The Charter of Rights and spiritual and cultural identity

Charter graphic - Aboriginal flagAboriginal children and young people in care have the right to know about their cultural and spiritual identity and their community.

(Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care)

The best evidence of how well this right is supported comes through our audits of  the annual reviews of the situation of young people in care and the voice of young people themselves.  In 2014-2015, GCYP audited 203 annual reviews. Eighty of those were for Aboriginal children and young people, 65 of whom were case managed by regional Families SA offices.

Placement within the Aboriginal community

It is widely accepted and enshrined in the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle that knowledge of and connection to culture and community is best supported by a placement within an Aboriginal family and community.  In 2014-15 the audit found:

  • Seventy-two per cent of Aboriginal children resided within their extended family (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) or in Aboriginal foster placements.
  • Twenty-one per cent of Aboriginal children resided in non-Aboriginal foster care or residential care placements.
  • One Aboriginal child resided in residential care for Aboriginal children.
  • Four Aboriginal young people lived independently as they prepared to leave care.

Support for cultural heritage and engagement

Audits of the annual reviews of the circumstances of Aboriginal children and young people also collect information about cultural heritage and engagement in activities to promote cultural identity and connection.

In 2014-2015:

  • Families SA offices reported in 51 of the 80 cases that workers had documented sufficient information about the child’s cultural heritage to share with the child. This included the child’s clan group, a detailed cultural genogram and information that could be used to inform a cultural identity plan. In most cases, cultural identity plans had not been developed.
  • Thirty-six of the 80 Aboriginal children and young people had opportunities to engage in activities to promote their cultural identity and connection with family, culture and land. Such activities were mostly generic (such as NAIDOC and Reconciliation Weeks) rather than clan-specific.
  • Thirty-four of the 80 Aboriginal children and young people whose cases were reviewed had a culturally specific Life Story Book in development.

What young Aboriginal people have said

In February and March this year the Office interviewed five young Aboriginal people about their views and experiences of growing up in care .  All wanted to know more about their family and culture and most said they found the company of other Aboriginal people enjoyable and affirming.

“Me growing up I knew very little about my Aboriginal history and heritage… My [foster] mother and my foster father at the time … said ‘we want to protect him … he might not want to know that, we don’t want to take the risk’”

“My social worker and Families SA could organise more community events…and programs for Aboriginal children to go out…. It would be really good to get a social worker, one who doesn’t know anything, … and she will learn along the way.”

“I think that parents [of Aboriginal children in care] should talk to the social worker and to the school and put in plans to strengthen their knowledge about who they are as a person and an Aboriginal as well.”

There is sustained effort in our state’s care system to place Aboriginal children and young people within an Aboriginal environment. However, young people’s experience,  and this is confirmed by our audits of annual reviews, is that support for cultural heritage identity and connection is patchy and the use of identity plans is not common. and, in the mandated requirement for cultural identity plans, are very lacking.

The 2014-15 report on our audits of annual reviews will be published in September.  A video of some of the interviews with young Aboriginal people has just been released.

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We acknowledge and respect Aboriginal People as the traditional owners
and custodians of the land we live and work on, their living culture and their unique role in the life of South Australia.