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ChildFund calls on the Australian Government to make the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children an urgent, national priority.

July 9, 2020

The safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children must be a national priority

ChildFund Australia works in developing countries to create community and systems change which enables vulnerable children and young people, in all their diversity, to assert and realise their rights.

While we do not deliver programs in Australia at this stage, as a child-focused development organisation we are committed to ending violence against children globally in all its forms. The ChildFund Alliance actively contributed to the positioning of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.2 as a core element within the 2030 agenda.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders have said that the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States reflect a similar history and story of persistent injustice. We hope that the recent protests occurring across Australia are the beginning of a renewed public conversation.

ChildFund has decades of experience working with children and young people in disadvantaged communities and has gained valuable insights.

We understand the fundamental importance of children feeling connected to their communities and living in an environment which is free from harm, including institutionalised violence.

In Australia, the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experience police violence, and the rate at which they are being incarcerated, has reached a crisis point. This has been verified by multiple public commissions and inquiries.

We know that feeling safe is critical to a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. A child growing up in an environment where they feel protected is more likely to do well at school, have healthy social relationships with friends and family, and achieve economic independence as adults.

In our work globally, ChildFund’s programs address the root causes of inequality. We know that history matters.

Australia’s past includes a series of failed policies that have caused intergenerational stress for thousands of Aboriginal mothers, fathers, children and their elders.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people continue to experience stark disadvantage in comparison to their non-Indigenous peers. This includes higher rates of poverty and infant mortality, poorer health, shorter life expectancy, and lower levels of education and employment.

As of February 2020, Australia is only on track for two out of its seven Close the Gap targets.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children belong to living cultures that have been maintained for over 60,000 years. There is deep knowledge about ways forward – we in Australia must be committed to careful listening.

ChildFund unequivocally supports the Uluru Statement and the Redfern Statement. We view the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people as profoundly important in designing Australia’s future.

In addition to current efforts, we call on the Australian Government to make the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children an urgent, national priority through concrete commitments to comprehensive child protection and youth justice reform.

We also call on all Australians to continue these conversations in your homes and to engage in the emerging public discourse, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders, elders, and young people.

More importantly, we encourage you to deeply listen to the stories and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community leaders and young people.