Two indigenous children walking along a street in Arukun, Queensland.
Two indigenous children walking along a street in Arukun, Queensland.

Qld bucking sad trend for indigenous kids

THE number of Australian indigenous children in state care has passed 20,000, as experts warn the problem will increase dramatically in the decades ahead unless radical steps are taken.

But Queensland appears to be the one state making progress, as the recommendations made by the 2013 Carmody child protection inquiry begin to kick in.

The Family Matters report, released today, will reveal the full extent of out-of-home care for indigenous kids who now represent more than 37 per cent of kids in care, despite representing five per cent of all Australian children.

But Family Matters' Queensland-based co-chair Natalie Lewis, who will be in Canberra today for the report launch, says Queensland has begun showing some improvement, and could provide a blueprint to tackle the problem nationwide.

"It's clear we need more early intervention and more community consultation on this issue, and to some extent we are seeing that happening in Queensland,'' she said.

"If that approach were applied across the nation, I believe we would see some improvement in the situation.''


Indigenous children in a remote Queensland community
Indigenous children in a remote Queensland community


Tim Carmody
Tim Carmody


The report found that the number of indigenous children in care had increased from about 17,000 in 2018-19 to more than 20,000 in 2018-19.

"At June 30, 20018, 20,421 of our children were living in out-of-home care, the majority of whom will go to bed tonight in a place that is not their own, disconnected from kin, country and culture,'' the report said.

"This is unacceptable."

The report found the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care was 10.2 times that of other children, and the disproportionate representation continued to grow.

In Queensland, 3050 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were on finalised guardianship or custody orders as at June 30, 2018, which represents a levelling out of the number of Qeensland children in care over the past few years.

The Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, headed by then magistrate Tim Carmody - who would later become chief justice - delivered its final report in 2013, and helped highlight the extent of the growing problem of kids in out of home care.

The Carmody inquiry found that reports and notifications of child abuse in Queensland had more than tripled in the 10 years to 2012, from 33,697 to 114,503, while Queensland's child protection budget increased by 300 per cent in the same period.

The report's recommendations included stronger early intervention and more kinship care for indigenous children.