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Child protection and human rights

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

As a community-controlled organisation, Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, promotes and protects the rights of First Nations women and children to maintain family as the fundamental foundation and natural environment for growth and wellbeing of all its members, particularly children. By protecting and promoting these rights, we strive to maintain cultural connection and to keep families together by overcoming systemic barriers and racial discrimination.

  • One in every 15.2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in care in 2021 (SNAIC, 2022)

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children are 10.4 times more likely to be in out-of-home-care (SNAIC, 2022)

  • Between 2020 and 2021 the rate for children 1 year and under entering out-of-home-care was the highest at 8% (AIHW, 2022)

  • Between 2017 and 2021 Indigenous children were placed in out-of-home-care at a rate of 58 in 1,000 children compared to non-Indigenous children with a rate of 5 per 1,000 children (AIHW, 2022)

This Child Protection Week, we hope you will join us in reflecting on how to strengthen connection of children in out-of-home-care to family and culture so we can shift statistics and work towards keeping families together.

In 2016, after 2 years of investigating what was happening to Aboriginal children in out-of-home-care, the report, Always Was, Always Will Be, Koori Children, said that:

Victoria’s child protection system has comprehensively failed Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, with many of the children unaware of their cultural identity.

Our work on the frontlines of violence means we witness generational impacts of forced child removal and institutionalisation every day.

While supporting our women we see their rights to healthcare and housing continually denied.

This violates basic human rights including those held under Article 22(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, which states:

“States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination”

Our workers have intervened when child protection workers enter a maternity ward to forcibly remove a child from their mother.

Both mother and child are punished because at some point she was in a violent relationship. Unknown to these mothers, orders have been put out for their unborn children despite now being in a safe place.

This violates rights held under Article 7(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, which states:

“Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group”

We must ask the tired question, why does Australian government allow the same cultural and human rights violations seen during the Stolen Generation to continue being perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children?

We know from our nearly 50 years of practice that cultural identity is a protective factor against trauma and the research continually confirms this. A report for the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to child sexual abuse found:

It (Cultural connection) can help children develop their identities, foster positive self-esteem, emotional strength and resilience and increase the number of people around them who love and care for them.

Everyday we continue to fight for the rights of children to be brought up by loving family who celebrate their identity.

Focusing on relationships and connection plants us firmly in the social world and reduces the tendency to isolate, individualise and pathologise traumatised children and their families.

(From Child Safety Commissioner Guide to Understanding and working with traumatised children and young people, ‘From Isolation to Connection’)

Funding a Mothers and Childrens program to keep these relationships and connections together is the next step for Elizabeth Morgan House. Contact us or donate if you want to be part of this change.

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