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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - Summary report

Child protection

Experience of maltreatment during childhood has serious and long-term effects on social and emotional wellbeing and health (Emerson et al. 2015). In Australia, child protection functions are the responsibility of state and territory governments. Each jurisdiction has its own legislation, policies, and practices in relation to child protection (AIHW 2019b, 2019c; Guthridge et al. 2014).

Indigenous Australians’ experience of child welfare policies has historically been traumatic, with the policy of forcible removal of children known as the Stolen Generations (National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families 1997). Child protection issues continue to be very significant for Indigenous communities. This is reflected by the Closing the Gap target of reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031 – see Targe 12 in the Closing the Gap Information Repository.

According to the Child Protection Collection data, as at 30 June 2021, of the 46,212 children in out-of-home care in Australia, 19,480 (or 42%) were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Nearly 2 in 3 (63% or 12,290) Indigenous children in out-of-home care were placed with a relative/kin, with another Indigenous carer.

Between 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2021, the rate for Indigenous children who were in out-of-home care rose from 51 per 1,000 to 58 per 1,000 population, and the gap widened from 46 to 53 per 1,000 population between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children over the period. On 30 June 2021, Indigenous children were 11.5 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care (57.6 compared with 5.0 per 1,000 children, or 19,480 compared with 46,100) (Figure 5.6).

Figure 5.6: Rate of out-of-home care, children aged 0–17, by Indigenous status, 30 June 2017 to 30 June 2021

This line chart shows that the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care increased from 51 per 1,000 at 30 June 2017 to 58 per 1,000 at 30 June 2021, while the rate for non-Indigenous children ranged from 5.1 to 5.0 per 1,000 across the period.

Source: Measure 2.12, Table D2.12.1 – AIHW analysis of Child Protection Collections 2016–18 to 2020–21.

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