Aboriginals Over-Represented in Deaths of Vulnerable Children in Australia

Canada SOS Childrens Villages 25th June, 2012

25/06/2012 - A new review of child deaths in Australia found that aboriginal children are massively over-represented.
According to a report filed by the Victorian Child Death Review Committee in Australia, "Aboriginal children are over-represented both within the Child Protection population and within data regarding the deaths of children known to Child Protection."

The figures speak for themselves. In 2010, Aboriginal children comprised just over 1 per cent of the number of children in the Victorian population, but 13 per cent of the vulnerable children who died in Victoria from 2000 to 2011.

As well, 8 per cent of active clients last year in the Child Protection Service's population were Aboriginal. Of the known causes of death for Aboriginal children were acquired or congenital illness, road accidents, suicide and drug-related deaths.

The report found that 17 children had current Child Protection involvement at the time of their deaths, while protection had ceased for 11 children before their deaths.

An in-depth review of 38 deaths from 2007 to last year revealed that two infants who did not survive were born drug-dependent; seven children had multiple disabilities; 11 had developmental delays or intellectual disabilities; seven out of 11 adolescents who died had significant disruption to their education; nine of the 11 adolescents showed high-risk behaviour, including substance abuse; and four adolescents were diagnosed with mental illnesses.

The report strongly recommended that welfare, health, education and child protection services work collaboratively and in a warning on staff levels said "the interaction between overwhelmed professionals and overwhelmed families is not conducive to good outcomes for children".

It has been previously reported that Australian indigenous children under five are still twice as likely to die as non-indigenous children.

Some of the problems plaguing the Aboriginal community in Australia stems from The ‘Stolen Generations,’ the children of Australian Aboriginal descent who were removed from their families by the Australian government between the years 1869 and 1969.

The removed children were in most cases placed into institutional facilities, although a significant number, particularly females, were "fostered" out.

Children taken to such places were frequently punished if caught speaking their indigenous language. The intention of removing the children from their homes and culture was to prevent them from being socialised into Aboriginal cultures.

For the most part the boys were raised to be agricultural labourers and the girls as domestic servants.

Studies have indicated that removed Aboriginal people were less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs as Aboriginal children who were not removed from their homes, indicating some of the long term social and psychological damage that occurred in Australia’s Aboriginal communities due to this policy.