NEARLY 13 per cent of Aboriginal children in Victoria are in the child protection system, including 50 children in the south-west.
Victoria’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Andrew Jackomos has warned a generation of children face severed family and cultural ties as unemployment and drug and alcohol issues continue to wreak havoc on families.
“We have far too many of our children in child protection and that’s right across the state. It’s a national problem but in Victoria our rates are far higher than the rest of the country,” Mr Jackomos told The Standard following a community forum in Warrnambool this week.
“It’s growing. The problem is we’re having kids in child protection who are having kids and if those kids don’t grow up with strong connection and strong culture we’re just going to see generational upon generational problems.”
In Victoria 67 out of every thousand indigenous children are in the child protection system.
The startling figures highlight the need for better funding in early intervention programs, Mr Jackomos said.
“We know the child protection system isn’t working.”
The commissioner said keeping young mothers in school would also prevent crisis further down the track.
“It’s better to work with young parents to build strong families than to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with a child in care.
“It starts with our community, it doesn’t start with government, it doesn’t start with Spring Street, it starts with us building stronger families and stronger parents.”
Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (FVPLS) chief executive Antoinette Braybrook said child protection staff were not culturally equipped to handle clients.
“Workers are just not culturally aware. It means that Aboriginal families and children are not properly supported.”
The legal service has begun family and women’s resilience groups to strengthen culture and identity in young women.