Inquiry into Indigenous children in care

Tim DorninAAP
A year-long inquiry has been launched into SA's high rates of Aboriginal children placed in care.
Camera IconA year-long inquiry has been launched into SA's high rates of Aboriginal children placed in care. Credit: AAP

A year-long inquiry has been launched into South Australia's high rates of Aboriginal children being taken from their families and placed in care.

April Lawrie, the state's Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, says too often cultural identity is being lost, especially if an Aboriginal child enters care.

"Aboriginal children are over-represented in out-of-home care in South Australia," she said.

"When they enter care, only three in 10 are placed with Aboriginal family or kin, a rate that's decreasing.

"And their chance of reunifying is lower than anywhere else in the nation. This needs to change."

Without change, it's predicted that by 2031 as many as 140 in every 1000 Aboriginal children will be in state care.

Ms Lawrie's inquiry will examine recent and current policies, practices and procedures of state authorities when they remove and place Aboriginal children in care.

The state government welcomed her investigation and said it recognised cultural safety and connection to community was fundamental to the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people.

"We are committed to working in partnership with the community and empowering the commissioner to create mechanisms for Aboriginal voices to be heard within and about the system," the government said in a statement on Friday.

"The inquiry is one such way that Aboriginal people will have a say and provide the crucial insight and feedback we need to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said the government wanted better outcomes for Indigenous people, including reducing the over-representation of children in out-of-home care.

"We know the significant impacts on children when they are removed from their family, their community and their country," he said.

Ms Lawrie said she wanted to hear from people coming into contact or working in child protection about the challenges with applying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.

"South Australia needs a system that enshrines connection to culture, family and community as a birthright for Aboriginal children," she said.

"I want to make sure every Aboriginal child and young person can be seen, be heard and can flourish, whatever their circumstances."

The commissioner plans to complete her inquiry by July 28 next year.

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