Issue 75

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Family Matters No. 75, 2006

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Indigenous families

Indigenous children, families and communities

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Executive Editor: Matthew Gray

Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Robert Johnstone, Catherine Rosenbrock, Sue Tait, Ruth Weston

Editor: Ellen Fish

Cover art: Robert Campbell Jnr, Woman Business, circa 1990, Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 89.0 x 116.0 x 2.5cm. Purchased 1994. Collection:Art Gallery of New South Wales. ©Estate of Robert Campbell Jnr courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Publication details

Family Matters No. 75
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2006, 96 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Indigenous families and communities

Matthew Gray

The Australian Indigenous population has much worse outcomes on a wide range of measures than does the non Indigenous population. However, surveys show that the Australian population has varied views about Indigenous Australians, their living standards and the extent to which government policy should be directed at improving the outcomes of Indigenous Australians as compared to other Australians. This edition of Family Matters includes a number of articles that present research related to Indigenous Australians and families, covering a wide range of issues relevant to current policy debates and program development. This paper provides an introductory summary of selected economic and social characteristics of the Indigenous population to provide a context for the papers that follow.

The intergenerational effects of forced separation on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people

Sven Silburn, Stephen Zubrick, David Lawrence, Francis Mitrou, John De Maio, Eve Blair, Adele Cox, Robin Dalby, Judith Griffin, Glenn Pearson and Colleen Hayward

It is now generally accepted that both forced separation and forced relocation have had devastating consequences on Indigenous families in terms of social and cultural dislocation and have impacted on the health and well being of subsequent generations. However, until recently there has been little or no empirical data to scientifically document the nature and extent of these intergenerational effects. In this paper, the authors seek to address this gap in the research.

Working with the Indigenous community in the Pathways to Prevention project

Ross Homel, Cherie Lamb and Kate Freiberg

The Pathways to Prevention project is an early intervention, developmental prevention project run in Inala, a socially disadvantaged urban area in Queensland. The project is based on the assumption that mobilising social resources to support children, families and their communities before problems emerge is more effective than intervening when problems have become entrenched. The purpose of this article is to reflect on some of the work of the Project, particularly as it has involved the local Indigenous population. A key objective is to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the issues and challenges that Indigenous parents and children face.

The economic value of harvesting wild resources to the Indigenous community of the Wallis Lake Catchment, NSW

Matthew Gray and Jon Altman

Despite the potential economic significance of the use of wild resources, defined as native flora and fauna, by Australian Indigenous peoples, there has been relatively little research into this issue. Using a new methodology, this article provides estimates of the economic benefits derived from the use of wild resources to the Indigenous community of the Wallis Lake catchment in New South Wales.

Selected crime and justice issues for Indigenous families

Mick Dodson and Boyd Hunter

Most previous analysis of crime and justice issues in Indigenous families has been conducted using police and court data However, insights into the socioeconomic forces underlying Indigenous interaction with the justice system can only be obtained by interrogating omnibus social surveys like the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey and the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey that include a reasonably comprehensive set of potential explanatory factors, including potentially important information on family background. This paper explores the relationship of crime and justice issues and the family environment to highlight the need for longitudinal data that explicitly examines the developmental processes for Indigenous children aged less than 15 years of age.

Protecting Indigenous children: Views of carers and young people on "out-of-home care"

Daryl Higgins, Leah Bromfield, Jenny Higgins and Nicholas Richardson

The views of Indigenous young people in care, as well as the views of carers of Indigenous young people about their experiences and needs, the challenges they have faced, and their views on promising practices are described. These views were gathered during focus groups conducted with Indigenous young people in care, and with both Indigenous and non Indigenous carers of Indigenous young people in two Australian jurisdictions.

Workin' together: Indigenous perspectives on community development

Marlene Burchill, Daryl Higgins, Leanne Ramsamy and Sandi Taylor

In this paper, the authors provide an overview of an evaluation of "early learnings" from Indigenous Community Development projects funded by the Telstra Foundation. The projects looked at community identified solutions for serious social and health problems affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. The projects addressed themes such as early childhood development, youth participation and leadership, and the role of schools in facilitating change.

Indigenous employment in the Australian Public Service

Lynelle Briggs

In August 2005, a new strategy was launched to assist the Australian Public Service (APS) to stabilise Indigenous employment rates and to implement measures to consolidate and increase the levels of Indigenous expertise in the APS. Several resultant programs are operating to provide targeted support to Indigenous job seekers, employees and public sector employers, and a recent study has revealed for the first time Indigenous employees' own perceptions of life and work in the APS. While there is still a way to go, the APS is rising to the challenge of tapping into the skills and experiences of a growing sector of the Australian workforce. This article outlines the participation of Indigenous people in the Australian Public Service.

Maintaining the gains: Sustainability in prevention and early intervention

Alan Hayes

Prevention and early intervention offer the potential to address and overcome a wide range of problems in development, health, learning, behaviour and wellbeing. But how can these benefits be maintained? This article explores some of the social systems that may sustain the benefits of prevention and early intervention initiatives. Examples of successful interventions in early life particularly in preschool education are explored and the importance of these interventions connecting to systems that sustain their impacts, such as families, child care provisions, schools, peer groups, further and higher education, community organisations and the world of work. The discussion highlights the need to develop and implement integrated policy, focused on key systems that can maintain the gains of investment in prevention and early intervention, through life.

Mothers' accounts of work and family decision-making in couple families: An analysis of the Family and Work Decisions Study

Kelly Hand

This paper uses in-depth interview data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Family and Work Decisions Study to explore the way partnered mothers talk about how decisions concerning parenting and paid work were made in their families. In addition, mothers' perceptions about the extent to which their partners contributed to these decisions and how their beliefs about the role of fathers in the lives of children and families influenced their decision about these arrangements are explored.

Viewpoint: Family issues for Indigenous Australians

Sue Gordon

Children aged fifteen years and under account for 39 per cent of the Indigenous population in Australia in the 2001 census but only 20 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. The Australian population is an ageing one - in contrast the Indigenous population profile is youthful, and growing at almost double the national average. Beginning with these facts the author proceeds to share the National Indigenous Council's views on how to improve outcomes for Indigenous early childhood development, to describe the context that shapes the experiences and outcomes for many Indigenous children, and to outline the risks of not addressing the underlying factors. The article concludes with a brief overview of research that aims to identify how positive pathways for Indigenous children can be better understood and replicated.

Family law update

The role of Indigenous Family Liaison Officers in the Family Court of Australia is described which includes working with Indigenous families, supporting independent children's lawyers, providing information about the structure of the Indigenous family and the significant people in a given case, providing links to appropriate cultural advisors and elders, planning and delivering information sessions for Indigenous community members, and facilitating cultural diversity training sessions for Family Court staff.