2021 SNAICC National Conference, Virtual Conference
In 2021, the SNAICC National Conference diverted from tradition, hosting our first ever virtual conference in the wake of a year blighted by COVID-19.
Whilst we dearly missed the opportunity to connect in-person with our friends, our communities, and our colleagues, over 950 delegates joined us from rooms all over the country to double down on our collective efforts to celebrate and see the fulfillment of the rights of our children.
This year SNAICC – National Voice for our Children celebrated 40 years since our journey began, and did so under the theme of Our children matter: Innovative approaches to new world challenges. This theme was chosen in the context of two years of political and social landscape-shifting change in our sector. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionally high impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. The conference saw representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations across the country share stories of innovative practice that has maintained our children’s connection to family, community, culture and Country during extraordinary times.
Together, the SNAICC National Conference calls for urgent and transformative change to the systems that impact our children. We call on all governments to work with us to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have every opportunity to grow up safe and cared for in their family, community, and culture, and on Country. The following actions are needed to set us on that path:
- Transfer authority in child protection to our families and communities through delegated statutory authority and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making
- Invest to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce that we need for our culturally strong community-controlled services
- Set ambitious targets to invest in and build our community-controlled child protection and family support services, including transfer of resources from mainstream organisations
- Scrap the child care activity test and develop a dedicated funding model to support and grow our community-controlled integrated early years services
- Establish a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner, and equivalent roles in each state and territory
- Provide opportunities to build our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander evidence base for best practice and control our own data
2019 SNAICC National Conference, Adelaide
The 2019 SNAICC National Conference was our eighth official conference and was held in the lands of the Kaurna people, Tarntanya (red kangaroo place) at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Senior Aboriginal Man Mickey Kumpati Marrutya O’Brien, descendant of the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) and Narrunga (York Peninsula) peoples, welcomed delegates at the conference opening which included a smoking ceremony.
The conference attracted record numbers, with 1230 delegates coming from approximately 400 organisations from around the country. The delegation included participants from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s services, health and wellbeing workers from government and non-government sectors.
With a key focus on Growing Up with Strong Identity, Culture and Connection the conference provided the opportunity for the sector to convene, share and showcase knowledge, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country. It also gave delegates the opportunity to connect and hear from leading national and international child rights and development experts.
Emanating from the conference, was a united call for urgent action to ensure our children have every opportunity to grow up safe and cared for in their family, community and culture. With the following actions needed to set us on that path:
- The establishment of a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s commissioner.
- A comprehensive National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Strategy that includes generational targets to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
- A dedicated funding program for integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years services, and an exemption to the child care ‘Activity Test’ for our families.
- An end to legal orders for permanent care and adoption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, replaced by a focus on supporting the permanence of their identity in connection with their kin and culture
2017 SNAICC National Conference, Canberra
The 7th SNAICC National Conference was held at the National Convention Centre, in the lands of the Ngunnawal people where Canberra’s name is derived from the Ngunnawal word ‘kamberra’ meaning ‘meeting place’.
The 7th SNAICC National Conference brought together over 1100 delegates from across the country who shared and reaffirmed their commitment to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Delegates called for urgent action to ensure our children grow up safe, healthy and strong in their families and communities.
Bring Them Home: Securing the rights of our children
The 2017 conference gathering coincided with the 20-year anniversary of the seminal Bringing Them Home report, which exposed the violations of fundamental human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities through the policies and practices of the Stolen Generations.
The Bringing Them Home report unearthed the ongoing grief caused by these policies and their far-reaching impact. It charted a way forward to redress the wrongs, to support those who had experienced wrongs, and to ensure that such a phenomena would never happen again. 20 years on many recommendations lay unimplemented and rates of child removal continue to soar. Never before have so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children been removed from family and culture.
The 7th SNAICC National Conference centred on this anniversary to raise awareness and discussion of ongoing child removal, its causes and consequences for children, families and communities. The focus was on strategies and best practice in supporting children to be safe and cared for within family and culture – strategy and best practice in reducing interaction with the child protection system.
2015 SNAICC National Conference, Perth
The 2015 SNAICC Conference was the first conference to be held at Perth’s Convention Centre, located on the northern bank of the Swan River in the land of the traditional owners, the Noongar people. The conference attracted over 1000 attendees from across the country and was our first biennial conference from what was originally a triennial gathering. There was representation from all states with a diverse number of organisations participating, including over 50 per cent participation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and participation from many not-for-profit and government organisations and agencies.
ngallak koorlangka – for our children
Following three days of sharing, learning and planning among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, leading industry experts, policy makers, researchers, government representatives, other non-government organisations, a final list of resolutions were agreed to provide better systems and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
2013 SNAICC National Conference, Cairns
The 5th SNAICC National Conference was held at the Cairns Convention Centre in early June and built on the success of the last conference. The conference attracted attendances of over 1100 people from around the country, making it the largest SNAICC conference to date.
2010 SNAICC National Conference, Alice Springs
SNAICC invited all those working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – early childhood and child welfare leaders, practitioners, policy makers, researchers and government representatives from around Australia. The conference objectives were around sharing and celebrating, growing our knowledge, challenging others to acknowledge history and respect culture, and fostering leadership.
ampe anwernekenheke – for our children
The SNAICC Conference held at the end of July was a great success with almost 1000 people gathering from all over the country making it the largest conference on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It was a thought provoking time of discussion, exchange and learning for all the representatives of children and family services attending the conference.
An exciting line-up of international and Australian speakers raised issues of pressing importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. Key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in the areas of education, health, welfare, well being and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children presented keynote speeches, including Grant Sarra, Karen Martin and Kerrie Tim. We were also pleased to welcome our other keynote speakers Dorothy Scott and international guests from Canada and the United States, Cindy Blackstock and Joseph Sparling who shared their expertise and knowledge in child welfare and education outcomes for Indigenous children in their countries.
Amongst those who attended the conference were delegates from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-run child and family welfare and early childhood services. Many traveled far from community-run services in remote areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australia.
Over 40 workshops were run on a variety of issues including traditional and innovative healing, child protection, early childhood, men’s programs and also the popular Tjanpi Weavers. Alice Springs was a great location and turned on clear blue skies and balmy winter nights for a number of outdoor events, included SNAICC would like to thank everyone for coming and contributing in what we hope was a stimulating and enjoyable three days.
2007 SNAICC National Conference, Adelaide
The largest ever national conference on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children opened in Adelaide on 19 September 2007, with speakers highlighting the importance of culture and having a sense of belonging to Indigenous children’s welfare and wellbeing.
700 delegates from across Australia gathered for the National Conference of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), under the theme ‘Ngadluko Ngartunnaitya – For Our Children’.
ngadluko ngartunnaitya – for our children
“Today’s speakers have an important message about the importance of culture and the resilience of Indigenous peoples for all of us working with Indigenous children and families, and especially also for our governments – state, territory and federal,” Ms Muriel Bamblett, AM, Chairperson SNAICC said.
Speakers also highlighted the importance of governments providing full support to Indigenous child and family services to ensure these services can effectively support and care for children and to ensure Indigenous children have the same opportunities that other children have.
“We welcome comments by Mr Tom Calma reminding everyone that the reality of Australia’s Stolen Generations is not a thing of the past,” Ms Bamblett said. Mr Calma, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, marked the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report in his keynote speech.
“Commissioner Calma highlighted the importance of the need for healing for Indigenous families and for preventative measures such as housing, child protection programs and schools, something that he remarked is not a feature of the Government’s intervention in the Northern Territory,” Ms Bamblett said.
International guest speaker, Cindy Blackstock of the Gitksan Nation in Canada, challenged the governments of both Canada and Australia, as both G8 countries with huge surpluses, to meet their obligations to Indigenous children as some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged of their nations.
“Indigenous people already have the answers to deal with the challenges we face. Governments must ensure that Indigenous organisations are fully funded and supported to deliver services that we know Indigenous children and families need,” Ms Blackstock said.
Ms Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, has also written to Australian Prime Minister John Howard asking him on what evidence the federal government’s emergency intervention in the Northern Territory is based.
The Conference also saw the release of SNAICC’s new publication to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Bringing Them Home, the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The book was released this morning by former SNAICC Chairperson Brian Butler, who spearheaded the campaign for the Inquiry to be held, during his keynote speech this morning.
Contributors to the publication, ‘Remember Me’ – Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report, including Brian Butler, Tom Calma, Professor Larissa Behrendt of University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Professor Anna Haebich of Griffith University, SNAICC Chairperson Muriel Bamblett, Rosie Baird of Karu Link-Up in Darwin, and UTS law lecturer Terri Libesman, have shared their reflections and recollections on the National Inquiry, how its report was received by the Australian public and government, and the continuing need for healing and a national apology.
2003 SNAICC National Conference, Melbourne
SNAICC convened ‘Our Future Generations: the National Indigenous Child Welfare and Development Seminar’ in July 2003 as the major event to recognise SNAICC’s twentieth anniversary.
The seminar brought together over 200 key Indigenous agencies working with children and senior policy and Ministerial staff from the Commonwealth and all States and Territories.
A full report with over 50 presentations papers, Our Future Generations, was published after the conference. For inquiries about this report, contact SNAICC Policy Manager Julie Higgins at the SNAICC office.
SNAICC’s policy paper, Seven Priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families, was developed from the recommendations made at the Conference and further consultation with the SNAICC membership and National Executive.
1997 SNAICC National Conference, Townsville
SNAICC held this conference on Wulgurukaba country in Townsville, North Queensland, from 25 to 26 June 1997. The conference brought together a approximately 200 delegates from state, territory and federal government agencies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies responsible for legislation, policy, prorgrams and service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
It aimed to improve coordination and coorperation between agencies, to encourage sharing on work out how to improve outcomes and develop best-practice models, and promote discussion of the significance of the recomendations of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from families, the reommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and the draft declaration of the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Populations.
Speakers included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Dodson and leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child welfare and health services. The conference was strongly supported by both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Townsville, North Queensland.
The First Aboriginal Child Survival Seminar, Melbourne
The First Aboriginal Child Survival Seminar focussed on Aboriginal Family Life and the Welfare of Aboriginal Children and was held on Wurrundjerri country in Melbourne in April 1979. It was attended by over 200 delegates representing Aboriginal communities from across Australia and senior policy staff from State and Commonwealth agencies. The seminar was a joint initiative of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, VACCA and the Commonwealth Office of Child Care.
The seminar is now recognised as one of the most significant milestones in the development of Indigenous community-controlled responses to the welfare and development needs of the community’s children. At that Seminar, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates first mooted the formation of a national peak body of community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s services – leading to the formation of SNAICC, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, initially in 1981 and then formally funded in 1983.
In the years prior to the seminar the Fraser Government supported the establishment of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA). The government had provided the assistance of an Aboriginal Study Grant for a study trip to the United States for Auntie Mollie Dyer from the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. Inspired by the success of Native Americans in reducing the rate of child removal, and in particular the Yakima Indian Nation, Auntie Mollie returned to Australia to establish VACCA, which soon became a model and source of inspiration and support for the establishment of similar agencies in other states and territories.
By 1979 these agencies, most at the time still operating as voluntary associations, had decided to develop closer links and pursue national discussion of broader issues impacting upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Thus with assistance from the Commonwealth Office of Child Care VACCA convened the First Aboriginal Child Survival Seminar in April 1979.
The Seminar heard from a range of speakers including Mrs Mollie Dyer, founder of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, The Hon Brian Dixon, MP, Victorian Minister for Community Welfare Services, Marie Coleman, Director of the Commonwealth Office of Child Care, Canberra, Mr Brian Butler of the South Australia Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Steven Unger, Assistant Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, USA, Maxine Robbins, Yakima Indian Nation, Washington, USA, Ms Penny Maxwell, Aboriginal Research Officer, Housing Commission Victoria, and Mr Gary Foley, National Aboriginal Liberation Front.