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AUSTRALIA

Keep Aboriginal children with families, commission told

Aboriginal children in care should be kept in contact with their families and other Indigenous people, and the age of criminal responsibility should be raised, according to several submissions to a royal commission.

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory today released a 35-page report that highlighted suggestions on what could be done differently to improve things in the jurisdiction.

Responses came from children who had been in detention, healthcare professionals, community groups and others.

The release comes ahead of the final report from the royal commission due to be delivered on November 17.

Among the dozens of suggestions, many were repeated by different organisations, including that Aboriginal children in care should be kept in contact with their families.

The royal commission heard that sometimes children in care were kept a long way from their families, and the death of a 17-year-old Aboriginal girl was linked to her not being put in kinship care, where she would have stayed with family members.

Criticism of NT's child protection system

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, which is an alliance of land councils, legal groups and Aboriginal medical groups, said the NT Government should ensure Aboriginal children who are in temporary placements a long way from their families should be given "frequent and regular contact" either with a parent or extended families.

One of the children who had been in care, known only as CM, said the department of children and families (DFC) – now part of Territory Families – needed to better communicate what was going on to those it dealt with and let parents know if there were problems with their children.

"DCF should not take kids away from their homes, families, schools and communities," CM said.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) criticised the NT's child protection system over the way it treated connections to family, community and culture for Indigenous children.

"[The system] has demonstrated significant failures to understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and has severed children's important connections to family, community, and culture," the submission from the group read in part.

"This has played out through poor implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle and failures to enable the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities in decisions about their children."

A person whose identity was protected, known only as DH, called for a greater focus on the Aboriginal Child Placement Principal, which calls for Aboriginal foster children to be placed with Aboriginal families and raised in a culturally appropriate environment.

By Xavier La Canna

6 November 2017 

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