For Black lives to matter, our children must be a priority SNAICC CEO says
In the wake of increasing global attention to the issues of race and inequality, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children has joined the call against systemic racism, saying that it is currently “embedded in government policies and decision making at all levels, disproportionately impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, youth and adults alike”.
SNAICC CEO Richard Weston spoke about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which talks about the “torment of our powerlessness” when referring to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in detention, in out-of-home care and high rates of incarceration of adults.
These issues, he said, are at the heart of the change we need to see in our nation now.
Mr Weston said that while the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are living “happy and healthy lives, there is a worrying trajectory towards youth justice, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.”
Currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are 17 times more likely to be in juvenile detention, and represent 49 per cent of young people under supervision in the justice system on an average day (2017–18), despite only making up 5 per cent of youth aged 10–17 years.
“There is much work to be done to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and non-Indigenous children. Our children are 2.6 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than other children when they start school, and 10.6 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children,” Mr Weston added.
He highlighted the importance of the early years in ensuring children grow up “strong in their identity and culture,” noting the role of the new Closing the Gap Agreement as one avenue and opportunity to enable change, so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children “have the opportunity to realise their full potential”.
The Co-Design of a Voice to Parliament is another important opportunity, he continued, cautioning that neither represented “an end game” but rather that both initiatives are “ critical steps towards Constitutional Recognition and ultimately to a settling of matters between First Nations people and all Australians – in other words a Treaty.”
“The events of the last two weeks demonstrate that until we gain control over our own destiny we will never be free of the intergenerational impacts of Australia’s settler history. SNAICC continues to work closely with governments and communities to improve outcomes for our children, because they deserve a future that ensures their lives do matter,” Mr Weston said in closing.
To learn more about SNAICC, please see here.