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Catherine Liddle Speaks on National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children's Day

Catherine Liddle is an Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia. Catherine joined SNAICC as CEO with a strong background in senior management positions with First Nations organisations. She was excited to join SNAICC and continue to build the organisation’s strong platform in representing the voice of the next generation – our children. The theme for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day 2021 is: Proud in culture, strong in spirit. Catherine Talks on 3KND's Big Brekkie with Gman.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the right to experience and be proud of their history, cultural beliefs and practices.

Our Children's Day 2021 theme highlights the importance of supporting strong family and community connections to help our children achieve strong spiritual and cultural wellbeing and to form proud cultural identities. Children's Day is a time to for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children. It is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that culture, family and community play in the life of every child.

"When children sit, look at the sea that goes with the story, they capture all this message – it is not by accident when we teach our children about the land, about the sea, about the dance." – Rosemary Gundjarranbuy, Yalu Marnjgithinyaraw as part of Interplay Project, Ninti One

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities have provided love and care for their children, growing them up strong and safe in their cultural traditions, for thousands of generations. For our children, safety, wellbeing and development are closely linked to the strengths of their connections with family, community, culture, language, and Country. One year after all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks signed the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the Productivity Commission has released the first Annual Data Compilation Report.

“As a national member of the Peaks, we welcome the report. It will monitor the progress on key outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children," SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said. “Our families need urgent support – and the report highlights that systemic transformation is what is required. It calls for governments to change the way they do business with our people to close the gap. “This includes continuing to work with our sectors to ensure they are prioritised as the experts in delivering culturally and locally appropriate services to our families.

“Importantly, this first report also sets baselines to track progress of the Closing the Gap targets and provides building blocks for accountability to the actions that governments make," Ms Liddle said.

Nationally, Target 12 of the Agreement to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care to 45% by 2031 is not on track to be met.

“Governments agreed to ambitious targets in supporting our children’s safety and wellbeing, and we acknowledge that the Agreement has not yet had the time to influence tangible change,” Ms Liddle continued. There are 56.3 per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care – up from the baseline of 54.2 per 1,000 children in 2019. This figure is greater at 64.3 per 1,000 if children on permanent care orders are included, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “Our people have said it for a long time; change can only happen through shared decision-making and genuine partnership with our communities. Without change, these figures are set to double by 2029.

“Targets alone will not drive change; it is the four Priority Reforms that the National Agreement was built around being effectively resourced and implemented that will generate notable outcomes for our families,” Ms Liddle said.

Only 16% of the $6.9 billion investment in child protection systems is spent on supporting families, the Report on Government Services revealed earlier this year. “Clearly, greater investment must be provided in supporting our families, and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations have proven that they are best placed to deliver these supports through culturally-safe child- and family-centred programs. “We are working tirelessly with community leaders and all governments in ensuring the next national child protection framework will prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in all jurisdictions.”

SNAICC is also working with the National Indigenous Australians Agency on a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Years Strategy, which aims to drive a whole-of-government approach to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our children. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in a preschool program before fulltime schooling is currently 93.1%, above the rate of non-Indigenous children at 84.2% – in line to meet the target of 95% enrolment is positive.

Enrolment does not necessarily translate to attendance and engagement. National data indicates that despite high enrolment rates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait children attend 600 hours of preschool at a rate of approximately 12.4% lower than non-Indigenous children.

“It is encouraging that our children are enrolling in preschool education at an essential time in their lives. However, it is crucial for our kids to have access to early years education and care from 0 to 4 years for that target to reflect genuine progress,” Ms Liddle said. Working in partnership with all governments and as a national member of the Coalition of Peaks, SNAICC is involved in ensuring that the full implementation of the commitments in the National Agreement are upheld in all key areas. “We look forward to genuine commitment of governments through the Implementation Plan to acknowledge the opportunities presented to them, such as the next national child protection framework – where together we can strengthen Aboriginal-led decision-making and service delivery.

“We are confident that with genuine commitment to the Priority Reforms for systemic change, we can work together to ensure our kids have the opportunity to thrive, strong in their culture, with their family, community and kin.”

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children Phone: 03 9419 1921


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