SNAICC issue Statement of Concern in relation to Children and Community Services Bill
SNAICC has responded with concern to an amendment Bill that currently sits before the West Australian Parliament, proposing to amend the Children and Community Services Act 2004 to implement recommendations from the 2017 statutory review of the Act.
Specifically, SNAICC expressed their concern about Section 81 of the Bill, which will allow for an Aboriginal child to be removed from their parents following consultation with only one of the child’s family members.
Pairing up with The Noongar Family Safety and Wellbeing Council, SNAICC’s statement noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children now comprise 56 per cent of all the children who have been removed by the Western Australian Department for Child Protection, lamenting that the Bill fails to respond to this situation by adopting best practice models that are now being implemented in other states, especially Victoria and Queensland.
“We have, and will continue to, advocate for Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM), an evidence based process that involves the child’s extended family in decisions,” the statement read.
AFLDM, SNAICC said, is aligned with the human rights of our children and families to participate in child protection processes.
“We do not agree with Section 81 of the Bill, which will allow for an Aboriginal child to be removed from their parents following consultation with only one of the child’s family members. The additional requirement of further consultation with an Aboriginal Representative Organisation is also problematic in the absence of a clear requirement of an AFLDM process,” the statement continued.
SNAICC cited legislation in other states which has established clear requirements for independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives or organisations to facilitate the participation of a child’s extended family in significant decisions for a child’s care and protection.
The Bill, SNAICC fears, “will further disempower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children, who already experience systemic discrimination in society and the out-of-home care sector.”
“We have attempted since 2017 to advise the Minister for Child Protection and the Department for Child Protection to improve the legislation, but our concerns relating to the lack of provisions that require an independent process for family participation have not been taken up. Most recently, we requested that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Legislation for review,” the statement reads.
While the Prime Minister has, in his recent Closing the Gap address, promised a new approach, built on partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, on giving back responsibility to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the new amendment proposal does the opposite, SNAICC said.
“In the words of the Prime Minister, ‘We must restore the right to take responsibility. The right to make decisions. The right to step up.’ This is exactly what the process of AFLDM does, it gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families the right to take responsibility and make decisions that are good for our children.”
SNAICC argues that not only does the proposed amendment place these words in jeopardy, it also “goes against human rights principles set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which are supported by the Australian Government.”
As such, SNAICC and The Noongar Family Safety and Wellbeing Council have called on the Government to amend the Bill to require an independently facilitated AFLDM process for significant child protection decisions relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“In the absence of such an amendment, we call on the Parliament and the public to reject the Bill as law,” they said in closing.
To read the statement in full, please see here.