A report released Monday by Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) reveals the failure of child protection, education, and health services to promote healing and recovery for First Nations children who have experienced domestic and family violence.
The report, You Can't Pour from an Empty Cup, an initiative by Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak in partnership with ANROWS and Australian Catholic University, found First Nations voices have been "sidelined from decision-making, with devastating effects".
The first of its kind in Australia, the research project engaged eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community research teams across regional and remote Queensland and was led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chief investigators, in a collaborative process to "elevate First Nations voices and find community-led solutions for healing and recovery".
The community-led research project resulted in the creation of the Healing our children and young people framework; a "culturally safe, place-based, trauma-aware, healing-informed, children-centred approach" to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experiencing family and domestic violence.
ANROWS chief executive Padma Raman PSM encouraged policy makers and practitioners across the system to consider the report's findings and adopt the Healing our children and young people framework "as a matter of urgency".
"Existing approaches and systems are causing significant harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who have experienced domestic and family violence," she said.
"The proposed community-led framework, the first of its kind in Australia, is an exceptional tool for anyone in the child protection and domestic and family violence space."
Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak chief executive Garth Morgan called for the adoption of the framework and prioritisation and resourcing of First Nations-led approaches.
"The framework values culture as strength and recognises that our communities not only hold the solutions to healing our children but their connections to culture and country is vital in leading this response," he said.
Across Australia have been Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children vastly over-represented in child protection systems for many years and data indicates the problem is worsening.
The new ANROWS research found current systems, often disciplinary in approach, create further trauma and harm for children and young people, resulting in negative life-long consequences.
One community researcher said current systems "fail to respond in healing-focused ways that recognise and respond to the unique trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people experience".
"The approach of some youth justice programs was also found to be lacking in cultural capability and missing the opportunity to address underlying causes… they think they know what they're doing for our kids, but they don't have any healing component, they aren't run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," the researcher said.
Australian Catholic University Institute of Child Protection Studies director, Professor Daryl Higgins, said culturally-sensitive, evidence-based practices as outlined in the new framework are needed to stop the intergenerational trauma of domestic and family violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
"This research shows the need to improve education within communities, resource early support services, and ensure the rights and safety of children are upheld through holistic and culturally-responsive systems that support families and give them a voice as they work towards healing," Professor Higgins said.
The report provides a series of recommendations and solutions, in addition to the framework, including increased investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation, access to housing and brokerage funds and investment in cultural competency and DFV awareness across systems.
The full report and the framework can be read here.
Queensland Minister for Children and Youth Justice Leanne Linard told National Indigenous Times that the Palaszczuk government "continues to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities in the spirit of reconciliation to address the causes, prevalence and impacts of domestic and family violence".
"As the You Can't Pour From An Empty Cup report notes, the government has worked closely with the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak to establish a network of Family Wellbeing Services throughout Queensland. These services support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children to prevent or address issues that bring them into contact with child protection systems, including DFV. Queensland is one of few Australian jurisdictions to have achieved this," she said.
"I am advised by the Attorney-General that Queensland was also the first state to sign the statement of support of Wiyi Yani U Thangani, which represents a watershed moment in ensuring the voices of First Nations women and girls are heard. Also, the first recommendation of the Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce report, Hear her Voice, was to work in partnership with First Nations peoples to co-design a specific whole-of-government and community strategy to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland's criminal justice system.
"Recently, the Queensland Government appointed, Stephen Tillett as the state's inaugural First Nations Justice Officer to help develop this work. The Taskforce was clear that we need to work in partnership with First Nations communities to develop programs to break the cycle of violence."
The Minister said there is "more work to be done".
"The government remains committed to working in partnership and collaboration with our community partners to meet the needs of First Nations children, young people and families in a culturally responsive manner," she said.