More than words: SNAICC says a national strategy is needed to turn aspiration to reality
As Australia commemorates the anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children has called for deeper reflection on the commitment of all Australians to ensure history is not repeated.
SNAICC noted that, in the 11 years since the national apology, the number of children removed from their families has grown exponentially. In 2019, SNAICC said, there are over 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out-of-home care. First Nations children are now 11 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children. If urgent action is not taken, that rate is projected to triple in the next 20 years.
SNAICC Chairperson Muriel Bamblett said that the volume of children entering out-of-home care is a national crisis.
“The Family Matters reports have revealed that this is an issue in all states and territories, and that, despite various initiatives, governments have made little progress in turning things around. A national, whole-of-government approach with full participation and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is needed,” Ms Bamblett said.
The Closing the Gap refresh currently underway provides significant opportunity to drive a pathway to change – if it is co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and communities, SNAICC said.
Ms Bamblett called for genuine and respectful participation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and peak bodies and services across Australia, saying that such collaboration was “truly the only way a refreshed Closing the Gap can work”.
The Closing the Gap refresh will introduce a new series of targets, and – as announced in December 2018 – a partnership approach between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies. For real progress, SNAICC is calling for clear targets on out-of-home care accompanied by a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy; a strategy premised on self-determination and investment in prevention, consistent with the Family Matters approach.
Endorsed by over 40 leading child welfare, education and research organisations, the paper highlights different aspects of a holistic strategy needed to see all of our children thriving from the early years and onwards. Strong early childhood Closing the Gap targets, focused on parity in developmental outcomes, are critical to drive change and see redress of causes rather than symptoms.
Ms Bamblett said the present circumstances presented a “vital time for government to show us just how seriously they plan to tackle the problems our children face.
“We’ve had a number of our young people take their own lives in the last few weeks, and it’s barely made a ripple with government. We want to see national evidence-based commitments to change.”
Further information about SNAICC – National Voice for our Children can be found on their website.