Aboriginal infant removals: Trends, disparities and challenges

Out of home care
Wednesday 25 July, 1420 – 1440


Dr Melissa O’Donnell
Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia

Associate Professor Stephanie Taplin
Australian Catholic University

Professor Rhonda Marriott
Murdoch University

The removal of a child from his/her parents is traumatising and particularly in Aboriginal communities where a history of child removals has led to intergenerational trauma. This study will determine where disparities in child protection involvement exist among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children and characteristics associated with infant removals. Both challenges faced by child protection and other agencies and opportunities for overcoming these challenges, are discussed.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and linked Western Australian government data was used to examine disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in child protection.
The data showed that nationally, Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal children and this disparity starts in infancy. Infants were removed from parents with high levels of risk, and Aboriginal infants were more likely to be removed from women with substance-use problems and from remote, disadvantaged communities.

The conclusion drawn is that Aboriginal infants of vulnerable parents have a high rate of removal and while there are many complexities to be understood and challenges to overcome, there are potential strategies. The disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal infant removals needs to be seen as a priority requiring urgent action to prevent further intergenerational trauma.