3 June 2015 | General Interest
The National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC) Bringing Them Home: scorecard report 2015 calls on governments and policy makers to urgently address unrealised human rights and self-determination in Australia’s child protection systems. It recommends the development of a comprehensive, bipartisan national strategy to implement outstanding Bringing Them Home recommendations, including accountability measures of both short- and long-term outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
The scorecard, the first since 2012, was released to commemorate National Sorry Day on 26 May. It provides an historical review and analysis of progress to date towards achieving the full implementation of all recommendations in Bringing Them Home (BTH), and goes on to present a series of high-level recommendations to guide governments’ future policy and program delivery.
“We believe that the unfinished business of the Stolen Generations needs to be front and centre in Indigenous affairs and the original Bringing them home recommendations offer a sound foundation towards achieving this,” the authors note.
The scorecard praises major success and milestones to date, including the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation and the Stolen Generations Working Partnership, and the substantial increase to funding for social and emotional wellbeing initiatives following the National Apology in 2008.
However, it also raises a number of serious concerns relating to lack of transparency in current partnership arrangements with government agencies, an ongoing failure to realise human rights and self-determination, and the ongoing lack of a national framework for implementation of the BTH recommendations. It emphasises the enduring relevance of BTH and urges policy makers to focus both on holistic support for members of the Stolen Generations, their families and communities, and on ensuring the rights-based safety of the current generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The scorecard finds that only 13 of the 54 detailed recommendations in the landmark BTH report have been implemented. Of these 13 recommendations, only two relate directly to the current generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- The creation of national standards for Indigenous Children (recommendation 44) through the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
- Amendments to the Family Law Act to recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to enjoy their own culture (recommendation 54), was achieved under the 2006 family law reforms.
Progress on other child-specific recommendations has been poor, with recommendations 45 to 53 inclusive all receiving fails in the scorecard report. These recommendations cover the implementation of National Standards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under state, territory or shared jurisdiction.
While all Australian jurisdictions now recognise (in legislation or policy) that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children should be placed within their own culture and community wherever possible, in practice children are still being separated from family and culture at unacceptable rates.
Since BTH was released in 1997 the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care has increased dramatically from 2,785 in 1997 to 14,991 in 2013-14, a rise of almost 440 per cent in 16 years. The scorecard report notes that recent research showed 22% of Victorian Aboriginal women reported child removal as a legal problem arising within the last two years, with many of these women also reporting difficulties accessing legal support.
The scorecard recommends that all states and territories act immediately to implement all unrealised BTH recommendations, and that those recommendations on the rights and safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children be realised through a self-determination framework that respects local knowledge while maintaining consistency across all jurisdictions in the recognition of rights. These comments align with SNAICC’s recommendations on full implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in all jurisdictions.
SNAICC supports the urgency to address unimplemented recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report. Through the Family Matters initiative SNAICC is working with NGO partners, communities and governments to address the unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia’s child protection systems.