The Northern Territory government is rushing through a new regime of permanent care orders without proper consideration or detailed consultation with the key stakeholders says the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA). The proposed regime does not have sufficient safeguards to ensure that permanent care orders are made only as a last resort and Aboriginal children are able to maintain their connection with family and culture.
‘We know the intergenerational effect of cultural dislocation on Aboriginal people and the government needs to take more care before attempting to introduce this type of legislation’ said NAAJA CEO Priscilla Collins. ‘Under permanent care orders there will be no monitoring of the permanent placement and an Aboriginal child’s relationship with their family and culture will be left to the discretion of the carer.’
Aboriginal children are over represented amongst children in out of home care and there are less than half of those children are placed with Aboriginal foster carers. The NT Care and Protection of Children Act does not allow for “cultural plans” or for conditions to be attached to the permanent care order. Once the order is made there is no oversight about what happens to that child.
‘The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s children adopts a preventative approach to child abuse and neglect on the basis that this approach will deliver better outcomes for children’. Ms Collins says ‘Proper investment in intensive family support services must be a priority. It’s disappointing that the government pushing through such a significant change without any voicing any commitment to prevention and early intervention.’
Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission and NAAJA have prepared a joint submission (also endorsed by a range of other services: http://www.naaja.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Care-of-Children-and-Protection-Act-12-2-15.pdf ) detailing our concerns with the proposed legislation. ‘We are asking the government to take time to consider our recommendations and implement better legal and cultural safeguards to protect Aboriginal children in the child protection system. The best permanent home for children is with family’ said Ms Collins.
Media Inquiries: Priscilla Collins CEO, NAAJA 0427 045 665