42% — the scandalous statistic which should shame Australia

If there is one statistic on which the debate over The Voice should centre, it is this: 42 percent of Australian children in out-of-home care are Aboriginal. But only 5 percent of Australian children are Aboriginal. They are 10 times more likely to be in care than the national average.

In other words, 25 years after the landmark Bringing Them Home report about the stolen generation, an incredible number of Aboriginal kids are still being removed from their families. What’s more, the proportion is increasing. In 2011, they were 7.9 percent more likely to be removed. In 2021, the figure was 10.4.

According to a 2022 report from Family Matters, which exists to eliminate the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous children in out-of-home care by 2040, the gap in growing:

The number of our children living in out of home care is projected to increase by 50% over the next decade – compared to an increase of just 13.5% for non-Indigenous children, or a fourfold difference …

The revelation in “Bringing Them Home” that many indigenous children had been forcibly removed from their families shocked many Australians. The stories of children who grew up alienated from their parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and culture were heart-breaking. State premiers and prime ministers apologised time after time. Fifteen years ago, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in the name of all Australians, lamented the “profound grief, suffering and loss” experienced by the “stolen generation” and vowed that Australia would turn “a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.”

And yet here we are – 42 percent and rising. Why does this appalling statistic resist change? It’s not for lack of good will; Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of giving indigenous people special consideration. It’s not for lack of funding; the National Indigenous Australian Agency has a A$4.3 billion budget and 1,400 staff.  



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Is more bureaucracy the answer? “Today, child protection systems continue to inflict pain, severing families and re-opening deep wound,” says the Family Matters report, “It is deeply distressing that [the over-representation of Aboriginal children] remains significantly off track.” So what is the answer? “Profound and wholesale change to legislation, policy and practice.” And that is the premise for voting Yes for The Voice.

The Uluru “Statement from the Heart” endorsed this premise: “These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem.”

That premise is wrong. It is not a structural problem; it’s a family problem.  Aboriginal children are being removed because they live in dysfunctional families. It’s not more bureaucracy that they need; it’s loving married parents in a stable home.

The problem is that the bureaucracy doesn’t believe in marriage or the ideal of a family. The “Family Matters” report is 134 pages long. The words “married” and “marriage” do not appear once in the entire document.

The fact is that a formal marriage between a man and a woman is the best place to raise a child. This is the social “technology” which has given white, urban Australians a society with stability and coherence and which gives a younger generation the virtues to succeed personally, professionally, and romantically. But bureaucrats steeped in cultural relativism are deeply sceptical about the empowering energy of marriage and family. Instead, they rain down billions of dollars upon Aboriginal communities, creating a kind of 21st cargo cult without teaching children and young adults how to take responsibility for their own lives.

We should be deeply sceptical about placing our hope in government programs. The scandals of sexual abuse, family violence, drunkenness, unemployment, and rampaging teenagers in Aboriginal communities will not disappear because of structural reforms created in Canberra. Ultimately, Aboriginal children, like all children, will only thrive if they are raised in loving, stable families. If The Voice could guarantee that, it would deserve to be supported. But it can’t.


Michael Cook is editor of Mercator. 

Image from Bigstock

Showing 6 reactions

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  • Michael Cook
    commented 2023-07-24 17:36:15 +1000
    Well, that’s a good point. Numbers are better than percentages. According the the link below, there were 22,497 children in care and 42% of them were listed as Aboriginal, even though Aboriginal children represent only 5% of Australian children. The source is “SNAICC: National Voice for our Children”.
  • Philip Anderson
    commented 2023-07-24 17:02:20 +1000
    I am not scandalized. Percentages have to be used in context and Mr Cook doesn’t give sufficient context. Are there 100 Australian children in out-of-home care of whom 42 are Aboriginal?
    Give me numbers (not percentages) and let me draw my own conclusions.
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    followed this page 2023-07-19 21:33:34 +1000
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    followed this page 2023-07-19 09:39:47 +1000
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    followed this page 2023-07-18 23:17:06 +1000
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2023-07-18 16:52:23 +1000