An Indigenous view on what works in the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Child Placement System.

As a young Aboriginal person I am distressed at the uniformed coverage of Channel 7 Sunrise on March 13, 2018 regarding the adoption of Aboriginal children who are at risk of abuse. The discussion was undertaken by an all-white panel on a mainstream commercial television network. The panel made comments which lacked fact checking, research or consultation and comment from an Indigenous source about leadership and expertise from the Indigenous health sector.

It’s disheartening that commercial media commentators such as the Sunrise panel are not more aware of the importance of community and identity to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

  This lack of awareness continues despite the efforts of high profile Indigenous leaders such as former MP, Linda Burney, a fierce champion of Indigenous rights and the first Aboriginal women to serve in the House of Representatives. Ms Burney has openly discussed her own experiences of growing up without knowing her Aboriginal family.

Following the Sunrise fiasco, it’s been heartening to see a considerable backlash from several young Indigenous commentators. Amy McQuire, South Sea Islander and Darumbal journalist and Indigenous Affairs reporter for Buzzfeed, argues that the two minute segment was “packed [with] so many mistruths”.

Laura Murphy Oates an Indigenous journalist from SBS’s The Feed, responded with a YouTube video “Sunrise’s All White Panel Discuss Indigenous issues”.

 

Also Nakkiah Lui an Indigenous writer, actor and young community leader, also gave comment to the Sydney Morning Herald accusing Sunrise of “bottom-feeding of people’s pain.” Lui put it plainly on Twitter, “If you’re talking about the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, communities and culture, maybe speak to Aboriginal children, families and adults that have been affected.”

 

The continuing fallout of the Sunrise incident has led to an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for “highly offensive, racist and divisive content.” The investigation comes after NSW Greens MP and Aboriginal Justice Spokesperson, David Shoebridge, lodged a formal complaint with the ACMA.

 

A key fact omitted by the Sunrise panel was any acknowledgment of The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle. According to The Australian Government Department of Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Principle recognises “the devastating effects of forced separation of Indigenous children from families, communities and culture.” However, what is at issue is whether the Principle is being applied effectively.

The Principle exists in legislation and policy in all Australian jurisdictions, However recent estimates suggest the Principle has been fully applied in as few as 13% of child protection cases involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

 

From my perspective the discussion of the child placement system of Aboriginal children is a sensitive topic . This issue affects the Aboriginal community deeply as there is still healing to be done from forced removal of Aboriginal children “the Stolen Generation”.

It is important that the media lens covers positive initiatives targeting the welfare of Indigenous children rather than circulating uninformed opinion.  Foster and Kinship Care developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Care Service (ATSICHS) is a key service that encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to become foster or kinship carers.

Foster and Kinship operates in South East Queensland to provide culturally safe homes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The goal of the program is to recruit, train and support carers and case manage children and young people in out of home care by placing  “our children and young people in care situations that support their individual identity and self-esteem and that meet their cultural, social, emotional and behavioural needs”

This program is easy to access through enquiring at the local Aboriginal Medical Services situated throughout South East Queensland or by telephone or email.

The success of the model of care within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community services such as The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and ATSICHS is evident through the high level of community engagement. The inaugural IUIH System of Care conference is scheduled for May 31st 2018 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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