The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has demanded the State Government prioritise more funding for early intervention programs that promote positive families to help reduce the high number of Aboriginal children in state care.
AHCWA chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox has responded to comments by WA Treasurer and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt in Monday’s The West Australian, in which he said he was “deeply and personally committed” to addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in state care.
The story cites statistics from the Department of Communities that shows 2603 of the 4795 children in care are indigenous, despite just 5 per cent of all children and teenagers in WA being Aboriginal.
“The overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in state care is a grave concern to the Aboriginal Health Council of WA and indigenous communities across the state,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
“Ben Wyatt’s commitment to addressing the great number of Aboriginal children in care is admirable, but the reality is there needs to be greater investment in early intervention programs that foster positive parenting to help overcome this terrible toll.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA had recently provided a submission to the Department of Communities about its Parent and Baby Support Service model, which will target Aboriginal parents aged between 15 and 25 and offer intensive, live-in support services.
“This service will be designed in consultation with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and help support the most at-risk Aboriginal babies so that they can remain in the care of their parents from birth,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
“This is an initiative that has the ability to make very real differences to the large number of children in care, but for it to be successful there needs to be adequate investment in the trial.
“AHCWA understands that Western Australia is facing some of its toughest financial times, but Ben Wyatt needs to make good appropriate funds for this model and other early intervention programs to support parents. Only then will we begin to reverse the trend of children in state care.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA was currently developing a family and wellbeing program to focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people and communities in WA.
“Through this program, AHCWA hopes to help strengthen families and offer strategies to help our people build better foundations to overcome poor family wellbeing. We want to create stronger communities where children grow and thrive.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said it was vital that government afforded Aboriginal community and community-controlled organisations the opportunity to help design policies and programs that impact on them.
AHCWA is the peak body for Aboriginal health in WA, with 22 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) currently engaged as members.