New inquiry into Australia's aboriginal child care system

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A day before Deborah Melville's death in July 2007, the 12-year-old was visited by a Northern Territory child-protection worker at her foster home outside of Darwin, Australia. The caseworker noted the girl's distress, who, according to the Australian media, was crying on the kitchen floor when she arrived. The social worker comforted Deborah, reassuring her that she would not be uprooted and moved to another home.

Melville, an indigenous child placed in the care of her great-aunt after her birth mother lost custody of her in 2001, was not likely to have been crying out of fear of abandonment, but out of sheer agony. She had a festering bone infection from a three-week old fracture in her right leg, which had already spread to her organs. The following morning, according to reports, Deborah was carried outside by her carers — apparently at her own request — and for eight hours she lay dying in the backyard. An autopsy revealed that one and a half liter of pus was found in her right leg. One doctor described the case as the worst bone infection he had ever seen....

...[T]he Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP), a guideline instated in 1983 to avoid another Stolen Generation scenario, is problematic. Responding to the painful legacy of old laws in which children were forcibly removed from their families and placed thousands of miles away in white Australian homes, the ACPP stipulates that Aboriginal children removed by the state from their parents should be placed with family members or other indigenous Australians whenever possible. But it's a system, the study shows, that is failing the children it was designed to protect. "The present data suggests, as do some of the decisions in the case studies, that in some cases this principle appears to be given primacy over basic child protection considerations," Bath told the Australian.

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