9 July 2015 | General Interest
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse resumed its public hearing into out-of-home care in Sydney from Monday 29 June.
This is the second stage of the Royal Commission’s public hearing examining preventing child sexual abuse in out-of-home care and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse occurring in out-of-home care.
While the first stage of the public hearing provided an opportunity for survivors of child abuse to share their stories, this session heard leading advocacy bodies examine what is working well and what needs reform to prevent child sexual abuse in out-of-home care and improve responses where it does occur.
SNAICC Deputy Chairperson for child and family welfare, Sue-Anne Hunter, represented SNAICC at the hearing, highlighting to the Commissioners the importance of a national approach to improve both prevention and response efforts.
Ms Hunter said, “We need a national approach. We have the Aboriginal Child Commissioner that has just recently been appointed in Victoria.
“Already people are starting to be held accountable.
“Why do we just have one in one State and why isn’t there one in every State? Why isn’t there one that oversees all of them? So who is holding people accountable about children being connected; connected so they are able to have a voice; connected so they are able to disclose what is going on for them?”
Ms Hunter focused on the importance of a cultural context for children to disclose, the role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies play in ensuring this context and the importance of a strong national approach in meeting an accountability gap in the current system.
“We [need to] resource all…Aboriginal agencies to care for all Aboriginal children so that…they are able to be ensured of their culture, their human rights are being met, they know who they are, they are connected to culture and family. If we go back to Stolen Generations and listening to what survivors have said, that’s the stuff that we need to be implementing. We have a bit of a lost generation at the moment. Children are lost. They are just lost to community.
“I think it is about having the cultural context. We know that they are more likely to disclose if anything is happening within a placement if they are well connected, they feel safe in their culture, they know their identity – having that trusting relationship.
“All Aboriginal children in out-of-home care should have a cultural support plan…with the plans, there’s little detail or no requirement of resourcing for carers to implement culture for the children. There is a lack of screening and training to ensure the commitment of non-Indigenous carers to supporting cultural connection generally. Government departments are responsible for completing plans and do not engage with family and community in the process. So what does it mean? Who is filling in the plan and does it have a cultural context?
“There are stronger approaches for cultural care planning undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies…so it looks different when we engage or even recruit for foster carers. For us, it is people coming with the right commitment to care for Aboriginal children. If it is a mainstream agency and they say, ‘We will take any child.’
“I think when children are placed in a mainstream agency we need to have accountability on a cultural level of: who are they connected to? Because, you know, they could go into a mainstream agency with a non-Aboriginal carer and they may not be getting any culture whatsoever. That’s the right of the child. That’s part of their identity. That makes up who they are. How do they become proud young Aboriginal people if they don’t even know what being Aboriginal means? So having an overarching system…nationally, so that children are connected – because that’s what the survivors are saying: ‘We had no-one Aboriginal to talk to.’”
To listen to an extract from Ms Hunter’s submission on behalf of SNAICC visit the National Indigenous Radio Service website.
The public hearing was streamed live to the public via webcast on the Royal Commission website, with interested individuals and organisations encouraged to view proceedings. Transcripts are now available covering each day of the public hearing.
Ten survivors who experienced abuse in out-of-home care have shared their stories, hoping to provide a greater insight into their experiences and encourage other survivors to be heard.
For further information visit the Royal Commission website.