Through this essay, the account of historical, cultural and social perspectives in support of wellbeing of children and families in Australia is taken into consideration. Lincoln and his family’s circumstances are used as reference to understand more about these contexts in relation to Indigenous people of Australia.
In the past, kids from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were removed from their families on the name of civilisation that afterward led to “Stolen Generation”. The disastrous impact on emotional and mental conditions of kids from Stolen Generation has been conferred by Briskman (2015) who elucidate that the rights erosion of kids resulted in attrition of their self identification, spirituality and relational connection. “Bringing them Home” report by Wilkie (1997) discusses the national inquiry on aftermath experiences of Stolen Generation. Few erroneous acts were applied in the past by British colonizers in regard to forceful elimination of Indigenous people from their families. Throughout the second half of the last century, due to inadequacy of parenting skills, placing the influenced children into another care services was seen as the top key to deal with concerns like physical neglect, supervisory neglect, emotional neglect, educational neglect etc. Newton (2019). Nevertheless, a lot of evidence indicates about abuse and neglect among children in these institutional settings. Such form of practice led to significant rise of foster care as another option, Fernandez (2014) focuses. During 1960-1970, an increase in the requirement of reinstitution of such care emerged that led to constructive impact on foster care and policy makers started looking at different approach. Fernandez (2014) pointed out that Australian Government has taken diverse steps towards children’s wellbeing which include establishment of children courts and jurisdiction since last two decades. Literature provides information regarding consequences of past suffering among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families (Raphael, Swan & Martinek, 1998; Herring et al., 2013). Atkinson (2002) revealed that the loss and grief caused by colonisation created “intergenerational trauma”. As this is now recognized that child neglect and abuse is a crime, a special attention is given at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) of intervention.
Tilbury et al. (2017) conclude that a culturally competent performance is necessary within child welfare systems which comprise respectful engagement with Indigenous communities. Child protection organizations try to approach towards security of children and identify the damage which occurred in the past and can impact their present and future. In terms of cultural context, Aboriginal and Torrs Strait Islander families are more susceptible to abuse, mistreatment and harm. There are several factors which should be kept in mind when dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families due to past trauma and present impacts. Such people are suffering from large number of issue like poverty, unemployment, housing insecurity, neighbourhood disadvantage and inequity (Bynner, 2001). Such issues led to decline in cultural and neighbourhood support. These changes have led to elevated demand for family support and child protection services (Tilbury et al., 2007).
A huge number of factors play a part behind child abuse or neglect, predominantly amongst Indigenous group. These factors include domestic violence; prejudice about gender, marital status, age, race; accommodative unsteadiness; deprived neighbourhood; emotional imbalance; poverty; unemployment; marital relationship; lack of education; substance use and mental issues. Such factors favour ‘ecological theory’. According to Tilbury et al. (2007), this theory challenges the concept that a single factor is coupled with maltreatment and acknowledges other factors correlated with child abuse or neglect. In particular, the social life in remote regions is generally very restricted as people living there have a limited infrastructure. Such isolation is due to lack of opportunities, education and leisure activities that enhance the pace of violence in families. Moreover due to consistence collapse of projects designed for concentrating on incongruities among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, a gap is still present between remote areas and main stream services (Herring et al., 2012). In Neoliberal vision, the government has failed on the platform to tackle such issues. In this light, the government is encouraging the people to work hard in poverty and acquire something sufficient for individual demands (Harris, 2017) considering that there is growing demand for child protection and family support systems (Tilbury et al. (2007).
Decision making via an ethical and reflective practice with children and families
As a child safety officer; I believe child protection work is extremely precise and demanding. Owing to historical trauma, Indigenous families do not desire government departments and people from other backgrounds to work for them as they have lost reliance in the system. I personally feel this is the major hurdle while working with them in my role. I want to reveal that the lack of accurate knowledge about Indigenous culture and family structure serves as additional obstacle for child protection workers. Further, I am required to conquer the language hurdle also as in my job; I use to work closely with cultural practice advisor(s) who help me during my visits to Indigenous families because the advisor(s) have same cultural background of Indigenous communities.
As a professional, the child safety workers must make assessment about risk, harm and safety of children. A proper assessment affords a strong base for good case plan and ongoing intervention that lead to reunification of children with family and children’s protection. Tillbury et al. (2007) specifies that a good relationship with family is crucial so that both parties work jointly. Social workers must encourage family members in decision making and aim to recognize the view regarding their condition in problem resolution. Most importantly, the social workers should always hear the voice of kids and encourage them to participate in this process as sometimes, the exact issue cannot be mentioned by parents, Fernandez (2014) emphasizes. As a preference to ease the load of child protection systems, there has been observed an increase in the recognition of ‘public health model’ that is serving to bring positive effect on children and families. In this approach, the main focus is on prevention of neglect and abuse rather than focussing on how to care for children following the occurrence of abuse or neglect (Goldsworthy, 2015).
There has been a huge change in the strategies concerning child protection services from older to latest times. On the whole, no simple answers are on hand to sort out child protection matters. While policy makers have made lots of efforts in favour of ‘best interest of children’, we have to discover more from past to attain positive effect on Indigenous families (Long & Sephton, 2011). As we can observe from scenario of Lincoln and his family, all the factors influencing child abuse and neglect are associated with each other. For instance, one of the Lincoln’s parents is Aboriginal. The unemployment leading to domestic violence added to the picture.
Foremost aim of child protection system is to provide a safe and secure future to children of every community and background as they are the main stakeholder. Pressure of other factors like social media, academics and community campaigners cannot be ignored both in negative and positive way. A trustworthy rapport with family members is must which comes from the reflective practice. Hence, a culturally competent practice together with public health model may be able to engage families with service providers in an affirmative way.