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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 2019a, 2019b; Guthridge et al. 2014).

First Nations people’s 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 First Nations communities. This is reflected by Target 12 of the National Agreement: By 2031, reduce the rate of overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (0–17 years old) in out-of-home care by 45 per cent – see Target 12 in the Closing the Gap Information Repository.

According to the Child Protection Collection data, as at 30 June 2022, there were 19,432 First Nations children in out-of-home care, corresponding to a rate of 57 per 1,000 children. Nearly 2 in 3 (63% or 12,258) First Nations children in out-of-home care were placed with relatives or a kin, or another First Nations carer, in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle to ensure First Nations children remain connected to their family, community, culture, and Country.

Between 2017–2018 and 2021–2022, the rate of First Nations children who were in out-of-home care increased from 52.1 to 56.8 per 1,000 population, while there was no significant change in the rate among non-Indigenous children. Over this period, the gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous children widened from 47.1 to 52.0 per 1,000 children. On 30 June 2022, First Nations children were 11.8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care (56.8 compared with 4.8 per 1,000 children, or 19,434 compared with 25,924) (Figure 5.7).

Figure 5.7: Rate of out-of-home care for children aged 0–17, by Indigenous status, 2017–18 to 2021–22 

This line chart shows that the rate of First Nations children in out-of-home care increased from 52.1 per 1,000 in 2017–18 to 56.8 per 1,000 in 2021–22, while the rate for non-Indigenous children ranged from 5.0 to 4.8 per 1,000 across the period.

Source: Measure 2.12, Table D2.12.1 – AIHW analysis of Child Protection Collections 2017–18 to 2021–22.

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