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Child Protection system a Stolen Generations 'legacy' which 'discredits' Aboriginal parenting

Giovanni Torre -

Victoria's new Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People wants to see the day her role is no longer necessary, and says elevating the voices of those with troubled childhoods will be critical to making it happen.

Yorta Yorta lawyer and advocate Meena Singh was in April appointed to the role as Victoria works towards a Treaty with Aboriginal people.

Ms Singh has previously worked with Victoria Legal Aid, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Human Rights Law Centre, and Aboriginal family violence support service, Djirra.

She said the current child protection system was a legacy of the Stolen Generations which saw Aboriginal ways of parenting with wide support networks as flawed.

"Ultimately I would hope my role is no longer needed, that we get to a place where Aboriginal children are supported and safe with their families, that their families are supported to do what they need to do to keep them safe," she said.

"For Aboriginal communities child protection was a way to kill us, to disperse us, to break all ties, to stop culture and language."

Ms Singh said not enough was being done to elevate the voices of people who had spent time in the child protection or youth justice systems.

The new Commissioner also took aim at the justice system, noting the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the prison system.

"Look at the way Aboriginal people are targeted and over-policed for being black in public spaces," Ms Singh said.

Recently a number of vital reforms in Victoria have been delayed, including two pieces of youth justice legislation, and public drunkenness decriminalisation which was scheduled to occur in November but now has been pushed to 2023.

"So much reform is needed sooner rather than later," Ms Singh said.

"These reforms can have a direct positive impact on Aboriginal young people and children."

Ms Singh said for genuine reform to take place, Australia needed an open discussion about racism.

"We have so much denial that it exists when in reality it is what the country was built on; the idea Aboriginal people were inferior and deserved the treatment we had because we were inferior," she said.

"That denial has persisted and never been fully addressed."

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