The recent Report on Government Services has revealed some truly alarming statistics regarding the numbers of Indigenous children in out-of-home care. SNAICC report that:
The Report on Government Services (ROGS) released this week by the Productivity Commission reveals that 14,991 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care on 30 June 2014 — accounting for almost 35 per cent of all children in care. This is despite the fact that our children comprise only 4.4 per cent of the nation’s child population.
It’s safe to assume that today, seven months on from the June 2014 figures, well over 15,000 of our children are living in protective care. The bewildering reality is that since Prime Minister Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children placed in out-of-home care has increased by 65 per cent.
The report is a damning indictment on political and policy failure to address these challenging and complex issues. Both sides of politics have failed, but it is telling that the Government which is now determined to “reset” its approach to families and social services started its life in Parliament House by slashing services to Indigenous children and families.
Over-representation of Indigenous children in both the out-of-home care system and the juvenile detention system appears to now be embedded. As SNAICC points out, these statistics have significantly increased since Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations, which was meant to mark a turning point in Australia’s identity.
Leadership is sorely missing from this issue in our Parliament. Nearly 40 years after Gough Whitlam travelled to Wave Hill Station and symbolically handed the land back to Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people, it is difficult to see any of our current crop of leaders are capable of such leadership.