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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - Summary report 2023

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 2019e, 2019f; 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 (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2020).

As at 30 June 2018, of the 45,800 children in out-of-home care in Australia, 17,900 (or 39%) were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Nearly 2 in 3 (65% or 11,400) Indigenous children in out-of-home care were placed with a relative/kin, with another Indigenous carer, or in Indigenous residential care (AIHW 2019c).

Between 30 June 2009 and 30 June 2018, the rate for Indigenous children who were in out-of-home care rose from 35 per 1,000 (10,500) to 54 per 1,000 (17,900). On 30 June 2018, Indigenous children were 10 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care (54 compared with 5.3 per 1,000 children, or 17,900 compared with 27,900) (Figure 5.6).

Figure 5.6: Rate of out-of-home care, children aged 0–17, by Indigenous status, 30 June 2009 to 30 June 2018

Rate of out-of-home care, children aged 0–17, by Indigenous status

Source: Measure 2.12, Table D2.12.1 – AIHW analysis of Child Protection Collections 2013–14 to 2017–18.

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