My Journey into ‘Child Protection’ and Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making

Hannah McGlade - Australian Feminist Law Journal


This article documents my experiences with the state’s contemporary removal of Aboriginal children in Western Australia (WA) and the practice of Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making (AFLDM), a family led decision making process supported as best practice for Aboriginal families. Unfortunately, this practice of AFLDM is not implemented in the state of Western Australia, but is adopted in Victoria, New South Wales, and more recently Queensland. AFLDM is supported by the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care — the Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) — and is incorporated within the national Family Matters campaign to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care. In 2018, as a ‘relative foster carer’ I was able to experience the absence of AFLDM through an order of the WA Children’s Court (an order which was substantially opposed by the Department for Child Protection). I am a Noongar woman or yorga, and graduated with a law degree in 1995. Like most, if not all Noongar people, I have witnessed the increasing level of intervention into Aboriginal families lives by the Department for Child Protection (DCP), and am related to many children who have been placed in out-of-home care. For some years now I have witnessed a lack of commitment to principles of Aboriginal human rights, causing significant distress and disquiet amongst the Aboriginal communities of this state. This state of affairs has reached a flash point in 2020 during the COVID period which not only saw a sharp rise in Aboriginal child removals but also the introduction of legislative amendments which failed to respect the rights of Aboriginal families and communities. In this article I document the WA landscape of child removal and my own journey to improve human rights outcomes for Aboriginal children.