NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health News : Read @June_Oscar #strongcommunitiesnsw @AbSecNSW Speech plus Download the 56 page @AusHumanRights National Scorecard assessing outcomes for children rights across Australia.

“While most Australian children live in safe, healthy environments and do well, there are some groups whose rights are not well protected, which impacts negatively on their wellbeing and ability to thrive.

This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, children in care, children in rural and remote locations, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children,”.

AHRC National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell this week released a scorecard assessing outcomes for children rights across Australia. See AHRC Press Release Part 1 Below

Download the Scorecard HERE

ahrc_childrensrights_scorecard2019

“ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to face significant disadvantage across a range of domains relevant to their rights and wellbeing, including in health and education, discrimination, exposure to family violence, and overrepresentation in child protection and youth justice systems.

This overall disadvantage has roots in past government policies and practices, and the continued legacy of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage that these policies created. “

Current issues in the area of Aboriginal Children’s Health health see Part 2 Below or Page 23 of report

Read over 370 Aboriginal children’s health  articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years

The removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families is one of Australia’s most serious human rights concerns,

“Of the 99 deaths in custody investigated in 1991 in the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, it was found that almost half had previously been removed from their parents. We have to call out these systemic failings, where the overrepresentation of children in care, driven and compounded by poverty, makes unimaginable crisis all the more likely in our communities.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families and placed in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely to be in youth justice supervision than those who are not. “

In a powerful speech on November 20, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar called for government at all levels in Australia to “flip the system from crisis to prevention investment”.

The keynote speech, delivered at the AbSec Biennial Conference, draws attention to the direct and cyclical link between high rates of removal of Indigenous children into out-of-home care and poor outcomes for Indigenous communities across Australia. See Part 3 below 

Part 1 AHRC Press Release

One of the scorecard’s most significant recommendations is to raise the age of criminal responsibility. It makes clear there is no good rationale for detaining children under the age of 14, in any form of detention.

“All Australian governments need to recommit to the principle of child detention as a measure of last resort, because placing children behind bars amounts to taking away their childhood and disrupting their healthy development. It makes them more likely to go on and reoffend,” said Commissioner Mitchell.

The age of criminal responsibility in Australia is ten, which is low compared to many other countries, and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended all countries increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years.

“While most Australian children live in safe, healthy environments and do well, there are some groups whose rights are not well protected, which impacts negatively on their wellbeing and ability to thrive. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disability, children in care, children in rural and remote locations, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children,” said Commissioner Mitchell.

Mental health outcomes for Australian children are concerning, with suicide the leading cause of death for children aged 5–17 in 2017 and 35,997 hospitalisations for intentional self- harm in the ten years to 2017.

“There is a national shortage of mental health services and more needs to be done to care for the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people and much earlier in their lives,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

The scorecard calls on the Federal Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for driving children’s issues at the national level.

The scorecard also addresses children’s rights in relation to immigration detention and  the impact of climate change on children’s rights, health and an adequate standard of living.

Mikiko Otani, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child presented the scorecard at a conference at Melbourne University on November 20 .

It coincides with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Part 2

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to face significant disadvantage across a range of domains relevant to their rights and wellbeing, including in health and education, discrimination, exposure to family violence, and overrepresentation in child protection and youth justice systems. This overall disadvantage has roots in past government policies and practices, and the continued legacy of intergenerational trauma and disadvantage that these policies created.[i]

Current issues in the area of health include:

  • There are major gaps in data on important health issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.[ii]
  • Since the Closing the Gap target baseline was set in 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child mortality rates have declined by 10%.[iii] However, the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and non-Indigenous children has not narrowed, because the non-Indigenous rate has declined at a faster rate.[iv]
  • Ear disease is a significant health issue facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
  • In 2012–13, 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 2–14 were overweight or obese, compared with 25% of their non-Indigenous counterparts.[v]
  • The likelihood of probable serious mental illness has been found to be consistently higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children compared to their non-Indigenous peers.[vi]
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–17 accounted for 19.2% of all child deaths due to suicide between 2007–15. [vii]
  • The levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in children, especially those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are concerning.

Numerous studies confirm the negative impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of racial discrimination, including institutional racism.[viii] Settings that were identified as places of concern include employment, education, shops, public spaces and sport, health and justice.[ix]

Data on hospitalised injury among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between 2011–12 and 2015–16 show the most commonly reported perpetrator of assaults on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was a family member.[x]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be significantly overrepresented in Australia’s child protection systems.[xi] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are subject to care and protection orders at ten times the rate of non-Indigenous children.[xii] The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were subject to care and protection orders has steadily risen from 15,500 in 2014 to 20,500 in 2018.[xiii]

School attendance, literacy and numeracy outcomes did not meet the Closing the Gap targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children set by the Australian Government for 2018.[xiv] However, targets to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020 and to have 95% of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 are on track.[xv]

One in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home in the 2016 Census.[xvi]

While the National Curriculum for schools includes a framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, there is no national approach and the programs implemented in schools vary greatly across jurisdictions.

Current issues in the area of youth justice include:

  • While around 5% of children aged 10–17 in Australia are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, half (49%) of the children under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2017–18 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.[xvii]
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are overrepresented in both detention and community-based supervision at all ages but are particularly overrepresented in the younger age groups.
  • Children placed in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely than children in the general population to be under youth justice supervision in the same year.[xviii] This risk increases when the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.[xix]

Part 3 : In a powerful speech on November 20, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar called for government at all levels in Australia to “flip the system from crisis to prevention investment”.

The keynote speech, delivered at the AbSec Biennial Conference, draws attention to the direct and cyclical link between high rates of removal of Indigenous children into out-of-home care and poor outcomes for Indigenous communities across Australia.

“The removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families is one of Australia’s most serious human rights concerns,” said Commissioner June Oscar.

“Of the 99 deaths in custody investigated in 1991 in the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, it was found that almost half had previously been removed from their parents. We have to call out these systemic failings, where the overrepresentation of children in care, driven and compounded by poverty, makes unimaginable crisis all the more likely in our communities.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families and placed in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely to be in youth justice supervision than those who are not.

“If we fail to change the course, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care will more than triple over the next 20 years,” said Commissioner June Oscar.

“The numbers must be reversed. For this to happen we have to know the lives, the stories and histories that sit behind the statistics. This data cannot remain faceless it has to be told through our words and our experiences, our strengths and resilience, and our hope commitment and determination for a different future.

“A system that is siloed, operating free of our lived realities and contexts, segments our families across service sectors and institutions. When it comes to the protection, care and support of our children this approach is disastrous as there is limited focus on the systemic interconnected issues that need to be resolved for children to remain at home, and the vital supports that our parents and families need to keep children with them.

“For this to happen, Governments at all levels must change ways of working so that processes, policies, programs and services are community-led, strengths-based and trauma-informed.

“To effectively respond to the systemic issues we have to break the cycle of inequality and interventions.

“Changing this system is the responsibility of all Australians. Insisting that governments invest in prevention is about developing a national narrative of equality where everyone is given the best start in life and has the chance to succeed. To be all of who they are without fear of being dispossessed, taken away, condemned and discriminated against.

“The Australia we want is one that embraces, includes and celebrates our diversity. That is the society our children have belonged to since time began and it is the Australia they deserve and have a right to.”

You can read the full text of Commissioner June Oscar’s speech to the AbSec Biennale Conference here

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