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Time for a National Commitment to Indigenous Children

Thursday August 1st 2002 - for immediate release

Muriel Cadd, SNAICC Chairperson said today in the lead up to National Aboriginal and Islander Children's Day, (NAICD), Sunday August 4th, " that recent controversies surrounding the high rates of child abuse and neglect in Indigenous communities, the role of churches in responding to child abuse victims and the failure of State and Territory governments to respond to children at risk highlighted the need for a national commitment to protect children from harm. "

She added that, "When SNAICC was first formed 20 years ago we highlighted the need for a national approach to child welfare to ensure children in the care and protection system were properly cared for and just as importantly to ensure that primary prevention programs were established to keep kids out of the system. 20 years on the same problems exist with the States and Territories no closer to resolving the crisis in Australia's 8 separate systems of child protection. "

She said, " the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still over six times more likely to be removed from their families and placed in care tells us how badly the child protection systems are operating. In some States as many as half of those Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children removed from home are still being placed into non-Aboriginal foster care placements whilst many notified cases of possible abuse or neglect are not even investigated."

She said, " Australia's Indigenous communities are facing an ongoing crisis as family breakdown and child removals continue at appalling high levels. All States and Territories and the Commonwealth need to work in partnership with SNAICC and local Indigenous communities to support Indigenous families to cope with the ongoing impact of generations of dispossession, poverty, family violence, unemployment and substance abuse. "

Key measures SNAICC considered essential to providing social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families include:

  1. All States, Territories, the Commonwealth, SNAICC and ATSIC agreeing to a National Policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children which has as its central objective reducing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children still being removed from home for child welfare and poverty related reasons - currently over six times the rate for all other children.
  2. Establishing broad, holistic and accessible Indigenous family support services in all Indigenous communities to provide practical parenting and family support, prevent family breakdown and reduce the number of Indigenous children removed from their families by State or Territory welfare authorities
  3. Making a national commitment to early childhood development by expanding the number of Multifunctional Aboriginal Children's Services, MACS, and other early childhood services to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have access to quality child care and preschool education - currently less than half of Australia's Indigenous children can access pre school education and the proportion is declining.

She said " Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are massively over represented in the care and protection system and massively under represented in preschool education, child are and other early childhood development programs. Reversing this picture was the key to providing children with a better future."

She added that " NAICD is an annual event celebrated every year on August 4th having been established by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care - SNAICC in 1988. The aim of NAICD is to show our kids how important they are to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and society. "

Ms Cadd concluded, " Our children will continue to face an uncertain and difficult future if we fail to respond to these basic issues. Children depend on others to protect them from harm and abuse and to respond when they have been the victims of such crimes. The solutions to these issues will be found when all governments agree to work together with SNAICC and local Indigenous communities to develop a national commitment to children - a commitment SNAICC has been seeking for 20 years."

For this years NAICD SNAICC with the support of ATSIC has distributed posters, sample attached, to over 1200 Indigenous community organisations. On Sunday August 4th communities across Australia will hold local celebrations and events for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

More information

Julian Pocock SNAICC Coordinator (w) 039 482 9380 fax: 039 482 9157

Media interviews

Muriel Cadd SNAICC Chairperson (w) 039 471 1855 (m) 0407 802026


SNAICC Briefing paper - Indigenous Families socio-economic data


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