“Family Matters – Strong Communities. Strong Culture. Stronger Children”
The Guardian, Nov 8, 2016, written by Natalie Lewis for IndigenousX.
Knowing who you are – a sense of self, a sense of place; of connection to ancestral culture – is an important right. It is a right that is unnoticed by many, and too often denied to our children.
I am fortunate in knowing my shared ancestry: Gamilaray (Kamilaroi) and Scottish.
I am a yinar, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt; an Australian. I find peace and purpose in knowing where I am from, and where I belong.
I am also the CEO of QATSICPP – the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak.
I think many Australians thought that when the apology was given by the prime minister in 2008 that it signalled a shift in how our governments approached the injustices and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
The fact is that things haven’t improved. The numbers have climbed, and dramatically so. Nationally, figures have more than doubled since 2008, with our children removed from their families, communities and cultures at a rate nearly 10 times that of non-Indigenous children.
More than 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will sleep away from their homes tonight. Data released on Wednesday in the Family Matters Report shows that, without a major change in approach, that number will triple by 2035.
While many of you will know that this is the situation, many people in the country will find it shocking. They’ll find it hard to believe.
This is, at its core, about equity and fairness – things that our country claims to hold dear: the DNA of our nation. If that truly is the case, then the shame of this reality should unsettle all Australians.
All families want the best for their children. All families love their children. The rights of children – of all children – is something that should unite us. In this pursuit, there is no opt-out clause to absolve our national conscience should a child happen to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
The scale of the situation tells us that it is a societal issue; an institutional one. It is not fair, it is not just, and we need to collectively demand change in the interests of our children.
The safety of children is paramount and our foremost priority. However, concurrently, care must be taken to preserve a child’s connection to family and culture. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been safely raising our children for 60,000 years.
Growing up with family and culture is not only a human right, but is also crucial to achieving well-being and assisting the healing process from inter-generational trauma caused by decades of injustice. Feeling strong and proud of who you are, knowing that you are loved and nurtured by your family and your culture, has profound impacts on a child’s wellbeing, development and growth.
This is a defining moment for our country. We are confounded by a national crisis. The disproportionate level of representation of our children in statutory systems is nothing short of shameful.
Methods used to tackle these issues in the past have manifestly failed our children. Government policies have consistently ignored, or undertaken without sincere intentions, the need to genuinely work with our communities, Elders, and organisations to uncover and progress solutions together.
Childhood doesn’t wait around for governments and services to get organised.
We all have a part to play in enacting this change; to be the generation that ensures the next generation suffers less pain and has more opportunity to realise their dreams; to make sure that the current number of our kids in care is the worst it’ll ever be.
The challenge is to pave the way for change in an area that many see as too complex and too difficult.
“Family Matters – Strong Communities. Strong Culture. Stronger Children” is the national campaign set up to do just this: to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture. The goal of Family Matters is to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 2040.
Read the complete article at The Guardian