AN Aboriginal Elder dedicated to improving the lives of Aboriginal children in care, will today become the Australian Centre for Child Protection’s first Ambassador for Children.
Aunt Sue Blacklock, a senior Elder of the Gamilaraay nation from Tingha, is being recognised for a lifetime of community work and for chairing Winangay Resources Inc, a volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Centre on a project to enhance community and family responsibility for the protection of Aboriginal children.
Recent statistics indicat-ed that 4.72 per cent of children aged 0-17 years in Australia are Indigenous, yet they constituted a third (nearly 33.6 per cent) of those placed in out-of-home care.
The over representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, outside of their community, is what Aunt Sue seeks to address.
“For many Aboriginal children being removed from the family home also means loss and disconn-ection from their local community, from their culture and land,” Aunt Sue said. “The sense of loss of identity and culture, dispossession, and separ-ation from local community that these children grow up experiencing is the same as those experienced by the Stolen Generation.
“It’s traumatic and the communities are left crying for these children. Kinship care reduces the trauma for Aboriginal children and their communities and reducing kids’ trauma must be a government priority.”
It is a sentiment echoed by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Inc, which has reported that unless new approaches are adopted in child protection, “we risk another stolen generation”.
A new national approach that Winangay Resources Inc and the Australian Centre for Child Protection are working to adopt is expected to result in the effective use of new assessment tools and supports provided to carers.
This will enable a higher proportion of Aboriginal children to be placed safely with Aboriginal carers and communities.
This includes the training of 70 practitioners in culturally appropriate meth-ods of carer assessment for carers of Aboriginal children and culturally valid assessment of carers.
Australian Centre for Child Protection Director, Professor Fiona Arney, said the unique research the Centre is doing in this area adds to the knowledge base of what constitutes strong and relevant practice in child protection, and could be used in other commun-ities across Australia.
“This national project harnesses cultural practice and research expertise in a close partnership,” Prof Arney says.
“The Centre and Winangay Resources Inc are working together to further build the rigorous evidence base for the use of these culturally derived, research-informed tools in the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across Australia.”
Professor Arney said it was a privilege for the centre to be represented by Aunt Sue as its first ambassador.
“Aunt Sue’s outstanding commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and unparalleled devotion to reducing the number of children and young people who have been removed from their families and communities addresses one of Australia’s greatest human rights challenges.”
Aunt Sue, a descendent of one of the survivors of the Myall Creek Massacre and a great grandmother to more than 65 children, welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with the centre.
“It’s a privilege and an honour to be an ambassador for the children, my main aim is to make sure kids are safe and that they have a voice and that they are heard.”