared to link the rates to abuse.”

Media reports linking STI rates to the abuse of children without evidence have come under fire from Indigenous community leaders and organisations. By Robert Burton-Bradley, Elliana Lawford see part 1 Below

” The debates in response to news coming out of Tennant Creek and about high STI rates in underage children have splintered. A narrow debate has centred primarily on whether or not to ‘remove children who have suffered’,” the statement said.

“Child abuse in any form, such as we have seen in Tennant Creek, requires that perpetrators must be brought to account in accordance with the law. Plus, it is important to help bring about appropriate responses, but those responses need to come in close consultation with Aboriginal people and organisations. Depicting our leaders as silent or ‘uninterested’ about what is happening in Aboriginal communities is not only counterproductive, but malicious.”

It is highly offensive and ignorant to link any form of child abuse with being acceptable in Aboriginal culture.” – National Congress

Download the Congress Press Release HERE

Shared Responsibility

We have a shared responsibility to ensure the rights of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to be safe and thrive in their families, communities and cultures. To achieve this, Closing the Gap targets should be expanded to:

  • ensure our children’s safety by including an additional target to eliminate the over-representation of our children in out-of-home care by 2040, sub-targets that address the underlying causes of child protection intervention; and
  • foster our children’s wellbeing and development by strengthening the current target on education to eliminate the under-representation of our 0 to 5-year-old children in early childhood education and care services by 2040

National Congress 1 – Tennant Creek Abuse & High STI Rates – Media Release Final 13th March 2018

“Debates facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.”

 Summer May Finlay see Part 2 below  

ICYMI Yesterdays post and responses

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth : No point in a one-size-fits-all fix for #STIs in #remote communities @AMSANTaus @CAACongress @Apunipima @TheAHCWA @atsihaw

Part 1 Debate

FROM NITV

Mr Gillespie acknowledged there may be concerns about creating another Stolen Generation, but says he’s more worried about creating an “abandoned and damaged generation”.

“I don’t want them recycled back into harm. I’ve had my eyes opened in the last couple of weeks … looking at STD rates (among Aboriginal children) is just mind-blowing,” he was quoted as saying.

“If a child is being raped we can’t just say it’s OK on cultural grounds.”

Federal Labor Senator for the Northern Territory and Yanyuwa woman Malarndirri Mccarthy told NITV News said politicians needed to be careful in the language they used.

“I think in terms of where this debate is going, I would remind political leaders that the language they use is important, absolutely critical here in making sure that other families, particularly here in the Northern Territory don’t feel vilified by particular comments which are just not helpful,” she said.

“The care and protection of Aboriginal children is everyone’s business — to isolate it to race is absolutely wrong and sets a very dangerous precedent for where our country is going if these debates are purely focused on the colour of your skin.”

The Courier Mail article this morning claimed Mr Gillespie was in favour of ‘white families’ being allowed to adopt Aboriginal child abuse victims, something they can already do in certain circumstances.

However, Mr Gillespie later told SBS News he was taken out of context and that he wanted more adoptions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

“I’ve never looked at life through the prism of race or culture,” he said.

Tennant creek has become the epicenter over a renewed attempt to link child abuse and Indigenous communities and calls for more child removals.

This morning in a statement, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said the claims by the minister and certain sections of the media, saying that STI rates were a result of abuse were wrong and had echoes of the NT Intervention.

Ms McCarthy said there were many reasons for STI infections and for reporters to assume they were because of abuse was naive and dangerous.

“That kind of reporting is very irresponsible if you are not speaking to the frontline health workers, to the Aboriginal community organisations, health organisations, which will be to explain in many circumstances the reason behind many particular rates of STIs,” she said.

National Congress said Indigenous communities and organisations were well aware of the issues in remote communities and had been working to resolve them, but pointed out that since the intervention that job had been made much harder.

“These peak organisations are aware of what is happening on the ground within Aboriginal communities in urban, regional and remote communities. Leaders from these organisations can never be said to be silent on child abuse, poor health and family breakdown. They are tireless advocates.”

“Aboriginal control of our own communities and the services in those communities have been greatly diminished. Appalling housing, health, education and employment statistics tell us that many Aboriginal people are experiencing great stress and hardship. They are struggling to take control of their lives.”

Additional reporting AAP

Part 2 Debate

 “Debates facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.”

 Summer May Finlay is a Yorta Yorta woman, academic, writer and a public health consultant. Summer has worked in a number of different areas relating to Aboriginal health and social justice including a term as a NACCHO Policy Officer                                         Follow Summer @OnTopicAus

FROM NITV

This morning, I woke to the continuation of a national debate about the need to place Indigenous  children with white families because of sexual abuse. Twitter soon became aghast with the all-white panel Sunrise convened to discuss the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families David Gillespie’s comments about placing Indigenous children with non-Indigenous families.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike. The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.

Gillespie has used the rates of STIs among young Indigenous people to justify his claims that the guidelines that that urge child protection agencies to place Indigenous children with Indigenous families, be relaxed.

To discuss the matter – ‘white families should be allowed to adopt Aboriginal children’ – Channel 7’s popular breakfast program brought together an entire non-Indigenous panel, none of whom had any experience or expertise in child protection matters or in Indigenous affairs.

What the panellists, Prue MacSween and Ben Davis (4GB) failed to mention was some of the most relevant information on the issue – there is a tenuous link between STIs and child abuse.

This was pointed out by two experts in the field, Professor James Ward from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Peter Markey head of disease surveillance at the NT’s Centre for Disease Control, who spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald on this very subject just last week.

As a nation, is the solution to remove these young people from their families or should we be looking at why they are having sex at a young age, and why – as is evident – that they are not protecting themselves?

Most young Indigenous people with STIs are over the age of 14. And most Indigenous people 14 years +  contract STIs from having sex with their peers. As a nation, is the solution to remove these young people from their families or should we be looking at why they are having sex at a young age, and why – as is evident – that they are not protecting themselves?

Not only is the justification of removing Indigenous children with STIs questionable, but Sunrise’s panel made sensationalist and frankly incorrect claims that Indigenous children are currently not placed with white families.

Not only is the justification of removing Indigenous children with STIs questionable, but Sunrise’s panel made sensationalist and frankly incorrect claims that Indigenous children are currently not placed with white families.

A quick Google search would have demonstrated the error of this belief.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures show that 68 per cent of Indigenous children are placed in the care of Indigenous people, which logic tells you then that the remaining 32 per cent must be with non-Indigenous families.

With British and Irish being the most common ancestries in the Australian population, this further suggests that Aboriginal children are currently in care with some “white families”.

In the case of adoption of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory (the region of these STI figures), government legislation makes clear that while adoption of Aboriginal children by other Aboriginal persons is given preference – as is placing the child with extended family or family in accordance with Aboriginal law – it does not rule out adoption by non-Indigenous families.

These legal principles have created on behalf of the devastating affects of the past that separated children from their families, communities and culture – not as Mr Davis puts it, “political correct nonsense”.

Sunrise would do itself a favour by at least hosting panellists who actually know what they are talking about, unless of course they don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story.

Like for instance, someone from the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC). SNAICC understands these issues more so than any person or organisation, or talkback radio presenter.

Not only are the claims children are only being placed with Indigenous families untrue, The Courier Mail’s reporting that Gillespie says Indigenous children should be placed with “white families”.

Does that mean only white Australian families are good enough, or can be trusted, to take care of Indigenous children? Adding another level to an already shaky structure, this Anglocentric view is a distraction from the real issues.

Such a publicised debate facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

So what are the real issues here? There are some Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and other jurisdictions where STIs have reached endemic proportions. This is troubling, and action needs to be taken. However, this is not the case across all Indigenous communities and such a publicised debate facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

According to the AIHW, 50 per cent of Indigenous children who are removed from their families come from the lowest socio-economic brackets, with the main reason for removal, neglect. Demonstrating what has been widely researched and reported on, that neglect and poverty are linked.

However, even addressing only the symptoms (neglect and abuse), removing Aboriginal children from their families and communities wouldn’t bring the significant change required to assist our young people to lead healthy, happy lives.

To reduce STIs we need to focus on access to health services, diagnosis and treatment of STIs, health literacy, needs-based funding and sexual health education.

To reduce Indigenous children in out of home care we need investment in early intervention programs with at risk families and address poverty. A wealthy country like Australia should be focusing on eradicating poverty, not whether enough Indigenous children are being placed with white families.

Media sensationalism does little for Indigenous people and is more about the white saviour mentality. We need politicians to look beyond the surface to the root causes. We need cool heads and community driven solutions.

 

 

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