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Children, family and home

Encouraging Aboriginal children and families to be strong in culture and proud of their unique identity can ensure that every Aboriginal child has the best start in life.

Our shared commitment

All Aboriginal children and young people are safe, resilient, thriving and living in culturally rich, strong Aboriginal families and communities.

Families, communities, and Aboriginal child-rearing practices are fundamental to raising strong Aboriginal children and young people. Supporting Aboriginal families to access safe and effective services enables better outcomes.

Encouraging Aboriginal children and families to be strong in culture and proud of their unique identity can ensure that every Aboriginal child has the best start in life.

This means ensuring Aboriginal children and families have access to culturally appropriate services throughout pregnancy and early childhood, and reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in care.

Goal 1: Aboriginal children are born healthy and thrive

1.1 Improve maternal and infant health

Measures

  • 1.1.1 Rate of low birth weight.
  • 1.1.2 Rate of preterm birth.
  • 1.1.3 Rate of perinatal mortality.
  • 1.1.4 Smoking during pregnancy.

In 2018, 12.1% of babies of Aboriginal mothers were born with a low birth weight, which decreased from 15.2% in 2009. In comparison, only 6.9% of babies of non-Aboriginal mothers were born with low birth weight in 2018

In 2018, 12.4% of babies of Aboriginal mothers were born preterm compared to 14.5% in 2009. The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal rate of preterm birth decreased slightly during this period and was 3.9% in 2018.

The rate of Aboriginal perinatal mortality in 2016-18 was 11.5 per 1,000, which is significantly lower than 2007-09 level (23.1 per 1,000). During the same period, the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perinatal mortality rate dropped from 10.4 to 2.8 (per 1,000).

In 2018, 38.9% of Aboriginal women smoked during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, which remained similar to 2009 (40.2%). The rate of smoking during pregnancy was 5 times higher for Aboriginal women compared to non-Aboriginal women in 2018.

1.2 Children thrive in their first 1000 days

Measures

  • 1.2.1 Participation rates for Maternal and Child Health Key Ages and Stages Consultations.
  • 1.2.2 Attendance at Koori Maternity Service.
  • 1.2.3 Immunisation rates at 24 months and 60 months.
  • 1.2.4 Participation in facilitated playgroups (0-5 years).

Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health services

Participation rates for Maternal and Child Health Key Ages and Stages Consultations have generally increased year to year. In 2017–18, participation at the first home visit consultation was near universal for Aboriginal families. Significant increases in participation has been shown for Aboriginal children over time for the eight-month, 12-month, 2-year and 3.5-year consultations. However, participation has tended to decline for all families over time, particularly after the four-month visit.

There is still more work to be done to achieve the participation rates of non-Aboriginal children. The Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health program aims to do so by focussing on provision of integrated, coordinated and culturally-safe services to mothers and their babies.

The Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health program

In October 2020, 6 Aboriginal organisations were announced as new providers for Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health services. They join 4 existing Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health service providers that were part of a trial which commenced in 2017, reaching more Aboriginal children and families across the state.

The Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health program strengthens self-determination by enabling Aboriginal organisations to meet the health, safety and wellbeing needs of their local Aboriginal communities. The program delivers deliver better health outcomes for Aboriginal families by offering them access to culturally safe, flexible Maternal and Child Health services at their local Aboriginal organisation or ACCO. It also strengthens the relationships between mainstream Maternal and Child Health providers and Aboriginal organisations as they work together to provide integrated, coordinated support to the Aboriginal community.

Koori Maternity Services

In 2018-19, 485 women attended a Koori Maternity Service (KMS) to access maternity care from a midwife and/or an Aboriginal health worker. Due to an update of the KMS minimum dataset in 2018, it is not possible to compare 2018-19 KMS participation data to previous years.

Koori Maternity Services deliver culturally appropriate care for Aboriginal women and women having Aboriginal babies, and their families, across 14 sites in Victoria, including three in public hospitals.

Koori Maternity Services are an integral component of Victoria’s maternity service system working in partnership with women, families and the local community to ensure that service delivery is culturally safe, responsive and meets the unique needs of individuals and community.

The role of Koori Maternity Services include caring for women, babies and their families during pregnancy, birthing and postnatally. This continues to be critical to improving outcomes and increasing participation in maternity care for Aboriginal women, babies and families.

Immunisation rates

Immunisation rates for Aboriginal children at all age levels increased significantly in recent years. In 2018, immunisation rates for Aboriginal children at 24 months and 60 months were 89.1 per cent and 96.8 per cent respectively.

Playgroup participation

Participation in facilitated playgroups for Aboriginal children 0-5 years old has increased over the years. In 2019, eight per cent of Aboriginal children aged 0-5 years participated in a supported playgroup compared to two per cent in 2017.

Supported playgroups operated by ACCOs, such as the five Koorie Kids Playgroups operated by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, play an important role in providing an alternative option to mainstream supported playgroups that are culturally safe, fun and an empowering environment for families with children aged five years and under.

Goal 2: Aboriginal children are raised by Aboriginal families

2.1 Eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in care

Measures:

  • 2.1.1 Rate and number of children and young people in care.
  • 2.1.2 Number of children engaged with family support and intensive family support services.

The number of Aboriginal children and young people in care increased from 734 in 2008-09 to 2,450 in 2019-20. At 30 June 2020, Victoria had a rate of 99.8 per 1,000 Aboriginal children in care compared to the rate of non-Aboriginal children in care of 4.7 per 1,000.

The number of Aboriginal children engaged with family support and intensive family support services increased significantly from 338 in 2008-09 to 1,714 in 2019-20. A similar trend was observed for the non-Aboriginal cohort during the same time period.

2.2 Increase Aboriginal care, guardianship and management of Aboriginal children and young people in care

Measures:

  • 2.2.1 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care placed with i) relatives/kin and ii) other Aboriginal carers.
  • 2.2.2 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care with a Cultural Plan.
  • 2.2.3 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people in care on contractible orders managed by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs).
  • 2.2.4 Number and proportion of Aboriginal children and young people on protection orders under the direct authority of an ACCO (Section 18).

In 2019-20, 79.3 per cent of Aboriginal children were placed either with relatives/kin or other Aboriginal carers. This is a significant improvement from 57.7 per cent in 2008-09.

Cultural Plans

It is a requirement that a Cultural Plan for children in care is approved within 19 weeks of entering care. At 30 June 2019, 53.3 per cent of Aboriginal children in care for longer than 19 weeks had an approved Cultural Plan. A new model for cultural planning was implemented in 2017, at which point all existing plans were deemed non-compliant. The increase from a zero base to 53.3 per cent is encouraging, but there remain many Aboriginal children in care without a Cultural Plan.

Aboriginal children in Aboriginal care

In 2019-20, 43% of Aboriginal children and young people in care on contractible orders were managed by ACCOs, compared to only 8.7% in 2015-16.

In 2019-20, 5.7% of Aboriginal children and young people were on protection orders under the direct authority of an ACCO (Section 18) compared to 1.6% in 2017-18.

Aboriginal children exiting care

In 2018-19, 47.5% of Aboriginal children and young people were reunified with parent(s) within 12 months of admission to care. The rate is lower than the 2008-09 level when the corresponding rate was 57.6%.

In 2018-19, 69.5 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people who exited care did not return to care within 12 months. This is a significant negative outcome as the corresponding rate in 2008-09 was 80.6%.

2.3 Increase family reunifications for Aboriginal children and young people in care

Measures:

  • 2.3.2 Number of Aboriginal children and young people who exit care and do not return to care within 12 months as a proportion of all Aboriginal children and young people who exit care.

In 2018-19, 69.5% of Aboriginal children and young people who exited care did not return to care within 12 months. This is a significant negative outcome as the corresponding rate in 2008-09 was 80.6%.

Goal 3: Aboriginal Families and households thrive

3.1 Reduce the incidence and impact of family violence affecting Aboriginal families

Measures:

  • 3.1.1 Number and proportion of family incident reports involving an Aboriginal other party; and proportion of those who were the subject of a previous family incident report.
  • 3.1.2 Number and proportion of family incident reports involving an Aboriginal affected family member; and proportion of those who were the subject of a previous family incident report.
  • 3.1.3 Number and proportion of notifications to child protection for children and young people where family violence is identified.

Since 2007, reporting on the number of family violence incidents by an Aboriginal other party increased steadily. In 2019, 5,249 family violence incidents by an Aboriginal other party were reported and of these, 85.2 per cent were repeat offences.

4,390 family violence incidences were reported against an Aboriginal affected family member in 2019, which represents 5.2 per cent of all family violence incidents.

Child protection where family violence is identified

In 2018–19, 5,028 reports to child protection were recorded for Aboriginal children and young people where family violence was identified. The corresponding figure was only 133 in 2008-09. It should be noted that in 2010-11, enhancements to the child protection Client Relationship Information System saw a new field added to capture family violence as an area of concern at the report stage. Since then, the rate of notification to child protection for children where family violence is identified has considerably increased for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

In response, government has worked with the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) to develop the Aboriginal Family Preservation and Reunification Response (the Response) – an innovative approach to delivering relational, evidence-informed and coordinated support to vulnerable children and families through a strengthened partnership with Child Protection. Aboriginal cultural elements have been developed by the VACCA and co-designed with ACCOs for implementation by all Response practitioners to advance Aboriginal self-determination and support cultural healing.

3.2 Increase income and housing security for Aboriginal households

Measures:

  • 3.2.4 Proportion of Victorians accessing homelessness services.

A stable home and a culturally safe and responsive housing and homelessness system is fundamental to achieving equity in housing outcomes. Across 2019-2020, progress has been made towards this aim, including through the Victorian Government’s support for Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort, the landmark Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, developed by Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV) and community housing partners.

In 2018-2019, 9,837 Aboriginal Victorians accessed homelessness services, which equates to 17.2% of the Victorian Aboriginal population. This rate is 11.6 times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal Victorians, and well above the national rate of 9.8%.

Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework

In February 2020, Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort (Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home) Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework was launched. Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort is the first statewide housing policy to be developed by and for Aboriginal people in any Australian jurisdiction.

The framework was developed through a community-led process with Aboriginal Housing Victoria in conjunction with other key Aboriginal community stakeholders. It makes housing central in the work to support Aboriginal people to thrive through self-determination.

The Framework’s key actions include: building the housing supply needed for a fast-growing population; opening doors to the autonomy of living in the private market; and stimulating Aboriginal home ownership. It involves creating a homeless support system that understands Aboriginal people and responds to their needs. The Framework builds capacity in the Aboriginal and mainstream systems to make homelessness the exception and home ownership the norm.

The framework is backed by major investments. In May 2020, the Victorian Government committed $35 million for property maintenance for Aboriginal Victorians. In November 2020, it announced that 10% of new social housing (around 1,200 homes) is earmarked for the Aboriginal community.

Action the Victorian Government is taking

The Victorian Government is partnering with Aboriginal community stakeholders and organisations to drive improved outcomes for children and families.

Family violence

Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong People, Strong Families 2018-2028External Link is driving reforms to develop and implement preventative and culturally safe responses to family violence.

Dhelk Dja’s 5 strategic priorities are:

  1. Aboriginal culture and leadership
  2. Aboriginal-led prevention
  3. self-determining Aboriginal family violence support and services
  4. system transformation based on self-determination principles
  5. Aboriginal-led and informed innovation, data and research.

Dhelk Dja’s key actions and investments in 2020 include:

  • An $18.2 million Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund has been established over two years as a flexible pool of funding streams for eligible Aboriginal community groups to enable a range of Aboriginal-led tailored responses for victims, survivors and people who use violence.
  • A Concept Model for Aboriginal Access Points has been endorsed by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, supporting the design and establishment of Aboriginal Access Points to the family violence system, alongside The Orange Door network.
  • The Dhelk Dja Monitoring Evaluation and Accountability Plan has been endorsed to support the monitoring and evaluation of Aboriginal-led family violence initiatives against the Dhelk Dja Agreement using Aboriginal defined measures of success.
  • The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework and the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme continues to be implemented by Family Safety Victoria.
  • Perpetrator focussed Risk Identification and Assessment tools and the perpetrator focussed practice guides have been developed, in collaboration with Curtin University.
  • An Aboriginal Data Mapping and Data Needs project has commenced to improve understanding of Aboriginal family violence and build evidence for effective prevention and intervention.

Children and family services

Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement is overseen by the Aboriginal Children’s Forum, and drives reforms to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people, including efforts to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in care services by strengthening their connection to culture, Country and community.

Wungurilwil Gapgapduir key actions and investments in 2020 include:

  • $46.2 million in 2020-21 to increase capacity of the child and family services sector to provide support to children and families during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes funding for the delivery of the Response.
  • Development of the Victorian Family Preservation and Reunification Response and Aboriginal Family Preservation and Reunification Response (the Response). As discussed on page 38, Aboriginal cultural elements have been developed by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and co‑designed with ACCOs for implementation by all Response practitioners to advance Aboriginal self‑determination and support cultural healing.
  • Continuation of the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) and Transitioning Aboriginal Children to Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations initiatives. As at June 2020, approximately 50 per cent of Aboriginal children in care on contractable orders were under the care and case management of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (801 children).

Housing

Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort: Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework is overseen by a working group that includes government, Aboriginal Housing Victoria and other Aboriginal community-controlled housing providers.

Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort key actions and investments in 2020/21 include:

  • 10% of new social housing in the Victorian Government’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build allocated for Aboriginal Victorians, delivering a minimum of 820 dwellings.
  • $35 million to maintain and deliver property upgrades to more than 2000 long-term social housing properties owned and managed by ACCOs.
  • $4.2 million for the Private Rental Assistance Program to assist vulnerable Aboriginal Victorians access private rentals.
  • $300,000 for a feasibility study into an Aboriginal specific homelessness access point.
  • $450,000 to support the extension of Aboriginal Housing Victoria’s More Than a Landlord program which provides social supports for vulnerable tenants.
  • $1.06 million for ACCOs to provide outreach support to social housing tenants.
  • $440,000 for additional homelessness support workers in ACCOs to support increased demand due to coronavirus.

Reviewed 30 June 2021

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