What non-Indigenous carers should know about the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care today:
Impact of the past
The colonisation of Australia started as an invasion that began with the attempted destruction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their way of life. Land dispossession destabilised the cultural and spiritual connections that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to their country.
Family and Community relationships
Past government policies such as the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities (Stolen Generations) has had a devastating impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and community relationships.
Patterns of child rearing and family relationships were destroyed. This has created tremendous amounts of suffering and trauma for the First Peoples of Australia, and continues to adversely impact families and communities today.
“With several generations of [Indigenous] people being denied normal childhood development, the opportunity to bond with parents and experience consistent love and acceptance, both the skills and the confidence to parents have been damaged, with [Indigenous] children over-represented in the child welfare system.”
Grief and Loss
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have experienced significant and continual intergenerational trauma and loss, due to the impacts of a devastating history and other factors mentioned above.
Intergenerational trauma refers to the past trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have faced in which pain and suffering is unresolved, and therefore passed down directly from one generation to the next.
The effects of colonisation, dispossession, injustice and racism have led to significant levels of disadvantage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are 10.3 times more likely then non-indigenous children and young people to be removed from their families, despite comprising only 4.7% of all children and young people in Australia.
At the national level for 2005–2007, the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous life expectancy was 11.5 years for males and 10 years for females.
The unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is three times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population. (Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, 2012)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care arrangements than non-Indigenous children.
In 2010-11, approximately 33% of all children in out-of-home care were identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ABS, 4704.0 – The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010)
The Stolen Generations refers to the systematic removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, communities, land and heritage.
The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by child and welfare services and government bodies occurred on a large scale. No family was unaffected by these policies and many were devastated by them. (Working and Walking, p. 32)
Learn more about the Stolen Generations: