Indigenous Law Bulletin
edited by Meg Worby, researched and written by Kenny Bedford
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)
Available free of charge from SNAICC
reviewed by Keryn Ruska
Over 10 years ago the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (‘SNAICC’) produced a national resource handbook entitled Through Black Eyes, which aimed to assist and strengthen Indigenous communities to address and respond to domestic violence. Through Young Black Eyes has a similar aim, with a focus on ‘the particular impact of family and domestic violence on children and children who are subjected to other forms of child abuse and neglect’.
The overview at the commencement of the handbook discusses the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection system and the failure of state, territory and national governments to adequately respond to this over-representation. The overview also contains a thorough discussion of the factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect, and identifies poverty and disadvantage as a major cause of child removal from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The handbook advocates for funding to be directed towards early intervention and family support, and to address the systemic causes of child abuse and neglect, rather than directing funding towards the removal of children after family breakdown has occurred.
Sections A, B and C of the handbook provide definitions and examples of family violence, child abuse and neglect, and child sexual assault, respectively. Each section also outlines the behavioural indicators of each type of abuse, and contains information for workers and communities on how to respond to each type of abuse, how to support children and families, and how to help prevent such abuse.
Section D of the handbook deals with the reporting of child protection matters. It provides a useful overview of the child protection system, and the process from reporting right through to care and protection orders. The section also provides information on when reports of child abuse must be made, including the grounds for reporting in each state and territory, and the penalties for failing to report.
Section E provides a comprehensive overview of resources and services. My only criticism of the handbook, from my perspective as a solicitor at an Indigenous women’s legal service, is that the list of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services fails to include Indigenous women’s legal services. These services provide legal advice and assistance to Indigenous women in the areas of family violence and child protection.
Overall, the handbook is a unique and valuable tool for all workers in the child protection area, as it is compiled by an Indigenous organisation, and addresses the issues of family violence and child protection from an Indigenous perspective.
While this handbook is intended to assist communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, it is also highly recommended for non-Indigenous workers in the child protection area. It highlights previous historical factors and enforced government policies that contribute to current over-representation, and provides tools for workers to address the needs of Indigenous children and families.
Keryn Ruska is from the Nunukal people of North Stradbroke Island. She is a solicitor at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal and Advocacy Service in Brisbane.