Hearing 8, “The experiences of First Nations people with disability and their families in contact with child protection systems” took place in Brisbane from Monday 23rd November to Friday November 27th. The hearing was not open to the public due to the pandemic, but was available for streaming on the DRC website.
Hearing 8 was the first to specifically examine the experiences of First Nations people with disability. Takeaway findings include:
- The specific experience of First Nations parents with disability who are in contact with child protection systems has, until now, been under-explored.
- First Nations parents with disability navigate three different “worlds”; First Nations world, the disability world, and the world of being “Australian”. This combination means they are more likely to both experience racism and ableism. colonisation, poverty, chronic health conditions, racism, intergenerational trauma, and a lack of culturally appropriate services.
- The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing reports that in 2018-2019 First Nations children were 8 times as likely enter child protection services than non-Indigenous children.
- Due to incomplete data and limitations in recording and reporting parental disability status in child protection systems, it is not clear on a statistical basis, whether children of parents with disability, including First Nation parents, are more likely to be over-represented within those systems.
- There are cultural differences in the ways that mental health, intelligence, functionality, and disability are conceptualised in First Nations communities, that are essential to providing culturally safe and appropriate support.
- The importance of recognising the effects of intergenerational trauma, ongoing dispossession, and the prevalence of systemic racism when understanding the health and wellbeing of First Nations communities. Furthermore, understanding that a mistrust for government systems held by many First Nations people stems from the direct role these systems have played, and continue to play as the direct perpetrator of these acts.
- Recognising that poverty as a result of dispossession and displacement acts as an intersecting factor when understanding the relationship between Aboriginality, disability, and child protection systems.
- First Nations communities advocate for children to be left with their families in culture, regardless of disability or otherwise. Culture is a lived experience and integral to First Nations models of health and wellbeing.
- A refocus and reinvestment away from child removal to preventative, community-led services which empower families is recommended. The necessary characteristics of these suggested services are: trauma-informed, strengths-based, culturally safe, wholistic, and replacing a “one size fits all” model in favour of the one that recognises the diversity of lived experience and culture amongst First Nations communities.
Access to and engagement with individual advocacy was highlighted as a key protective factor for First Nations parents with disability navigating the child protection system.