NACCHO Aboriginal children’s health and safety #wehavethesolutions : We share responsibilities to ensure the right of every Aboriginal child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture

 

‘ No one is advocating to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in unsafe situations. On this we are all in agreement.

We share responsibilities to ensure the right of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture. Their safety is paramount, our children must be kept safe.

However, if a child is removed to ensure their safety, they must have the most appropriate placement with processes, supports and accountabilities in place to ensure their safety while enabling cultural continuity and connection to kin.

It is simplistic, divisive and destructive to link culture with abuse. Any accusation that culture is being used as an excuse to harm children is false.

Any suggestion that a child’s safety would be willingly compromised for the sake of culture is misguided, hurtful and untrue.

Most of our children are living in safe environments with their parents, with strong connections to their culture, because culture and child safety are not mutually exclusive.

From Family Matters press release continued Part 1 Below

In February, Rose’s two-year-old daughter was raped in Tennant Creek. The toddler sustained horrific injuries, requiring surgery and a blood transfusion. She also tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease.

Following the incident, the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner released an Own Initiative Investigation Report into the incident.

The report states that since 2002, the family had been involved in 35 recorded incidents of domestic violence, eight aggravated assault convictions against the other parent, more than 150 recorded interactions with police, and 52 child protection notifications – which included allegations of domestic and sexual abuse.

All 14 of the recommendations of the report were accepted by the Northern Territory Government, triggering an overhaul of the state’s child protection.

The mother of the toddler who was sexually abused in Tennant Creek speaks out for the first time see Part 2 below, exclusively to NITV’s The Point.

 ” The Prime Minister copped a serve from the NT News this week, which accused him of not caring about the abuse of kids in indigenous communities. The story noted how long it’s been since Turnbull visited the Territory (nine months) and how little he’s said about the rape of a two-year-old girl in her Tennant Creek family home in February.

The criticism for not visiting the Territory was fair. The suggestion Turnbull doesn’t care about the safety of kids was harsh.

The Tennant Creek case was an appalling failure of the NT government’s own agencies, which failed to act despite more than 50 warnings. It was the latest in a long list of failures by the NT Families Department.”

See Part 3 David Speers SkyNews

 

SNAICC put it simply in its recent submission to the Closing the Gap “refresh”:

“We have a shared responsibility to ensure the right of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture.”

It has been 10 years since COAG’s Closing the Gap strategy began.

In that time, only three of the seven national targets are reported as being on track and four are due to expire in 2018. COAG is currently undertaking the Closing the Gap ‘refresh’ process.

This process is a unique opportunity to influence the next phase of the CTG agenda, which will form the framework over the next 10 years for all Australian governments to advance outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It will also provide the framework for how government funding is prioritised to meet the targets.

SNAICC’s Key Calls

We have a shared responsibility to ensure the right of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture. To achieve this:

  • an additional Closing the Gap target should be included to eliminate the overrepresentation of our children in out-of-home care by 2040, with sub-targets that address the underlying causes of child protection intervention; and
  • the current Closing the Gap target on early childhood education should be  strengthened to encompass early childhood development and  expanded to close the gap in outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from birth to 4 years by 2030

Download the SNAICC Submission HERE

SNAICC_Brief-CTG_Refresh-Apr._2018

10 years of action by Congress ACCHO in Central Australia

Like most Aboriginal males in Central Australia I am sick of going to funerals and seeing our courts, jails, health clinics and hospital filled with brothers and sisters who have been involved in family violence.

It is time that Aboriginal males stood up both morally and culturally, taking positive action and a zero tolerance approach to stop the excessive violence in families, communities and towns, a crisis that is having a devastating effect on community members of all ages and genders, especially the children.

John Liddle Congress ACCHO  Male Health Service Manager

See Media Coverage

 “The key objectives of this Congress ACCHO Stop the Violence workshop was to bring together a mixture of 120 elders and leaders from Central Australian communities, Alice Springs and town camps to address the issue of family violence and to learn about cultural brokerage and conflict resolution.

This gathering follows from the meeting in 2008 where over 400 males acknowledged and said sorry for the ‘hurt, pain, and suffering caused by Aboriginal males to Aboriginal women and families.

During the workshop, the delegates were joined by over 20 stakeholders on day two to stop the violence in Aboriginal communities to review current service delivery and future needs.

As the delegates discovered in the workshops the reasons for the violence are many, whether it is alcohol-related, result of living in high stress environments or the constant disempowerment of Aboriginal males by government policies.

These reasons were identified, expanded on and solution developed as you will see in this workshop report ”

Download the Report Part 1 Stop the Violence workshop Final report BL

Part 1 From Family Matters press release

The issues are complex, and the outcomes are tragic. There are currently ten Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children in the out-of-home care system for every-one non-Indigenous child and the numbers are projected to treble by 2035 if no effective action is taken.

Family Matters is calling for a new approach, one that is robust, transparent and accountable. The current system does not work and in fact exacerbates the existing disadvantages and trauma experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.

Closing the Gap must aim to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 2040.

To achieve this while keeping children safe will require a dramatic restructure to the investments in early years education and care and early identification, support and intervention services for families. Currently less than $1 in every $5 of child protection funding is spent on support services for children and their families.

There must be a national recognition of the need for investment in strengthening families prior to the emergence of protective issues. We must work to ensure that the drivers of child protection intervention are addressed, rather than continuing with a poorly designed and resourced system that reacts when it’s too late, after families have already reached breaking point and children have been harmed.

If we continue to tear families apart without addressing issues including poverty, disadvantage and trauma that underlie neglect and abuse, then the next generation will be removed in even greater numbers.

We reject the simplistic and uninformed cries to remove children at risk and permanently adopt them to non-Indigenous families, as this ignores the complexity and severity of the underlying causes that have brought us to this point.

This new approach requires not only adequate resourcing but also the transition of power to communities and the Aboriginal community-controlled organisations that service and support them. The process must be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We understand the situation in a way that no one else can; the complex issues, our cultures and our social structures. We have the highest stakes in this matter – the safety and wellbeing of our own children and the effect that their removal has on our families and communities.

Family Matters notes and supports the Labor commitment to holding a major summit on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within its first 100 days of government, which will involve all those working in frontline services to protect Australia’s children. This must be underpinned by an investment in a National Aboriginal Children’s Strategy that includes child protection in the Close the Gap priorities. It must be overseen by a National Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner supported by jurisdiction-based commissioners that are independent and well-resourced.

Part 2 EXCLUSIVE: Mother of sexually abused Tennant Creek toddler speaks out

As the sun sets on a winter afternoon in an Adelaide suburb, a mother contemplates all that she has been through over the past few months.

For Rose* this city symbolises hope – a new beginning for her and her young family, after the horrific rape of her two-year-old girl in the small Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek.

“I have a nice place here, it’s a nice neighbourhood, and I just want to live here and live with my children and give my children what they need,” Rose told The Point.

In February, Rose’s two-year-old daughter was raped in Tennant Creek. The toddler sustained horrific injuries, requiring surgery and a blood transfusion. She also tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease.

Following the incident, the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner released an Own Initiative Investigation Report into the incident.

The report states that since 2002, the family had been involved in 35 recorded incidents of domestic violence, eight aggravated assault convictions against the other parent, more than 150 recorded interactions with police, and 52 child protection notifications – which included allegations of domestic and sexual abuse.

All 14 of the recommendations of the report were accepted by the Northern Territory Government, triggering an overhaul of the state’s child protection.

However, Rose told The Point she rejects what has been reported about her in the media, labelling negative statements as assumptions about her and her life.

“Just don’t go talking about my life, and putting my picture up, painting me as a bad mother. I’m not a bad mother, I’m a good mother. I worry about my children and their safety, and I love and care about them,” she said.

We can’t talk about the events of that night for legal reasons, but Rose insists that it wasn’t her fault and that she’s been unfairly portrayed.

“The media’s blaming me, putting my face up, saying that I’m an alcoholic, but I’m not. I’m a social drinker. I look after my children and my family,” Rose said.

“The media said that my house was a party house, but it wasn’t. We didn’t drink there much. It’s just that some people would come past and sit down with their alcohol in my yard because they weren’t allowed to go and drink outside of town.”

Alcohol restrictions in communities such as Tennant Creek came into place in 2007 under the Howard Government with the Northern Territory National Emergency Response.

Also known as the Northern Territory Intervention, it was called after reports of ‘rampant’ child sex abuse and domestic violence.

But as someone with lived experience, Rose sees the alcohol restrictions as more of a problem than a solution. She believes things could have been different for her family if they didn’t exist.

“That’s when they loaded up houses, townhouses with alcoholics,” Rose said.

She said that people used to go out bush to drink, but the restrictions mean people need to drink at a house with a permit.

“They can’t drink outside of town because it’s restricted and they have to have [an] address and have ID to help get alcohol and drink it at the house,” she explained.

“This (her daughter’s rape) could have been avoided if people were allowed to drink everywhere, out of town.”

Tennant Creek

A sign in Tennant Creek outlining alcohol restrictions.

Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne said that alcohol is still a problem in Tennant Creek, but said she would like to see further restrictions, not less.

“All you’ve got to do is take a look since they’ve turned the tap off. Since the alcohol restrictions have come in, there’s less presentations at the hospital, there’s less violence, crime has gone down, it’s a different town,” she said.

“Alcohol is a significant problem in the Northern Territory, and we need to seriously consider further restrictions to other areas of the Northern Territory.”

The report also said that Rose’s children “regularly sought safety and regularly self-placed with different extended family to avoid returning to the care of P1 who was often intoxicated or impacted upon by the effect of family violence”.

But Rose refutes this claim; explaining she and her children waited nine years for housing.

“Me and my children were homeless. And my side, I thought it was better for my children to stay with my family so I can wait for my house in Tennant Creek. If not they’d get me off the list and give the house to another person,” Rose said.

Gerry Georgatos from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service (NICRS) has worked with Rose since the incident occurred, as well as with others in the Tennant Creek community in the past.

He believes that families in the dysfunctional town are not receiving the support they need.

“I can’t say much other than the mother and youngest children now have an opportunity at improved life circumstances. Authentic hope and aspirations [were] denied to them in their impoverished homeland community in Tennant Creek,” Mr Georgatos said.

“The relocation to Adelaide and the support from the NICRS and others supporting the family has been vital. They didn’t have this support availed to them when they needed [it] during the years living in and near Tennant Creek.

“The neglect of this family in [their] time in Tennant Creek is like a writing on the wall explanation of all that’s wrong with Northern Territory governments and institutions forever failing the vulnerable.”

Part 3 David Speers

THE child sexual abuse royal commission was easily Julia Gillard’s most worthy act as prime minister.

It uncovered a culture of abuse, cover-up and complacency. It helped expose paedophiles and led to real change.

Gillard deserves great credit for ­initiating the inquiry, as does Malcolm Turnbull for his government’s response. A national redress scheme for victims has now been agreed, laws are being changed and a national apology will be delivered. None of this has been easy.

But it’s worth remembering this royal commission was limited in its scope. It dealt with child sexual abuse in institutions — churches, schools, the Scouts, sporting clubs and so on.

It did not look at children being sexually abused in the family home. Yet, sadly, this is where most abuse ­occurs. In 70 to 80 per cent of child sex abuse cases, there is a familial ­relationship between the victim and the offender.

In other words, the perpetrator is most often a father, stepfather, uncle, neighbour or family friend.

As Gillard said when announcing the royal commission back in 2012, “any instance of child abuse is a vile and evil thing”.

As Turnbull said in his response on Wednesday, “any abuse of children, in any context, in a family or in an ­institution, is unacceptable”.

They are both right. Any abuse of a child is vile and unacceptable. Yet abuse in the family home appears to be steadily rising.

According to the Productivity Commission, the number of children in out-of-home care grew by more than 50 per cent over the past decade.

The number of indigenous kids placed in care nearly doubled.

These are shocking statistics.

The Commonwealth cannot run state or territory departments, but it can do more to help stop the abuse of kids, both indigenous and non-­indigenous.

One of the big problems when it comes to child abuse in the Territory is the lack of information sharing.

In fact it’s a big problem nationally as well.

Police, schools, GPs, childcare centres and soccer clubs should be able to share information with each other about suspected abuse. They should be able to share this information across state borders. Yet too often privacy laws prevent them doing so.

Another problem is the dog’s breakfast of mandatory reporting rules. Each state and territory has a different set of rules, making it difficult to work out exactly who is ­required to report exactly what signs of abuse.

Despite its focus on institutions, the royal commission made important recommendations to fix this mess more generally.

Along with clearing up what needs to be reported, it called for nationally consistent laws to share information on children s safety and wellbeing. It specifically recommended an information exchange scheme to operate in and across Australian ­jurisdictions.

For all the focus on whether priests should break the seal of confession, this recommendation on information sharing would have a far greater impact in protecting kids, both in the Northern Territory and every other state. Unfortunately, this recommendation is also proving to be one of the most difficult to adopt.

Tennant Creek aerial photograph.

An inter-jurisdictional working group is trying to put this information exchange scheme in place, but a source says there is still a lot more work to be done

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal children’s health and safety #wehavethesolutions : We share responsibilities to ensure the right of every Aboriginal child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture

  1. Pingback: NACCHO Aboriginal children’s health and safety #wehavethesolutions : We share responsibilities to ensure the right of every Aboriginal child to be safe and thrive in family, community and culture — NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alerts – Business

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