A story in today’s Australian, but not prominently displayed, goes to the heart of the current crisis in remote communities: ‘Crisis’ in welfare of children.
FORMER Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley has told an international forum that the poor health and welfare of Aboriginal children represents a “domestic humanitarian crisis”.
… Professor Stanley told The Australian that the military intervention in Northern Territory communities and a proposal for a similar move in Western Australia arose from a substantial and growing gap between sections of Australia’s population.
“That’s exactly what we’re seeing: the extreme end of inequality in opportunity, education, welfare and crime,” Professor Stanley said.
She called for trained Aboriginal health workers to be mobilised to work in troubled communities as part of the healing process.
“There are a huge number of Aboriginal people with health training but they have no career path,” she said.
“They deliver a service that’s trusted and they are often swamped because they are so successful. But often the plug is pulled because they are employed in pilot programs.”
While strongly endorsing moves to protect children from abuse, she warned against repeating past policies that separated Aboriginal children from their families.
“The removal of children in the Stolen Generation explains almost everything about the problems we’re seeing today,” she said.
“We need to go back to the Stolen Generation report and implement every aspect of its recommendations.”
The child health survey, which collected information from 2000 families and interviewed 11,500 family members, found 41 per cent of indigenous children were living in households that had experienced the forced separation of at least one parent, primary carer or grandparent.
Stephen Zubrick, the survey’s chief investigator, said the present focus on remote communities ignored identical or worse problems plaguing Aboriginal families in metropolitan Perth and southwest towns.
“There’s a fascination with looking at the remote communities, but there are only 2800 children under 18 living outside the metro area,” he said.
“Some 60 per cent of all Aboriginal people in this state live in metropolitan settings.”
The survey’s figures indicated that the health of Aboriginal children in urban areas was worse on some indicators, such as the incidence of asthma, he said.
“It would suggest the remote kids are actually doing better than city kids in one or two areas.”