Responding to Aboriginal children - advice

This advice provides information regarding culturally informed and effective practice across all phases of child protection involvement to protect Aboriginal children from harm and promote their healthy development.
Document ID number 2301, version 3, 18 November 2019.

See procedure Additional requirements for Aboriginal children for tasks that must be undertaken.

Aboriginal children are significantly over represented in the child protection and out-of-home care populations. Although Aboriginal people constitute approximately one per cent of the total population, they comprise close to twelve per cent of the children in out-of-home care.

A greater understanding of and commitment to practice approaches, which take account of Aboriginal culture, family relationships and parenting arrangements, is likely to better meet the best interests of Aboriginal children.

The child protection practitioner has the responsibility for consulting and considering the views of the Aboriginal Child Specialist and Support Service (ACSASS) and other relevant sources of advice and information and, in the context of all available information, making a decision in the best interests of the child.

The following outlines the required practice for Aboriginal children. It does not provide a comprehensive description of intake, investigation or case planning processes, which are provided in the child protection practice phases and functions parts of the manual.

All relevant requirements in this advice apply equally to the activities of the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (AHCPES) and the Streetwork Outreach Service (SOS).

Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP)

The CYFA s.13 Aboriginal Child Placement Principle:

  • requires that an Aboriginal agency be consulted and involved in decision making regarding out-of-home care decisions and arrangements for Aboriginal children;
  • specifies the order of priority in which types of placement are to be considered; and
  • requires that any non-Aboriginal placement must ensure the child's connection to their culture and community.
Protocol between child protection and VACCA (including MDAS)

The 'Protocol between the Department of Human Services Child Protection Service and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) inclusive of the agreement between Child Protection Service and Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) (part of the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation) establishes the consultation process necessary for ensuring a culturally informed and effective response to the protection of Aboriginal children from harm. The aims of the protocol are to:

  • include an Aboriginal perspective in risk and safety assessments of Aboriginal children
  • improve case planning and decision-making for Aboriginal children
  • improve the engagement of Aboriginal families with relevant support services and
  • improve the involvement of family and community members in providing support for Aboriginal children.

The protocol sets out the broad roles and responsibilities for the Department of Health and Human Services, VACCA and MDAS in responding to children, and provides for the establishment of a specialist consultation service, the ACSASS.

In addition to consultation with child protection, a key role of regional ACSASS workers is to facilitate communication and understanding between Aboriginal children and families and child protection practitioners. See VACCA (pdf, 163.81 KB) protocol.

Exchange of information between child protection and ACSASS

During initial assessment of a report regarding an Aboriginal child, child protection must consult with ACSASS and may consult with other community services, or a service agency for the purpose of seeking advice, assessing risk or determining the most appropriate service response (CYFA s. 35(1)).

Child protection will consult with ACSASS throughout all phases of involvement.

ACSASS is authorised to have access to the record of investigation of a protective intervention report (CYFA s. 206(2)(f)).

No consent from parents or children is required for this information exchange although best practice is to inform families about the information that is collected and disclosed about them, subject to the child's safety needs.

Where ACSASS have been unable to attend a first visit or the family has refused to have ACSASS directly involved, child protection will advise the family that they will continue to consult with ACSASS.