Indigenous children continue to be disproportionately represented in Australian out-of-home care statistics, despite overall rates remaining steady.
A 118-page annual report, released on Tuesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows one in four of the roughly 46,000 children in out-of-home care in mid-2020 were Indigenous.
At the time there were about 18,900 Indigenous children in out-of-home care, which includes living with a relative or foster carer.
That represents one in 18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia, and is 11 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous kids.
Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of that group were living with family or other Indigenous caregivers, with the rest in other arrangements including foster care.
“In positive news, over 80 per cent of Indigenous children who exited out-of-home care into more stable and permanent arrangements, did not return to care within 12 months,” AIHW spokesman Dinesh Indraharan said.
The number of Indigenous children receiving child protection services in 2019/20 was 55,300 – a rate of 166 per 1000 Indigenous children, up from 151 per 1000 in 2016/17.
Some 14,300 Indigenous children had reports of abuse substantiated, with emotional abuse (47 per cent) and neglect (32 per cent) the two most common forms of mistreatment.
“Children from very remote areas were three times as likely as those from major cities to be the subject of a substantiation,” Mr Indraharan said.
“That is, when a notification has been investigated and there was reasonable cause to believe the child had been, was being, or was likely to be, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed.”
Victoria had the highest reported rate of Indigenous kids in out-of-home care of all states or territories, followed by Western Australia and the ACT.
More generally, the rate of children living in out-of-home care has remained steady in the past four years despite overall numbers rising from 43,100 to 46,000 over that span.
Of those 46,000, 54 per cent were placed in relative or kinship care and 37 per cent were in foster care.
Almost a third (32 per cent) of children in out-of-home care were aged 10 to 14, while a similar percentage were five to nine years old (30 per cent).