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Australian Current Affairs

Indigenous culture, but not at all costs, says Australian Child Protection Commissioner

Queensland Child Protection Inquiry Commissioner Tim Carmody

Queensland Child Protection Inquiry Commissioner Tim Carmody

The need to maintain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture should not override a child’s ability to move into the mainstream, Queensland’s Child Protection Commissioner says.

Examining the significant over-presentation of indigenous children under state care, former Crime Commissioner and Family Court judge Tim Carmody said it was important that specific indigenous and wider social cultural values were shared.

Mr Carmody has been lobbied by indigenous advocates to recommend a parallel child-protection system to address the increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being removed from their families.

“We recognise culture as a fulfilling need that needs to be met by the child protection system,” Mr Carmody said.

“But at the same time, in meeting that cultural need you’ve got to be careful not to put an obstacle for other social needs.

“Cultural need can’t actually disadvantage you overall for all the other social requirements.

“Not to keep them separated from mainstream but to enhance their ability to move in and out of the two cultures without any overall disadvantage.”

He said specific indigenous schools were effective for cultural competence and capability but it was vital they produced teenagers who were effective parents.

During hearings, Mr Carmody visited the Cairns Djarragun College, a boarding school for indigenous teens.

“While there is an advantage in having separate indigenous schools to be culturally competent and capable, the idea is to produce children … who are capable adults,” he said.

“(Adults who are) likely to be responsible parents so you cut the circuit that we currently have where you have passive intergenerational child protection concerns passed on through the generations.

“That’s the aim of it.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service chief executive Shane Duffy said it was a basic human right to have access to culture.

“If you remove a child away from that community, you remove them away from their spiritual connection,” he said.

He said without a connection, children were left wondering why they were different.

Indigenous children are nine times more likely to be in out-of-home care and make up 38 per cent of the children in care.

Source: The Australian “Indigenous culture, but not at all costs: Child Protection Commissioner”

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