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Caring for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child

Sections on this page:

Culture and identity

Cultural identity is about a sense of ‘belonging’ within a community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity relates to the child’s social and emotional wellbeing. It gives meaning to all aspects of life including relationships with one another and the environment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and traditions connect children to their family, community and country, providing them with a sense of belonging and identity.

Child Placement Principle

It is now well understood that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a need for, and a right to know, their own families and culture. Denial of this has produced tragic and long-term consequences. The separation and disconnection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families over many generations has left a legacy of sadness, grief, trauma, disadvantage and loss of identity and culture for many Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander.

To make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care do not experience a sense of loss of identity and dislocation from family and community, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle has been incorporated into Queensland’s child protection laws. Its purpose is to safeguard the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within the child protection system and recognises the importance of connections to family, community, culture and country.

There are 5 core elements of the Child Placement Principle:

  1. Prevention: Protecting children’s rights to grow up in family, community and culture by redressing the causes of child protection intervention.
  2. Partnership: Ensuring the participation of community representatives in service design, delivery and individual case decisions.
  3. Placement: Placing children in alternate care in accordance with the established hierarchy.
  4. Participation: Ensuring the participation of children, parents and family members in decisions regarding the care and protection of their children.
  5. Connection: Maintaining and supporting connections to family, community, culture and country for children in alternate care.

Non-Indigenous carers and the Child Placement Principle

Where we are not able to locate an appropriate carer who is either a member of the child’s family community or language group, or another Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander, Child Safety may place an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child with a non-Indigenous carer.

Before doing this, Child Safety wants to be sure of your commitment to:

  • supporting the child to have contact between their parents and family members
  • maintaining contact with their culture, community and language group
  • preserving and supporting their identity as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Child Safety may continue to attempt to locate a placement that is in keeping with the hierarchy of placements outlined in the Child Placement Principle, i.e. with extended family, someone from their own community or language group, another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or one who lives near to the child’s community or language group.

If you currently provide care to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child, or think that this could be a future possibility, talk to your foster and kinship care service about training on caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, such as Caring for Jarjums.

Cultural support plan

The cultural support plan is about maintaining and strengthening the child’s cultural connections. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children its focus is on:

  • connections to country, family, clan and community
  • understanding of cultural history, values, beliefs and customs
  • personal identity and sense of belonging.

Child Safety is responsible for developing a child’s cultural support plan. It is part of the child’s case plan and is regularly reviewed and updated. The initial plan is usually developed in partnership with you, the child (where age appropriate), and family group meeting participants such as family members, community Elders, workers from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies, or a child safety services centre's Cultural Practice Advisor. In some circumstances it may take time to identify the child’s community and establish the right connections with community members and Elders.

As an information and planning tool, the cultural support plan will:

  • capture information about the child’s family, community and persona history
  • detail arrangements for the child’s contact with at least one person from their immediate or extended family
  • identify opportunities for the child’s participation and experiences that will maintain their links with family, community and culture
  • outline the practical things that you and others in the safety and support network can do to develop and maintain the child’s cultural needs
  • identify any supports you may need to meet the child’s cultural needs.

Supports

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures vary from community to community and manifest in many ways. Cultural activities are not limited to watching media with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander role models, attending culturally-significant events, traditional song and dance. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, like other cultures, are evolving and changing.

There are a variety of organisations, such as Elders groups, community justice groups, Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate, local councils and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations that can be contacted. Making a connection with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is vital in developing and maintaining a child’s connection to their culture, family, community and country.

Find member agencies on the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak website.

Supports for non-Indigenous carers

Family members and community Elders are in the best position to provide advice and assist in a child’s cultural journey. Their role and contribution is essential and will be recorded in the cultural support plan. Another way of connecting to culture is by connecting with appropriate people and services, such as:

  • attending an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Service
  • connecting with Indigenous Liaison Officers, through Department of Education schools
  • enrolling the child in a Deadly Kindy program
  • contacting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement officer, in non-Indigenous councils
  • enrolling in cultural capability training when this is offered through your foster and kinship care agency.