22 Mar 2013
JOHN FERGUSON VICTORIAN POLITICAL EDITOR
State ranks worst for indigenous child abuse
A SHARP increase in abuse and neglect of Aboriginal children has exposed Victoria as one of the nation’s worst locations for offending against indigenous juveniles.
The Napthine government’s annual report on Aboriginal affairs has disclosed how the rate of substantiated offences against children aged up to 17 has jumped to 62.5 notifications for every 1000 people.
This is up from the national average of 41.9 per 1000.
The report states this is almost 10 times the rate for nonAboriginal Victorian children and blames the increase on family violence, alcohol and drug misuse, mental health and intellectual disability.
While the report noted continuing growth in the number of Aboriginal children enrolled in kindergarten and university, it also outlines continuing concern over crime, death and health rates.
The report states that the substantiation rates last financial year had returned to levels not seen since the middle of the last decade.
‘‘The rate was significantly higher than the national Aboriginal rate of 41.9 per 1000 and almost 10 times the rate for nonAboriginal Victorian children,’’ the report found.
It noted the ‘‘unacceptably high rate of children in Victoria’s child protection system and the flow-on impacts on their life outcomes’’.
The report shows a vast gulf between the number of nonAboriginal children in child protection compared with the Aboriginal community in 2011-12; the non-Aboriginal rate of confirmed complaints was 6.4 per 1000, compared with 62.5.
The report provides a snapshot of key indicators affecting the state’s Aboriginal community, which is measured at just under 50,000 people, an increase of 41 per cent since 2006, due to improved data collection, high birth rates and migration to Victoria.
It shows that the unemployment rate in 2011 among Aborigines was 18.9 per cent compared with 5 per cent for the nonAboriginal community.
There was no improvement in the rates of self-harm during the past three years, which showed that 4.76 people per 1000 i n 2011-12 had presented at emergency departments.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said yesterday it was difficult to compare and contrast figures but the institute had recently found high rates of child abuse substantiations in the ACT, Western Australia and South Australia.
Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jeanette Powell said the report highlighted some positives, including a record of 37 per cent of Aboriginal students progressing to university last year, while the number of indigenous four-year-olds at kindergarten had almost doubled in a decade.