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Annual Report 2015-2016 Office of the Children's Commissioner Northern Territory



Annual Report 2015-2016 Office of the Children's Commissioner Northern Territory

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Tabled Paper 143


Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT






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The OCC through its functions and powers and the framing of report recommendations shall promote child protection and youth justice systems based on the principles of the Best Interests of the Child being of paramount importance and at the centre and forefront of all we do, that both systems are culturally appropriate and responsive through their practice, policies and procedures, early intervention and prevention are central to reducing the number of children and young people encountering either system, that given the nature of prevention there is shared service delivery and collaboration across government, non-government and community and that both child protection and youth justice be solidified with an evidence based, best practice approach to system design, reform, and practice delivery to ensure best possible outcomes for our children and young people. A major issue in child protection is the moral dilemma which arises as a result of facilitating a statutory protection system for children whilst encouraging families to care for their own, this all with the best interests of the child at the centre. Child protection decisions and actions must consider the protection of the child from harm, the protection of the childs rights and the promotion of the childs development. When childrens best interests are the focus of intervention, the childs family are involved in decision making and empowered to take control of their own circumstances. This approach assists families to develop their own solutions to their situation, and to explore options for the ongoing care and placement if required. The childs best interests, as a principle, requires a holistic view of the childs experience rather than applying fragmented practice approaches. Consideration must also be given to strengthening family relationships and ensuring family responsibility is maintained. In relation to an Aboriginal child, this is critical as it is in an Aboriginal childs best interest to promote and protect their culture, heritage, spiritual identity, family and community connection. Aboriginal children make up on average 75 per cent 1 of the Child Protection notification cohort (and regularly in excess of 90 per cent of the Youth Justice cohort). There has been little variance in this percentage over the past 5 years and little to indicate that it may change in the coming years. In addition, in 2015-16, 85 per cent of investigations substantiated related to an Aboriginal child. Considering the unique context of the NT with a far higher proportion of Aboriginal Territorians than other states and territories, and the vast majority of children in the OoHC system and youth justice system in the NT being Aboriginal, the implementation of culturally appropriate and responsive practice, policies and programs is required. The additional cultural overlay brings with it further challenges for consideration in decision making. Child protection, fundamentally a statutory system, is based on western notions of family and therefore is not as easily attributable to Aboriginal families. For an Aboriginal child the definition of family is more complex as it is based on cultural notions of not only relations but also obligations, for example the shared responsibility for the care of an Aboriginal child amongst family members, and also with community members, is common and is contrary to the traditional western notions of nuclear family. Looking Ahead 1 For the period to 2015-16 OFFICE OF THE CHILDRENS COMMISSIONER NORTHERN TERRITORY ANNUAL REPORT 2015-16102

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