Enhancing the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

Policy and practice considerations
CFCA Paper No. 34 – August 2015

Conclusion

The importance of children retaining cultural identity and connection has been well illustrated through the tragic impacts of past policies that involved the severing of those connections. The Principle was developed from this understanding; however, the implementation of the Principle has been beset by many systemic and practice challenges. Given that these challenges are experienced by all Australian jurisdictions, there is great promise in taking a national approach to child protection action and reform on this issue.

While its inclusion in legislation is an essential step towards improving the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the Principle, in and of itself, particularly when interpreted narrowly as a hierarchy of placement options for Aboriginal children, will be of limited value unless the appropriate monitoring and strategies are in place to support its implementation and assess the outcomes for children (Valentine & Gray, 2006). The broader intent of the Principle needs to be supported through a suite of strategies that include funding, training, planning, cultural recognition and inclusion, and strengthened in legislation and policy, including the focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's best interests and safety. The current reform processes taking place in child protection systems across Australia may provide just the context in which innovation in Indigenous child welfare could be harnessed and scaled up to promote a new way of working together.