Aboriginal child protection laws being ‘broken’ by NT government

Yingiya Mark Guyula used the anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to the stolen generations to issue a warning about the way Indigenous children were being removed from their families today.
“That legislation was broken by the Government themselves — they broke their own law and that’s why I have stood here and I am standing here to say this must stop,” Mr Guyula said.
Like other states and territories, the Northern Territory has adopted the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle, which comes into play when Indigenous children are placed into care.
The Northern Territory’s child protection legislation says safety comes first, but all attempts should be made to place Aboriginal children within their extended family and community before a placement with a non-Indigenous carer is considered.
But Mr Guyula said over the past month he had received anecdotal reports of at least eight children removed from Yolngu communities and “stolen away to Darwin”.
In a statement, the Northern Territory Minister for Families Dale Wakefield said the immediate safety of the child was always the top priority in making decisions about removing children but she acknowledged kinship care was an area that needed “ongoing development”.
She also said she had arranged a meeting with Mr Guyula to discuss his concerns.
NT Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne said she too was concerned not enough was being done to find out if Aboriginal children could be safely placed closer to home.
“No one will argue that the safety of the child is paramount,” Ms Gwynne said.
“What I am concerned about is the efforts that we’re going to prior to that to make a full kinship assessment, to make sure there are no other options available in the community and the community needs to be part of that assessment,” she said.
The Children’s Commissioner’s most recent annual report said about one third of Aboriginal children who were removed from their families were placed with Aboriginal carers.
The report said as of June 2016, there were 1,020 children in out-of-home care in the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory’s legislation also stated that Indigenous communities or groups should also be involved in decisions about removing children.
Ms Gwynne said that system, when used in other countries, had proved beneficial for children and she would like to see more community mediation used in the NT.
“Not only is the outcome good for children, but the outcomes are also good for other groups — particularly women who may be threatened by violence — but the communities have to be engaged in this and they have to be part of the process,” she said.
In the past the Northern Territory Government has been accused of making the opposite mistake: prioritising family placements at the expense of safety.
A 2007 report by the former Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath raised concerns that the Aboriginal Child Placement principle had been misinterpreted.
Dr Bath said in some cases placing children with relatives or an unrelated Indigenous carer was given priority over the safety of the child.
Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-13/member-for-nhulunbuy-speaks-out-on…

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