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aboriginalvictoria.vic.gov.au

Children, family and home

Our shared commitment:

All Aboriginal children and young people are safe, resilient, thriving and living in culturally rich, strong Aboriginal families and communities.

Families and Aboriginal child-rearing practices are fundamental to raising strong Aboriginal children and young people. Supporting Aboriginal families with safe and effective services enables better outcomes.

Encouraging Aboriginal children and families to be strong in culture and proud of their unique identity can ensure that every Aboriginal child has the best start in life.

Goal 1: Aboriginal children are born healthy and thrive

1.1 Improve maternal and infant health

Measures: 

  • 1.1.1 Rate of low birth weight
  • 1.1.2 Rate of preterm birth
  • 1.1.3 Rate of perinatal mortality
  • 1.1.4 Smoking during pregnancy

More than 1,100 Aboriginal babies were born in Victoria in 2017 and this number continues to rise.

The health of a mother and her baby during pregnancy and at birth is a key determinant of health and wellbeing later in life. Ensuring access to culturally-safe maternal health care contributes to better outcomes for both mothers and their babies.

Since 2009, the rate of perinatal mortality for Aboriginal babies has fallen dramatically. This is a significant achievement and demonstrates improved and increased specialised care for Aboriginal babies born prematurely, and the effectiveness of maternal services delivered by Aboriginal organisations.

However, the rate of Aboriginal babies born with a low birth weight and the rate of Aboriginal babies born prematurely continues to be much higher than comparable rates for non-Aboriginal babies.

Ongoing investment in community-led responses to optimise maternal health and the development of Aboriginal children is an essential platform for Aboriginal self-determination, ensuring that all children in Victoria have an equal chance to thrive and grow.

Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Initiative

The Aboriginal MCH Initiative was established to trial innovative MCH service provision. Developed through a co-design process with Koorie communities and the MCH sector, the initiative aims to improve access to, and participation in, MCH services by Aboriginal families.

The initiative was trialled in 2017 and 2018 across 9 sites including ACCOs and local governments. The service model provided increased flexibility and choice for families in where and how they accessed MCH services, stronger engagement between councils and their local Aboriginal community, and improved quality and coordination through culturally-safe service delivery.

In 2019-20, the Initiative will expand its delivery of MCH services through ACCOs, ensuring Aboriginal families have choice in where and how they access MCH services.

1.2 Children thrive in their first 1,000 days

Measures:

  • 1.2.1 Participation rates for Maternal and Child Health Key Ages and Stages Consultations Measure
  • 1.2.2 Attendance at Koori Maternal Health Service Measure
  • 1.2.3 Immunisation rate at 24 months and 60 months
  • 1.2.4 Participation in facilitated playgroup (0-3 years)

The first 5 years of life are the building blocks for a child’s future health and development. Children’s early experiences and interactions shape brain development and serve as the foundation for subsequent learning.

Participation in Key Ages and Stages Consultations has generally increased year-to-year. In 2016-17, participation at the first home visit consultation was near universal for Aboriginal families. However, participation has tended to decline for all families over time, particularly after the 4 month visit.

Early childhood home visiting empowers parents and caregivers to meet their family’s needs and to engage more fully in their children’s care and growth.

Data for Measure 1.2.2 Attendance at Koori Maternal Health Service is currently unavailable. The update of the Koori Maternity Services minimum dataset will enable reporting on this measure from 2020.

One of many services offered by Aboriginal organisations in the early childhood space, Koorie Supported Playgroups commenced in 2018 and is funded until 2021. In 2018, 69 Aboriginal children aged 0-3 participated in Koorie Supported Playgroups. Enrolment numbers in future years are expected to rise.

    Childhood immunisation coverage rates have steadily increased in Victoria since 2008. Coverage rates measure the percentage of children who have had all the vaccinations recommended for their age.

    Immunisation coverage by age 5 is at the highest it’s ever been, with almost all Aboriginal 5-year-old children (94.7%) receiving the recommended immunisations for that age. Immunisation coverage for Aboriginal 1-year-olds has also increased since 2008. However, immunisation coverage for Aboriginal 2-year-olds has decreased slightly, and is slightly lower than the Victorian average.

      The high rates of immunisation among Aboriginal children in their first 5 years of life is a significant achievement and reflects the leading work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs). Aboriginal Victorian children aged 1 and 5 years are close to meeting the Australian Immunisation Register’s coverage target of 95%.

      Koori Maternity Services

      Koori Maternity Services (KMS) deliver flexible, holistic and culturally-safe antenatal and postnatal care which is central to improving outcomes and increasing participation in maternity care for Aboriginal women, babies and families.

      Goal 2. Aboriginal children are raised by Aboriginal families

      2.1 Eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care

      Measures:

      • 2.1.1 Rate and number of children and young people in care
      • 2.1.2 Number of families engaged with family support and intensive family support services.

      Aboriginal children and young people are vastly over-represented in the child protection system. From 2007-08 to 2017-18, the recorded number of Aboriginal children in care almost tripled from 660 to 1,975 children. While this significant increase is in part due to changes in data collection, such as improved identification and recording of Aboriginal status, the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care is concerning and addressing this disparity remains a government priority.

      The period between July 2007 and June 2018 also saw a 5-fold increase in the number of Aboriginal children engaged with intensive family support services.

      While the increased demand for intensive family support services suggests that more families are accessing the support they need, heightened demand also highlights the need for greater preventative measures to address and eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care.

      The growing number of children engaged with intensive family support services, alongside increased funding for community-led early intervention and prevention of family violence, are likely to positively impact on the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care in future years.

      2.2 Increase Aboriginal care, guardianship and management of Aboriginal children and young people in care

      Measures:

      •  2.2.1 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care placed with i) relatives/kin and ii) other Aboriginal carers
      • 2.2.2 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care with a Cultural Plan
      •  2.2.3 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care on contractible orders managed by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs)
      • 2.2.4 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people on protection orders under the direct authority of an ACCO (Section 18)

      Maintaining ongoing connection to kin, community and culture for Aboriginal children and young people in care is fundamental to a young person’s wellbeing.

      There are several ways to measure key protective factors across the child protection and family service systems that promote connection to kin and culture. For example, the proportion of Aboriginal children who are being cared for by relatives or kin, and the proportion who have been provided with a cultural support plan.

      As of June 2018, around 3-quarters of Aboriginal children and young people in care had been placed with relatives or kin, a considerable increase since July 2007 (less than half). However, only 19.4% of Aboriginal children in care have a cultural support plan despite its development being a legislative requirement. Working with Aboriginal organisations to increase this number is essential to delivering better outcomes for Aboriginal children.

      As the Victorian Government gradually transitions care of Aboriginal children to Aboriginal organisations, the number of contractible orders managed by Aboriginal organisations will continue to increase. At June 2019, 2 ACCOs had been authorised responsibility for Aboriginal children in care, with a further 2 ACCOs funded to prepare for authorisation.

      Transfer of case management of Aboriginal children

      The 2019/20 Victorian Budget commits an additional $13.6 million over 2 years to further boost the transfer of case management of Aboriginal children on contractible orders from child protection and non-Aboriginal community service organisations to ACCOs.

      The Aboriginal Children’s Forum is driving and overseeing the transfer of case management to ACCOs. Since the transfer process began, significant progress has been made, with approximately 33% of all Aboriginal children in care case managed by an ACCO in 2018-19, almost 4 times the rate compared with 2015-16 (at approximately 9%).

      Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care

      Over the past 4 years, the Victorian Government has committed, through the Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children and the more recent Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement, to the principles of self-determination and self-management.

      This has resulted in more funding and a stronger role for ACCOs in the design and delivery of local services and supports that are culturally-responsive and safe.

      A new nation-leading initiative, Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) has been developed to support ACCOs to assume responsibility for Aboriginal children on contractible orders. ACAC is a co-designed model of Aboriginal child protection, enabling ACCOs to create and deliver a culturally-sensitive service which focuses on strengthening connection to community, culture and family.

      2.3 Increase family reunifications for Aboriginal children and young people in care

      Measures:

      •  2.3.1 Number of children and young people reunified with parent(s) within 12 months of admission to care as a proportion of all Aboriginal children and young people admitted to care
      • 2.3.2 Number of Aboriginal children and young people who exit care who do not return to care within 12 months as a proportion of all Aboriginal children and young people who exit care

      Aboriginal children and young people belong with their families and communities. Connection to culture, family, community and Country is fundamental to supporting strong children and strong families.

      It is important to measure the frequency in which Aboriginal children are being reunified with their families and how often this occurs within 12 months. Supporting children to return to their families, with adequate supports, is most often the best outcome.

      In 2017-18, just under half of all Aboriginal children admitted to care were reunified with their families within 12 months. This number differs to the total number of children in care in a given reporting period (as this also includes children that have been in care for longer than 12 months).

      Furthermore, in 2017-18 almost 3-quarters of Aboriginal children and young people who exited care did not return to care within the next 12 months.

      Goal 3: Aboriginal families and households thrive

      3.1 Reduce the incidence and impact of family violence affecting Aboriginal families

      Measures:

      • 3.1.1 Number and proportion of family incident reports involving an Indigenous other party; and proportion who were the subject of a previous family incident report
      • 3.1.2 Number and proportion of family incident reports involving an Indigenous affected family member; and proportion who were the subject of a previous family incident report

      Family violence has a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal people in Victoria, particularly women and children, regardless of whether they live in rural, regional or urban areas. Family violence is not part of Aboriginal culture and it is also important to note that family violence against Aboriginal people is perpetrated by people from all backgrounds.

      While the number of family violence incidents reports have risen steeply over the last 10 years, this may not necessarily indicate increased prevalence of family violence, but may be due to policy and practice changes as well as improved recording. Aboriginal women have historically faced and continue to face unique barriers to reporting family violence.

      In family violence reports made to police in 2018 involving an Aboriginal affected family member, 81.2% had been the subject of a previous family incident report.

      While data alone cannot provide a holistic picture of the complexities faced by Aboriginal Victorians experiencing family violence, these figures do demonstrate the importance of a culturally-safe and responsive family support service, as well as the need for a targeted approach to reducing incidences of family violence through early intervention and prevention.

      The Victorian Government is working with Aboriginal communities and services through the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way - Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families to drive community-led responses that aim to ensure Aboriginal people are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from violence.

      Affected family member

      An ‘affected family member’ is the alleged victim; the individual who is deemed to be affected by events occurring during the family incident.

      Other party

      The alleged perpetrator involved in a family incident is referred to as the ‘other party’. The other party could be a current partner, former partner or a family member.

      3.1 Reduce the incidence and impact of family violence affecting Aboriginal families

      Measures:

      • 3.1.3 Number and proportion of notifications to child protection for children and young people where family violence is identified

      Exposure to family violence is a significant driver of demand for child protective services. In 2017-18, family violence was cited in 44.5% of all child protection reports concerning Aboriginal children and young people (4,527 notifications).

      Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund

      The Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund provides annual grant funding to support Aboriginal community-led, culturally-appropriate projects that reduce family violence through prevention and education.

      In October 2018, the Victorian Government doubled its investment in the Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund, increasing the original funding to $1.1 million per annum. Following a competitive grant application process, 46 projects across Victoria received funding from the 2018-19 round to deliver initiatives throughout 2019.

      These family violence prevention projects will reach Aboriginal women, men, children and young people, and Aboriginal families.

      Preventing the Cycle of Violence (PCV) Aboriginal Fund

      The PCV Aboriginal Fund is an Aboriginal-led and designed program, funded by the Victorian Government, that provides $2.71 million over 2 years (2018-20) for Aboriginal communities and their organisations to implement projects and initiatives aimed at the prevention or early intervention of family violence.

      Through this initiative, 11 Aboriginal-led family violence prevention and early intervention projects have been selected through a competitive grant process to receive funding over the 2018-20 period.

      3.2 Increase income and housing security for Aboriginal households

      Measures:

      • 3.2.1 Proportion of households who had reliable access to sufficient food in previous 12 months
      • 3.2.2 Proportion of households with less than 50% median equivalised income
      • 3.2.3 Proportion of households experiencing rental stress
      • 3.2.4 Proportion of Victorians who are homeless and proportion of clients accessing homelessness services
      • 3.2.5 Proportion living in overcrowded dwellings

      In achieving true equity, the fundamental importance of both a stable home and a secure income must be recognised. One way of measuring financial security is to estimate the proportion of households living on less than 50% of the Victorian median income per household member.

      The proportion of Aboriginal households experiencing financially insecurity has decreased by 6.7% since 2006, however this proportion remains significantly higher than the Victorian average at 64.9 per cent in 2016.

      Further, 15.7% of Aboriginal adults reported ‘running out of food and not having money to buy more during the previous 12 months’ according to the 2017 VicHealth Survey compared to 6.1 per cent of non-Aboriginal Victorians.

      According to the ABS Census of Population and Housing, the proportion of Aboriginal households experiencing rental stress has increased by 3.9% since 2006. Rental stress and affordable housing remain concerns for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians.

      Housing is a key social determinant of health and wellbeing for Aboriginal Victorians.

      In 2016, 783, or 1.6% of Aboriginal Victorians, reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the Census. While this is a decrease from 2.1% in 2006, estimates of homelessness based on Census data will likely be an underestimation due to a range of factors. Nonetheless, these figures suggest that Aboriginal Victorians are experiencing homelessness at least 4.5 times the rate of non-Aboriginal Victorians.

      Another indicator of housing security is the proportion of Aboriginal Victorians accessing homelessness services. In 2017-18, 116,872 Victorians presented at a specialist homelessness service. Of these, 9,428 or 8.1%, identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, representing 16.9% of all Aboriginal Victorians. During the same period, Aboriginal Victorians accessed homelessness services at 11.8 times the rate of non-Aboriginal Victorians.

      Although increasing engagement with homelessness services is important from a service delivery perspective, this growth also likely points to an increase in the number of Aboriginal Victorians who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.

      Furthermore, the proportion of Aboriginal people living in overcrowded dwellings has steadily decreased since 2006, however it remains high, at 10.7% in 2016.

      These statistics demonstrate the importance of culturally-safe and coordinated housing and support services for Aboriginal Victorians to break cycles of homelessness, and appropriate housing options to reduce the rate of those living in overcrowded dwellings.

      Action the Victorian Government is taking

      The Victorian Government is committed to supporting Aboriginal families to ensure all Aboriginal children and young people are safe, resilient, thriving and living in culturally-rich, strong Aboriginal families and communities.

      The Victorian Government is increasing investment in maternal child health to deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal mothers and babies through several key initiatives. Roadmap for Reform: Strong Families, Safe Children is guiding investment in maternal and child health, including partnering with Koorie communities to co-design an Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Initiative service model. The model focuses on delivering culturally-responsive, flexible and high-quality maternal and child health services through both ACCOs and mainstream service providers, and will be expanded over the next 3 years.

      Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement is guiding action from government, Aboriginal communities and community service organisations to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care alongside working towards a future where all Aboriginal children and young people are safe and living in Aboriginal families and communities.

      Under this agreement, the Victorian Government is gradually transitioning case management of Aboriginal children in care from government and non-Aboriginal organisations to ACCOs.

      The Victorian Government has recently committed a further $13.6 million over 2 years to support this project, building on the initial $53.3 investment in the 2018/19 Victorian Budget to support implementation of Wungurilwil Gapgapduir.

      Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way - Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families is guiding work to create a future where Aboriginal people, families and communities live free from violence. Aboriginal communities in Victoria have consistently led the way in developing strategic priorities and actions to prevent family violence. A strong focus on early intervention and prevention has seen the Victorian Government double its investment in the Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund to $1.1 million per annum to provide grant funding to support Aboriginal community-led, culturally-appropriate projects that reduce family violence through prevention and education. Aboriginal-led partnerships are driving further reforms, including through the Aboriginal Children’s Forum and the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum.

      Action is also underway to ensure secure, culturally-safe and coordinated housing and support services for Aboriginal Victorians to break cycles of homelessness, facilitate family reunification and promote safety. The Victorian Government is partnering with Aboriginal Housing Victoria to develop an Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework to improve housing outcomes for all Aboriginal Victorians across the course of their lives. As part of these reforms, the Victorian Government is working with Aboriginal organisations to design wraparound services for Aboriginal people experiencing homelessness and family violence.

      Reviewed 30 December 2019

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