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

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

Measuring compliance with the Principle

At present, there is no Australia-wide systematic protocol in place to monitor and assess implementation of the Principle. Across Australia, a total of 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were placed with either relatives/kin, other Indigenous caregivers, or in Indigenous residential care (that is, in placements in the first three orders of preference reflected in the placement hierarchy) (AIHW, 2014).

Table 2 shows the number and percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in these placements, in all jurisdictions, by placement type. These proportions vary greatly across jurisdictions, with the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in placement with relatives/kin, other Indigenous caregivers, or in Indigenous residential care ranging from 40% in Tasmania to 82% in New South Wales (AIHW, 2014).

Table 2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, by Indigenous status and relationship of carer, all states and territories, 30 June 2013
Relationship Number Percent

Source: AIHW, 2014

Indigenous relative/kin 5,216 37.5
Other Indigenous caregiver 2,225 16.0
Other relative/kin 2,002 14.4
Other caregiver 4,243 30.5
Total 13,911 100.0

This type of measure of compliance with the Principle has been critiqued as it is an administrative measure that reports on the outcome of the placement decision-making process, without considering whether the process of achieving children's safety and familial and cultural connection outlined by the Principle has been followed (Higgins, Bromfield, & Richardson, 2005). That is, it does not identify the number of placement decisions that complied with all components of the decision-making, participation and support processes as specified in the Principle. Some authors have identified that this kind of measurement actually legitimises the placement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with non-Indigenous caregivers (Valentine & Gray, 2006).

To date, the Queensland Indigenous Child Placement Principle audit conducted by the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian has been the only systematic audit aimed at exploring the systemic and practice issues affecting compliance to the Principle in any Australian jurisdiction. Since 2008, three audits have been conducted, with the second and third audit reports in 2010-11 and 2012-13. The audits assessed compliance to the Principle as per five steps that must be followed when considering all placement options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as outlined in section 83 of the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld).

A key finding of this audit was that while compliance within each step was reported as "quite good", full compliance with each of the five required steps, when viewed together, was not achieved at all in the 2008 sample and was only achieved in 15% of the audit sample in 2010-11 and 12.5% in 2012-13 (see Figure 2 for 2012-13 compliance figures).

It is important to note that this audit process used the Queensland legislative framework to examine compliance to the Principle in that jurisdiction alone. This method does not necessarily capture compliance to the broader intent of the Principle described earlier.

Figure 2: Proportion of compliance with each of the five elements outlined in the Queensland Child Protection Act, 2012-13

 Figure 2: Proportion of compliance with each of the five elements outlined in the Queensland Child Protection Act, 2012-13. Described in accompanying text.

Source: Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, 2014.

a Recognised Entities are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations or individuals that have been mandated by their communities and approved and funded by the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, to provide culturally appropriate and family advice regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection matters.