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Child protection report reveals crisis faced by Indigenous children

Jarred Cross -

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are ten times more likely to be on care and protection orders than non-Indigenous children, and at least seven times more likely to have suffered maltreatment in recent years, according to a new government report.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the disturbing statistics in their 2021-2022 Child Protection Australia report on Tuesday.

Across the country, around one in 32 children, or 178,000 kids under 18 of all backgrounds, came into contact with protection services during the 2021-22 period - almost 70 per cent being repeat or continued cases.

Indigenous children accounted for a third of all cases - the vast majority between the ages of five and 14.

There was a marginal decrease from 2021, though the numbers have risen in the previous four years, as they have for all children.

275,000 kids of all backgrounds were subjected to alleged maltreatment, of which 119,000 became subject to investigations and in 45,500 cases it was substantiated that maltreatment occurred. Of these cases, 13,600 involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (40 in every 1000 Indigenous kids), compared to 5.7 per 1000 from non-Indigenous backgrounds.

Emotional abuse and neglect were the most common factors.

Per thousand of overall cases, these instances occurred in remote areas at almost four times the rate in major cities.

The 2020-2021 statistics revealed one in every 23 Indigenous children suffered substantiated abuse or neglect.

The disproportionate rates extend to figures around care and protection orders, defined as 'Legal orders or arrangements that give child protection departments some responsibility for a child's welfare' by AIHW. 13,600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fell into this category, disproportionately represented in the total number of cases at more than 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. It's an eight-fold increase from the data recorded for 2017-2018.

Just over 19,000 Indigenous children were recorded as living in out of home care. As of June 2022, their status was as follows:

Figures: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Child protection Australia 2021–22 report.

Of the 3,868 'discharged' from this type of care in the most recent reporting period, 925 exited after more than eight years. A length between two-four years was the second most common, involving more than 800 children.

At the most recent census, 3.8 percent of the total Australian population identified as Indigenous, with more than one-third of those people under the age of 15, equating to 322,000 minors.

AIHW intends to release quarterly updates focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.

National Indigenous Times has contacted the federal government for comment.

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