“Australia’s First Nations Children: Urgent Reform Needed in Child Protection and Justice Systems”

Australia, Human Rights

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, representing the Australian Human Rights Commission, has expressed deep concern over the disproportionate impact on First Nations children in child protection and justice systems. The statement was made in response to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) visit to Western Australia, where they focused on contemporary removal of indigenous children from their families.

First Nations children, who make up just 6% of Australia’s child population, are alarmingly overrepresented in out-of-home care, youth justice supervision, and detention. They are 11 times more likely to be living in out-of-home care, 23 times more likely to be under youth justice supervision, and 28 times more likely to be in detention than non-indigenous children.

The ongoing issue of child removal, rooted in colonisation and its perpetuated cycles of poverty and trauma, remains a significant human rights challenge in Australia today. Despite some progress, such as the appointment of National and State Commissioners and the announcement of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner, current legislative frameworks, policies, and practices are inconsistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Australian Human Rights Commission commends the EMRIP’s twelve recommendations outlined in their country report. Urgent reform is needed to promote First Nations self-determination, informed and led by indigenous peoples. The existing systems, which undermine the rights of First Nations people and fuel a pipeline into negative life trajectories, must be transformed to ensure the wellbeing of Australia’s First Nations children.