Give Aboriginal children a good start to life
“I worry about the Indigenous Australians as I am of Aboriginal descent. I know I have had it lucky but others that I have met haven't.” - AJ, 12, NSW
The Australian Youth Representative to the UN, Paige Burton, has made it her mission to listen to young people across the country and take their concerns all the way to the UN General Assembly in New York.
Wherever she goes, Paige hears about the deep inequality facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
"I wish the government knew how many kids are being left behind in the foster care system. The reality is most are moved from home to home, split up from siblings and a devastatingly large portion of these kids are Indigenous.” - Ella, 19, NSW.
The numbers really are shocking. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.8 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection authorities and placed in out-of-home care. And in the last 20 years, the number of Indigenous children living away from their families has increased by 500 per cent.
UNICEF Australia supports community organisations like SNAICC, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care
, in calling for change. The government needs to work together with Indigenous communities to eliminate their over-representation in out-of-home-care.
“I wish the government saw the true value of investing in the proper protection of children and early childhood programs,” said Ella.
“I wish they knew that getting it right at this stage would change the entire trajectory of someone's life."
She is absolutely right: early moments matter. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are a critical opportunity to support brain development and lay the foundation for their future health and happiness. Young children need stable, nurturing care with good nutrition, stimulation and protection from stress.
UNICEF’s global experience has shown that investing in early childhood is one of the most cost-effective ways of helping children to reach their full potential. One 20-year study showed that disadvantaged children who participated in quality early learning as toddlers went on to earn up to 25 per cent more as adults.
That’s why UNICEF Australia is calling on the Government to provide at least 20 hours of subsidised quality early learning to all children, regardless of their parents’ activities.
"We need to support accessible early childhood education and care in remote areas. We need to invest in preventative measures to properly respond to states of crisis. I wish the government were listening to the evidence and to the knowledge of Aboriginal women and organisations." - Laura, 17, WA.