27 January 2015 | General Interest
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) has come under attack twice in recent weeks in opinion pieces published in the Australian newspaper by Jeremy Sammut of the Centre for Independent Studies.
Sammut has argued the ATSICPP is anachronistic and sometimes being applied against the best interests of Indigenous children placed in out-of-home care. According to him, application of the principle — which aims to maintain children’s cultural connection and identity — “means some children are removed from dysfunctional families only to end up living in equally dysfunctional circumstances.”
SNAICC strongly disagrees with Sammut’s stance and is concerned that his opinion pieces contain a number of inaccuracies and misconceptions about the ATSICPP (as well as other Indigenous issues).
The principle has evolved since the 1980s and is designed to give a child’s family and community some measure of participation and influence over decisions about their children at all stages of the child protection process.
The principle isn’t confined to deciding where and with whom children will be placed; and the safety, wellbeing and best interests of the child is paramount in any decision taken under the principle.
In a letter to the Australian editor replying to Sammut’s second opinion piece (on 20 January), SNAICC Chairperson Sharron Williams said that as CEO of a child protection agency in South Australia (Aboriginal Family Support Services), she worked with the principle every day.
“Our communities care deeply about the safety of our children and our leaders would never make decisions to prioritise their cultural connection over their safety,” Ms Williams wrote.
“Such a decision would, itself, be against the values of our cultures! Given the opportunity, we could be more involved in ensuring our children are safe and connected to culture…
“Contrary to Sammut’s claims, generally it is the lack of implementation of this principle that drives further damage to children. Recent reviews estimate the principle has been fully applied in only 15 per cent of child protection cases involving Aboriginal children (Professor Fiona Arney).”