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Issue #1809      February 7, 2018

Warning over threat to kids

Child sexual abuse in institutions is not just a thing of the past. That’s the chilling warning from SNAICC chairperson Sharron Williams in the wake of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The head of the peak Indigenous children’s organisation said it was clear more urgent work was needed to keep kids safe.

Ms Williams welcomed the royal commission’s report, and wants to see all 402 recommendations accepted and implemented as soon as possible. Called in 2013, the commission heard the stories of almost 7,000 survivors of child sexual abuse, 985 of whom are Indigenous. The great majority of these people had been abused before 1990.

Among the commission’s recommendations are funding for Indigenous healing approaches and full implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, where Indigenous kids are placed where possible with family or Indigenous carers.

It also stresses the need for safe schools and hostels for Indigenous boarding students, and the importance of cultural safety for children in youth detention.

Ms Williams said strong cultural identity, connections to family and community, and cultural care practices are non-negotiable factors in keeping Indigenous children safe.

“The pain and injustices of the past have been acknowledged, and must now be redressed,” she said. “At the same time, we must tackle current challenges to ensure our children are kept safe in family and culture.”

National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services chief executive Antoinette Braybrook also welcomed the report, saying that access to Aboriginal community-controlled bodies is essential to healing.

She said Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to support survivors.

“The royal commission has acknowledged the importance of culture and developing specific initiatives to keep our children safe,” Ms Braybrook said.

“We work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children nationally who have experienced family violence, and the royal commission identified that many of those have been victims of child sexual abuse.

“It’s the trust and confidence that our people have in us that takes us into those communities to raise awareness and provide support.”

Three-quarters of the Indigenous survivors interviewed said they were sexually abused in out-of-home care, with most cases occurring in historical residential institutions like mission dormitories and children’s homes. More than one third of survivors said they were sexually abused for between one and five years.

Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) co-chair Tony Hansen said there has been little acknowledgement of the injustices faced by Aboriginal children who were taken from their families, with the recommendations of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report “largely ignored by governments”.

“The significant level of sexual abuse suffered by Stolen Generations children over many generations was confirmed when the Bringing Them Home report was tabled over 20 years ago, yet little has been done to implement the many recommendations in that landmark report,” he said.

“We will be looking to Commonwealth and state governments and the various churches who failed our children to commit to the proposed redress scheme and to the implementation of the recommendations in the report, but also to review the Bringing Them Home report, which acknowledges the specific plight of Aboriginal children.

“If we want our families to heal and end the cycle of intergenerational trauma, the solutions are to be found in the recommendations of the royal commission report and the Bringing Them Home report. It is time for action.”

Koori Mail

Next article – White Australia has a Black History

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