'Racism' in child welfare/justice systems

Megan Neil

There would be a national taskforce to fix the crisis in child protection and youth justice if it involved white rather than Aboriginal children, Australia's only indigenous children's commissioner says.

Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Andrew Jackomos says there is institutional racism and bias in the child protection and youth justice systems, in which indigenous children are significantly over-represented.

It needs to be recognised and addressed across all jurisdictions, Mr Jackomos told the Northern Territory child protection and detention royal commission.

"No matter how good your policies are, no matter how good your legislation is, no matter how many dollars you allocate, if you have poor practice that arises from institutional racism, as it does, then we will never have a good service for Aboriginal children and other children," he said.

"You just can't achieve that unless you confront and own up that there's institutional racism and bias within the child protection system and the youth justice system."

Mr Jackomos said his role should be mirrored in the Commonwealth and all states and territories, given the significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection and youth justice systems.

The inquiry has heard half of Aboriginal children come to the attention of the NT's overwhelmed child protection system before the age of 10 in what amounts to a humanitarian crisis.

Commissioner Mick Gooda said it is a crisis and questioned if that alone is motivation enough to have specialist Aboriginal children's commissioners to fix the problem.

Mr Jackomos believed the response would be different if the children were white.

"I have said that the situation of over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system, in child protection, if it was white children there would be a state and national taskforce to change it," he told the Darwin hearing on Friday.

"It's not just the over-representation. It's about culturally understanding the issues that drive the over-representation, the issues that impact on our children."