The editorial headlined Don’t abandon abused children (The Australian, 22/8) suggests that issues of abuse in Aboriginal communities can only be solved by imposing drastic measures which further disempower community members.
Despite this, the author concedes that “ideally, no child, black or white, should be separated from their family and community”, and that “such action must always be a last resort and the wishes of those involved must be considered”. We know that punitive approaches favoured in the past do not work and continue to have detrimental effects on families and communities.
The best interests of children are truly considered where mechanisms are established which enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to participate in all decisions relating to the care of their children.
We are now seeing genuine partnerships established around Australia between state governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled agencies – partnerships that should be encouraged and applauded. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are instigating change and putting themselves at the centre of policy and practice reform. This kind of systemic change on this important issue is only successful if it is led by the communities affected.
This response was submitted to The Australian on 22 August 2017 by Dr Peter Lewis, SNAICC Acting Deputy CEO.