West Kimberley Aboriginal people involved in Empowered Communities identified children in out-of-home care as a first priority for their region. Rates of out-of-home care in the Kimberley are significantly higher for Aboriginal children than their non-Aboriginal peers.
Aboriginal leaders established the Kimberley Aboriginal Children in Care Committee, which worked with Aarnja, an Empowered Communities backbone organisation to address this important priority. The Committee provided a report identifying key issues and gaps in the child protection system, as well as next steps to address the gaps. The report identified the need to consult with Aboriginal organisations and communities; an absence of prevention and early intervention services; supporting parents of children at risk or in placement; supporting Aboriginal carers to become foster parents; assistance with developing and implementing care plans; and assessment of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
The report has been strongly backed by the Western Australian Government which has agreed to establish a new regional body that government agencies can engage with on case management of a child in care; to set up a trial site to implement family empowerment and preventative measures in Beagle Bay; and to ensure changes to legislation and policies support and encourage Aboriginal engagement and the protection of Aboriginal culture, and a child’s connection to culture.