Thursday 16 November 2023 – for immediate release
Aboriginal children and young people in care are experiencing barriers, including racism, that are preventing them from achieving the same outcomes as other students, the Commission for Children and Young people found as part of its Let us learn inquiry, tabled this morning in the Parliament of Victoria.
‘Aboriginal children and young people are overrepresented in the care system and this is getting worse,’ said Meena Singh, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People.
‘There was an increase of 21 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people in care between 2018–2022 and Aboriginal children and young people represent 29 per cent of the total number of children and young people in care.’
Department of Education data shows substantial disparities in educational outcomes for Aboriginal students in care compared to both Aboriginal children and young people not in care, and non-Aboriginal children in care.
‘I travelled around the state to hear directly from Aboriginal children and young people about their education experiences. Key findings of this report are that racism continues to occur in schools and that schools are often not culturally safe places for Aboriginal children and young people, particularly those in care,’ Commissioner Singh said.
The report showed that for Aboriginal children and young people, low expectations and racism can lead to educational disengagement. For those living in care, these experiences are exacerbated because of their removal from family, kin and country.
‘In this report, we saw a continuation of the exclusion from education that began with colonisation, and concerningly, unacceptably, this continues today,’ said Commissioner Singh.
‘We heard how much Aboriginal children and young people, their families and carers value education and want support to do well. We need to challenge and ultimately dismantle damaging negative stereotypes about Aboriginal children and young people’s lack of education potential and aspiration if they are to flourish, especially for Aboriginal children and young people in care. It is crucial that schools are culturally safe and racism addressed in order for Aboriginal children and young people to excel,’ Commissioner Singh said.
Schools in Victoria are required by law to implement the Victorian Child Safe Standards and comply with Ministerial Order 1359 that provides the framework for child safety in schools. Standard 1 relates to cultural safety and requires organisations to establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued. This includes identifying and eliminating experiences of racism.
Commissioner Singh said that, as well as compliance with the Standards, the Department of Education must develop a clear and distinct policy that addresses racism in Victorian government education settings to be accompanied by youth friendly resources for Aboriginal children and young people.
The report also calls for better supports for Aboriginal children and young people in care, and an audit of the Report Racism Hotline to improve its effectiveness.
‘The education system is among the most powerful tools at our disposal if we are to break the entrenched cycles of disadvantage unjustly imposed on Aboriginal children and young people – especially those in care. It demands greater attention and resourcing to respond to the unique needs and backgrounds of all children and young people, Aboriginal or not, in out-of-home care or not,’ Commissioner Singh concluded.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People
0437 046 360