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Giving our kids a voice

A lifelong dedication to improving the lives of young Aboriginal children in care has resulted in Aunt Sue Blacklock, a senior elder of the Gamilaraay nation, becoming the Australian Centre for Child Protection’s first Ambassador for Children.

Aunt Sue, who is from Tingha NSW, 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.

“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 they are heard,” she says.

A great grandmother to over 65 children, Aunt Sue is well aware of the importance of raising happy and healthy kids but recent statistics indicate that 4.72 per cent of children aged 0-17 years in Australia are Indigenous, yet they constitute a third (nearly 33.6 per cent) of those placed in out-of-home care.

“For many Aboriginal children, being removed from the family home also means loss and disconnection from their local community, from their culture and land,” she says.

“The sense of loss of identity and culture, dispossession, and separation from local community that these children grow up experiencing is the same as those experienced by the Stolen Generations.

“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.”

Aunt Sue’s statement reflects what the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Inc. reports, they say that unless new approaches are adopted in child protection “we risk another stolen generation”.

Winangay Resources Inc and the Australian Centre for Child Protection are working to adopt a new national approach that is expected to result in the effective use of new assessments tools and supports provided to carers, enabling a higher proportion of Aboriginal children to be placed safely with Aboriginal carers and communities.

Australian Centre for Child Protection Director, Professor Fiona Arney, says 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 communities across Australia.

“This national project harnesses cultural practice and research expertise in a close partnership,” says Professor Arney.

“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 says it was a privilege for the Centre to be represented by Aunt Sue as its first ambassador and she will be a prominent voice in optimising outcomes for young Aboriginals in out-of-home care.

“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.”


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