Understanding child neglect in Aboriginal families and communities in the context of trauma

BJ Newton - Child & Family Social Work


Child neglect is a significant concern for Aboriginal families and communities both in Australia and internationally. Service responses to child neglect are largely informed by child neglect theories, which explain the nature and causes of child neglect. However, child neglect is a problem that is worsening for Aboriginal children, suggesting that these theories are not appropriate. This paper argues that to meet the needs of Aboriginal families and communities where there is child neglect, policy and practice needs to acknowledge and address the impact of trauma in shaping the lived experiences of Aboriginal people.

International literature discusses the impact and consequence of historical trauma within Indigenous families and communities, and separately, child maltreatment theorists have discussed the ecological nature of child neglect. However, the literature and evidence‐base linking the two, child neglect and historical trauma in Indigenous contexts, are very scant. This paper aims to fill this gap and emphasize the importance of addressing child neglect within Aboriginal families and communities in the context of historical trauma. Although this paper focuses on the post‐colonial experiences of Aboriginal people in Australia, the arguments can extend to many Indigenous cultures universally where child welfare interventions have resulted in significant and ongoing trauma.