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National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 3rd August 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> August -> National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day is In the Spotlight

First held in 1988, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day is celebrated annually on the 4th August. It is the largest national celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Whilst this day is about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families taking the time to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children, it is also an opportunity for all Australians to lend their support to Aboriginal children whilst learning about community, culture, kin and family and the role each plays in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s lives.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), the national non-government peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, coordinates National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. Each year they produce resources for distribution amongst organisations, schools, services and communities to share their knowledge and assist those engaging with this important celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The theme for Children’s Day 2016 is My Country, Our Country - We All Belong. This year Children’s Day is focused on assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to feel connected and proud in culture. It is all about ensuring children feel like they belong. This year’s theme aims to provide a space for everyone to come together to celebrate the achievements of the early learning services and the families and children they support.

It is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community led services lead to improved development and educational outcomes for children given their capacity to connect with families and create welcoming spaces. Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive is everybody’s business.

There is no question that everybody needs to make the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children their business. Both Queensland and national statistics clearly demonstrate that this group of children need the unreserved and concerted efforts of all to ensure their positive life trajectories. In Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people currently comprise 43% of the number of children in out of home care. This number is forecast to be 50% by the year 2020. Across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services (AIHW: 2016). When we then consider that 48% of young people in custody in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the brevity of the situation becomes abundantly clear.

Recent media about the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory has opened up conversations and fueled debate with regard to the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in institutional settings. Whist these conversations and the subsequent Royal Commission ordered by the Prime Minister are needed, we already have plentiful examples and statistics that point to the key issues.

In this moment, on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day we need to ensure that these children are at the forefront of our minds. Our intent then needs to be driven by an unwavering commitment to fostering community capacity in determining resourcing and service delivery. This is an understatement. We are all dealing with a national issue that is mammoth. We all need to get on board with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day and make sure we stay committed today and remain on board for every day throughout the year to follow. There is much to do. Not just today but next year and the year after. Our commitment is required for as long as it takes to see meaningful and sustained change.

The Queensland government has highlighted its concern about the issue of overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection system, pledging as a starting point $150 million to family support. They are intent on improving outcomes for families by ensuring the culturally appropriate services required are offered in a timely manner. This is just the beginning of what needs to be an on-going commitment by all key stakeholders, most notably Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and service providers. These leaders and service providers must be resourced to ensure their positive intent becomes reality.

As we celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s day we need to remain cognisant of the plethora of research that clearly points to the essential need that all children have for connection. Whether it be individuals, family, culture, kin and/or country, connection is key. Only when we truly grasp the essential offering of this research and such findings may we truly ensure that this basic mantra that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been telling us for decades is key to the wellbeing of children, young people, their families, their communities and their long term capacity to thrive will be genuinely acknowledged.

It is also interesting to note that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is younger than the wider Australian population, with just over a third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being under 15 years of age in comparison to a fifth of the wider Australian community. Now is the time to holistically support this younger generation.

SNAICC is clear in the resources they send out to organisations to assist their knowledge with regard to the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day that traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures contain natural protective and wellbeing features such as kinship networks. They sadly note that the protective influences of community and cultural connections are often lost when children are placed in out of home care. However, it is further noted that where cultural identity is strong, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are more likely to complete secondary school. The research and realities with regard to the wellbeing and ongoing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people needs to be clear to offer a way forward that genuinely addresses the needs of this group of children.

SNAICC supports a child protection system that is attuned and responsive to the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. As such they’ve established a national campaign: Family Matters: Kids Safe in Culture, Not in Care. This campaign aims to break the traumatic cycle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being removed from their families, kin and culture. It has set the goal to halve the number of children in out of home care by 2018.

As part of the initiative, Family Matters is engaging with key stakeholders and decision makers across Australia to discuss how to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the out-of-home care system. PeakCare is proud to be part of the collective engaged in this essential work.

The 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day ambassador is Olympian and NBA basketballer Patty Mills.

Click here to view his video message.

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