Hostel bid for Aboriginal kids in crisis

A coalition of Aboriginal agencies should be given funding and control to set up hostels for neglected children and rehabilitation centres for their parents, indigenous leader Ted Wilkes said yesterday.

Responding to a call by Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan for the Government to remove children from their parents, Associate Professor Wilkes said simply putting more Aboriginal children into foster care was pointless.

Professor Wilkes, whose roles include chairman of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee and one of the State Government's ambassadors for children and young people, said it was time for Aboriginal people to solve their own problems.

He has started work to form a coalition, including the Aboriginal Legal Service and health services, to make a funding proposal for hostels for children at risk.

"We would want to work in partnership with the police, justice system and education department, and the private sector," he said.

"A lot of our people are doing well now and we have enough knowledge and leadership to take ownership of this so that we can help out the significant minority of our people who are caught up in crime. I agree there is a bottom line that the children have to be kept in safe places until such time as they can be reconnected with family.

"We could build structures and look after the children and their parents could have visiting rights when they've sobered up and have time with the children once they've become stable and got a home."

Professor Wilkes said the Aboriginal community desperately needed appropriate substance addiction facilities.

"Alcohol should never be underestimated but amphetamines are becoming the preferred choice," he said. "The use of cannabis and amphetamines is a lot higher in the Aboriginal world and that's directly connected to disadvantage.

"It's an escape.

"We did research at the Telethon Institute about the life-stress events that our kids are dealing with and they're off the scale."

'The use of cannabis and amphetamines is a lot higher in the Aboriginal world.'"

  • Ted Wilkes * Indigenous leader