From turning to aerosol-sniffing to the devastating realisation they wouldn’t be going home, Indigenous children have told of the effects of being forcibly placed in care.
The stories of their young lives are contained in a report released by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory titled Voices: What Children Have Told Us — Child Protection.
“The decision to remove us from our mum and dad destroyed our family,” one child said in the report. “I know that my brothers and sisters have also all suffered because of it.
“I notice with Dad that whenever I talked about the past or about what happened and my brothers and sister are doing he puts his head down and looks real upset. I know he feels broken because of what happened.”
Another child told of not being fed by the carers they had been placed with.
“When the carers wouldn’t feed us, my brother and sister would go through the bin and find food for me. They would put it in their mouth to clean it before giving it to me, making sure it was clean and safe.”
Another child told of how they sought solace in sniffing aerosols after being taken from their home.
“I got into sniffing aerosols there,” the child said. “The carers must have known we were doing it. There were empty cans lying around everywhere. They never tried to do anything about it. I think DCF (Department of Children and Families) would have known too.”
Many told of being confused and left in the dark about what was happening to them.
“Welfare came to talk to us. I was 10 years old,” one child said. “They said Mum needed some time to sort out housing for us. So they told me … we would go into respite care for two weeks. We agreed … and were placed in a foster home ….
“Even though we were told it would be only for two weeks, I was in that home for almost two years.”
Royal Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White said they had wanted to hear directly from children, which they did through youth forums, speaking with child detainees and talking with children in communities and the city.
More than 430 stories were collected.
SNAICC, a national body that represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, said the stories demonstrated a pattern of denial of the basic rights, ongoing policy and practice failures in the NT.
In a statement it said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accounted for nearly 90 percent of children in out of home care in the Territory — an unacceptable figure.