Coronial inquest findings into the death of an Aboriginal boy in state care have sparked renewed calls for greater investment in community-led solutions and in ending family violence.

The boy, known as Child J, was taken into the care of the WA Department of Communities as a toddler and placed into foster care.

The inquest found it was suspected from an early age he suffered from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and early trauma issues, was referred to paediatric and mental health services many times in 2013 and that same year was diagnosed with clinical depression at 12 years of age. He ultimately took his own life in 2017.

Aboriginal human rights law expert Dr Hannah McGlade said Child J was subjected to 34 placements and more than 30 caseworkers over the course of his short life.

“His trauma was medicalised and there was a lack cultural framework – inconsistent with the Mental Health Act,” she said.

“His mother was a victim of family domestic violence, and we know there has been a significant lack of support at the community level for women and also in terms of changing attitudes that sustain violence to women and children.

“Aboriginal people have been asking for community based holistic and culturally informed trauma approached for more than two decades and this has never properly happened.”

Dr McGlade said the State needed to stop removing children from their families and invest in communities, and support women’s leadership and the development of culturally informed models of therapeutic care.

“Case workers coming from universities lack the skills, and the constant changeover is damaging. Moving children from home to home is traumatic,” she said.

WA Department of Communities service delivery executive director Glenn Mace said the inquest made no adverse findings in regards to the Department.

“Communities is committed to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care and in the last reporting year, saw a reduction in the total number of children in care for the first time since 1997,” he said.

“This included a 0.8 per cent decrease in the number of Aboriginal children in care.

“A recommendation to bring a child into care is only made as a last resort and the final decision always rests with the Children’s Court.”

In 2019, research by Western Australian Aboriginal foster care agency Yorganop found more than 55 per cent of WA children in care were Aboriginal.

Mr Mace said the State Government had made a record investment in earlier intervention and family support services focused on keeping children safely at home with their parents, and last year began a pilot of a program empowering Aboriginal families to have greater say in child protection matters involving their children.