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Number of Indigenous children in child protection on the rise

Andrew Brown -

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system is increasing, the latest data shows.

Updated figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing released this week showed there were 72 Indigenous children per 1000 who were on care and protection orders as of June 2022, up from 62 per 1000 four years earlier.

Nationally, 24,600 Indigenous children were on care and protection orders, with nearly one-third between the ages of 10 and 14.

More than 19,000 were in out-of-home care, while just fewer than 14,000 had been in long-term care, where they have been in out-of-home care for two years or more.

The institute's findings showed of the number in out-of-home care, there had been a rise in those staying with relatives or kin.

Children being placed with relatives for out-of-home care rose from 50 per cent in 2017 to 54 per cent in 2022.

For Indigenous children with at least one sibling in out-of-home care, 70 per cent were placed with at least one of their brothers or sisters.

The updated findings follow the latest Closing the Gap report, which showed a worsening of outcomes for Indigenous children in child protection.

A target of reducing the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031 has been set as part of Closing the Gap, but the latest report showed it was not on track to reach the measure.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese used his Closing the Gap speech in February to announce a national commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

He said part of the commissioner's focus would be on the rates of Indigenous children in out-of-home care.

"What it all comes down to is strengthening families and keeping children safe," he said in parliament.

"It is what the Coalition of the Peaks and experts have been calling for, guided every step of the way by the evidence, we have listened."

Andrew Brown - AAP

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