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“We Live and Breathe Through Culture”: Conceptualising Cultural Connection for Indigenous Australian Children in Out-of-home Care

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Indigenous Australian children are overrepresented in the out-of-home care (OOHC) system, with numbers and rates on an upward trajectory. There is now serious concern that this overrepresentation is creating a second Stolen Generations in Australia, noted within policy campaigns such as Family Matters—Kids Safe in Culture, not in Care, and Grandmothers Against Removals. While placement in OOHC is designed to protect children’s long-term safety and wellbeing, it threatens cultural connection, which is fundamental to Indigenous identity and wellbeing. Some government policies that aim to foster cultural connection have not been effective, while others, such as the 2014 permanency legislation in Victoria, arguably threaten cultural connection. This article highlights the vital importance of cultural connection for Indigenous child development, arguing that for Indigenous children, family connection strengthens cultural connection. We argue that family needs to be recognised as a critical component of cultural connection that is equally as important as placement stability in OOHC. Consequently, statutory and community organisations responsible for Indigenous children in OOHC must focus on facilitating and strengthening family relationships, not only to foster cultural connection, but also to explore reunification possibilities.


Cultural connection is fundamental to Indigenous identity and wellbeing, but requires family connection if it is to be fostered and strengthened.

When Indigenous children live in out-of-home care, social workers in child and family welfare need to ensure that children are connected to culture.
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Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Child and Family Welfare; Culture; Indigenous Child Protection; Indigenous Issues; Out-of-home Care

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Work, Melbourne School of Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: July 3, 2018

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