Media Release: Keeping Aboriginal Children Safe On Country and In Culture

The importance of keeping Aboriginal children and young people in statutory care connected to family, community and country will be the central focus of an event to be hosted by NSW child and family welfare peaks, the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (AbSec) and the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), on Friday, June 9.

‘Safe: On Country and In Culture’ will bring young careleavers, foster carers, advocates, policy makers and community leaders together to highlight the chronic shortage of Aboriginal foster carers in NSW and explore new opportunities for galvanising the community to help fill this need.

The screening of the short documentary ‘For the Kids’, which recently screened as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival and features the touching story of Kempsey-based Aboriginal foster parents Eddie and Rose Vale, will serve as a catalyst on the day for wider dialogue around the need for more Aboriginal carers in our community to ensure children remain connected to their families, communities and culture.

AbSec Youth Ambassador Melinda Mumbler, who will be lending her voice to the discussion, said: “Our children and young people are the future for our communities, which is why it is important to keep them strong in culture so they can pass it on through generations”.

Also participating in the discussions, to be facilitated by the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in netball, Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM, will be young upcoming Aboriginal actress Madeline Madden, member of the Stolen Generation Uncle Michael Welsh, Michael Woodhouse, who is Executive Director of Service System Reform within Family and Community Services, foster carers Eddie and Rose Vale and Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation Foster Care Support Worker Warren Ahoy, who also appears in ‘For the Kids’.

AbSec CEO Tim Ireland emphasised the importance of connection to family, community and culture for all children deprived of their family environment, particularly Aboriginal children and young people.

“Keeping Aboriginal children connected to their families, communities and culture is central to their long term wellbeing – our families, communities and culture makes us strong. This is best achieved by investing in prevention and early intervention, developed and delivered by Aboriginal communities, so children do not enter care in the first place,” Mr Ireland said.

“However if children need to come into care for their immediate safety we must safeguard their cultural rights if we are to act in their best interests, by placing Aboriginal children with Aboriginal carers; with kin or community.”

Latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures indicate that around 40 per cent of the 16,800 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care nationally are located in NSW.

ACWA CEO Andrew McCallum said the ongoing shortfall of Aboriginal foster carers means many of these children are being placed outside of their own communities, often leaving them disconnected from their culture and heritage and important relationships.

“It is vital for Aboriginal children to know who they are and to maintain ties to their country and culture,” Mr McCallum said.

“While the focus should always be on keeping children at home with their own families wherever possible, there will always be situations where it is in the child’s best interest to live elsewhere for a time.

“In these cases, if no family members can be found to care for them then the next best alternative is for the child to be placed with an Aboriginal foster carer, and within their own community.

“Tragically, as we all know, the number of Aboriginal children entering care continues to skyrocket, which means we need more Aboriginal people than ever to come forward to care, nurture and keep the cultural heritage of these children alive.”

In a closing scene from ‘For the Kids, Warren Ahoy sums it up best when he says:

“The ultimate goal I have is not to have any work… it’s one of those jobs where if one day you came to work and someone said ‘there’s no more kids’, that’d be fantastic.”

To find out more about becoming a foster carer visit the Fostering NSW website or call 1800 236 783.

Editor’s Notes:
‘For the Kids’ was commissioned by AbSec and ACWA and recently screened as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. Weaving together the story of Aboriginal foster parents Eddie and Rose Vale and that of the Dalai Dreamers footy team’s preparation for the Kids in Care Cup Aboriginal Rugby League knockout competition, it captures the excitement and magic of the competition and its importance for the community, especially the kids. The Kids in Care Cup, held annually in Wollongong, brings Aboriginal rugby league teams from across NSW together to compete in a statewide knockout to highlight the need for more Aboriginal foster carers.

The Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat is the Aboriginal child and family sector peak body in NSW, advocating on behalf of Aboriginal communities and their organisations to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and families.

The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies is the NSW peak body representing non-government organisations which provide services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.

Media contact:
Elise Hawthorne
EXPOSURE Communications
M: 0413 363 232