22 January 2015 | General Interest
To: Editor, The Australian
22 January 2015
Conflating the s18C debate with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle is opportunistic and utterly duplicitous. Jeremy Sammut is certainly entitled to his opinion (20 January), but here are the facts about the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle.
I am a “modern day” Narungga/Kaurna Aboriginal woman, with an evolving but very strong culture. I lead a child protection agency and am chair of the national peak Indigenous child protection body, SNAICC. I work with this principle every day. It aims to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and agencies a say on child protection decisions — a basic right denied to us, with disastrous consequences, during the Stolen Generations era. It also seeks to ensure positive self-identity is reinforced as part of a child’s upbringing.
Whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, the decision to remove a child from her family is an abhorrent decision to have to make – one requiring a nuanced balance of considerations. And so, of course, built into the principle clearly is that the child’s best interests must be the paramount consideration.
Imagine making this decision – would you not need to be informed by those with deep understanding of the family and the child? 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. 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.
Evidence confirms better decision-making ensues from involvement of those close to the child. Evidence also highlights that cultural connections are overwhelmingly positive contributors to a child’s wellbeing and identity.
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).
A strong ACPP, with more rigorous compliance requirements, accompanied by strong supports for families in crisis, represent the best chance to improve well-being for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families who come into contact with the child protection system.
What more needs to happen for us to learn as a society that assimilation is not the answer to child protection concerns?
CEO Aboriginal Families Support Services (South Australia)
and SNAICC Chairperson