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Age group 6 to 11 years

Connection to community and support

Connection to culture and community is critical for children’s health and wellbeing. It provides a positive sense of identity and belonging.

Children thrive when they have opportunities to participate in activities that enable them to build relationships with people outside of their immediate family. Children also learn and grow through their experiences and contributions in their communities.

It is also important that children have supportive relationships and feel confident to ask for help if they have any emotional worries or health concerns.

Overview and areas of concern

This indicators considers WA children’s connection to culture and community and whether they know how to get help if they have any emotional and health concerns.

Children benefit from a connection to culture and community as it provides them with a positive sense of identity and encourages supportive relationships and role models. Children also need relationships with adults that are stable, caring and supportive enabling them to ask for help if they have any worries or concerns.

Data overview

There is limited data on WA children’s connection to culture, community and support.

In 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted the Survey of Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities. They reported that most WA children aged nine to 11 years (around 82%) participated in some cultural activities or organised sport.

Areas of concern

The lack of data measuring WA children’s connection to culture, community and support is of concern.

Measure: Connection to culture and community

Feeling connected to culture and community involves having a sense of belonging, which is critical for children aged 6 to 11 years. Social and cultural connectedness encourages a positive sense of identity and the development of respectful and responsive relationships.1,2

A sense of belonging and connectedness can be strengthened in multiple ways including, participation in cultural or community based activities, spending time with grandparents, learning about family history, and enjoying positive relationships with adults outside of the home. Through these diverse experiences children develop a positive sense of self and identity. It can also provide children with additional support and role models within, and outside, of the family.3

Connection to culture and community is also related to children’s participation in their own lives and in the broader community. It increases children’s understanding of their rights and responsibilities and strengthens their interest and skills in becoming active contributors to their world.4

Children have the right to have their voices heard and be actively involved in decisions affecting their lives.5 Refer to the Autonomy and voice indicator for children aged 6 to 11 years for more information on children’s active sense of participation in their lives and their communities.

Connection to culture and community can take many forms including participation in sporting clubs, cultural events, scouts and equivalent organisations, religious organisations and community groups. It can also include relationships with neighbours and accessibility of outdoor play in local parks.

Having a connection and sense of belonging in a community can be more difficult for some young people. In particular, children and young people with disability, culturally and linguistically diverse children and young people, Aboriginal children and young people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI) children and young people can experience discrimination and bullying that limits their ability to feel connected and supported within their broader community.6,7,8

In the Commissioner’s consultations, Aboriginal children have explained how culture is particularly important for their wellbeing.9 This includes being connected to country, learning and speaking their own language, respect for elders, sharing and being close to family, listening to stories about culture and taking part in traditional activities and cultural events.10

Limited information exists about WA children’s connection to culture and community particularly for children under 12 years of age.

The Commissioner’s Speaking Out Survey, scheduled for release in early 2020, will provide some further data on the experiences and opinions of WA’s children and young people regarding their connection to culture and community.

In 2012 and prior years the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected data on children’s participation in cultural and leisure activities.11

Proportion of children participating in sport and cultural activities by age group, in per cent, WA, 2012

Participated in cultural activities and sport

Participated in cultural activities only

Participated in sport only

Did not participate in cultural activities or sport

5 to 8 years

17.8

13.7

38.5

30.0

9 to 11 years

27.1

10.4

44.0

18.5

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, 49010DO006_201204 Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, 2012 – Western Australia, Table 13: Children's participation in organised sport and/or selected organised cultural activities, Selected characteristics

As children get older, their participation in organised sports and activities outside of school and the family home increases. Most WA children aged nine to 11 years (81.5%) participate in some cultural activities or organised sport.

In the 2012 survey, 34.5 per cent of WA children and young people born in Australia aged five to 14 years participated in cultural activities including musical activities, dancing, drama or art and craft. A similar proportion (around 33%) of WA children born in a main English-speaking country participated in cultural activities, while approximately 26.2 per cent of WA children born in other countries participated in cultural activities.12

Male children are more likely to be involved in an organised sport than female children. However female children are more likely to be involved in dancing activities (included under cultural activities) and/or attendance at cultural venues and events.

Proportion of children aged 5 to 14 years participating in recreational or cultural activities by gender, in per cent, WA, 2012

Male

Female

Total

Organised art and craft (including dancing)

22.6

45.9

33.9

Attending cultural venues and events

71.8

77.2

74.4

Participating in at least one organised sport

72.3

54.4

63.6

Participating in at least one organised sport and dancing

72.9

66.7

69.9

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, 49010DO006_201204 Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, 2012 – Western Australia, Table 1: Children participating in selected activities, by sex - 2006, 2009 and 2012

This survey did not consider children’s involvement in community groups such as scouts, nor did it report on children’s involvement in religious organisations.

This survey is not planned to be repeated.

Social media is also increasingly being recognised as an important source of connection for children and young people. Research shows that social media can create positive connections and wellbeing outcomes, while it is also recognised that there can be negative impacts.13

In 2013, the Australian Communications and Media Authority conducted an online survey to explore children and young people’s use of social networking services.14 As the survey was conducted through an online process from a panel of research participants (non-random) the data is not necessarily representative of the broader population of children and young people, particularly those who have limited access to the internet. However it does provide valuable insight into the majority of young people’s online usage.

In this survey they found that 78 per cent of Australian children aged eight to nine years, and 92 per cent of Australian children aged 10 to 11 years used social networking services.15 The most popular social networking platforms for these age groups were YouTube, followed by Moshi Monsters (an online game for children aged six to 12 years).16 

Social media enables young people to establish or join online groups and communities connecting with other young people who share similar values, beliefs, and interests.17,18 There has been less research on children’s experiences of social media and how it impacts their sense of connection to community and/or culture. There are however recognised disadvantages, in particular that social media potentially exposes children and young people to bullying, ostracism and anxiety.19,20

At the same time, not all children and young people have access to social media or the internet more broadly. Research has found that Australians with low levels of income, education, and employment are significantly less likely to be digitally connected.21 Digital inclusion is becoming increasingly important for children and young people to participate fully in society, including to manage their health and wellbeing, access education and services and connect with friends, family and community.22 

No data is available on WA children’s experiences of connectedness through technology.

The increased popularity of social networking services and how they impact social connectedness for children will be critical to monitor in the future.

Aboriginal children

Culture is central to the wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples.23 There is considerable evidence that highlights the positive associations between culture and wellbeing, including across key indicators such as health, education and employment.24,25 Aboriginal peoples commonly identify their culture as a factor that builds resilience, moderates the impact of stressful circumstances and supports recovery from adversity.26,27

Throughout the Commissioner’s consultations with children and young people, Aboriginal children have highlighted that connection to Aboriginal culture and traditional values, such as respect for elders and sharing and being close to family, are of great importance to them. They wanted these positive things acknowledged and appreciated, in particular being able to spend time with their grandparents, listening to stories and learning about their culture.28

The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) which collects information on a range of demographic, social, environmental and economic characteristics, including languages spoken and cultural participation. The last survey was in 2014-15. Data is available on Australian children aged four to 14 years.

Aboriginal languages are a critical component of culture and provide Aboriginal children and young people with an important platform for cultural knowledge and heritage to be passed on. Speaking and learning traditional languages improves the wellbeing of Aboriginal children by providing a sense of belonging and empowerment.29 In the Commissioner’s 2015 consultation with Aboriginal children and young people, Aboriginal children and young people spoke about how learning and speaking their own language was particularly important to them.30

Twenty five per cent (25.7%) of Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years living in non-remote locations across Australia speak an Aboriginal language. Two-thirds (66.2%) of Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years living in remote locations speak an Aboriginal language. In remote locations, for 30.7 per cent of Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years, the main language spoken at home is an Aboriginal language.31

Almost three-quarters (73.8%) of Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years living in non-remote locations across Australia were involved in selected cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in last 12 months. A slightly higher proportion (79.8%) of Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years living in remote locations were involved in selected cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in last 12 months.32

No data is available for WA Aboriginal children under 12 years of age.

Culturally and linguistically diverse children

For culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children, connection to culture and community is also important. For this diverse group of children it is critical they maintain connections to their own culture and community which support their sense of identity and belonging.33,34 It is also important that they are able to develop connections with the broader Australian community to assist in learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture and systems and engaging in school.35,36

Data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing shows that 17.3 per cent of 0 to 17 year-olds in WA were born in a country other than Australia and New Zealand (Oceania). The most common region of birth after Australia and New Zealand is North-West Europe (3.6%), followed by South-East Asia (2.7%) and Sub-Saharan African (1.8%).37

In WA, 17.5 per cent of people spoke a language other than English at home in 2016. Other than English, Mandarin was the most common with 1.9 per cent of people speaking this language at home. The next most common languages were Italian, Filipino/Tagalog and Vietnamese.38

Some children and young people from CALD backgrounds (and their families) experience language barriers, feeling torn between cultures, intergenerational conflict, racism and discrimination, bullying and resettlement stress.39 These issues hinder children and young people’s ability to feel connected and like they belong in Australia.

In 2016 the Commissioner asked almost 300 children and young people from CALD communities in WA about the positive things in their lives, the challenges they face, their experiences settling in Australia and their hopes for the future.40 These children and young people were asked to rate how easy or hard they found settling in, or ‘fitting in’, to Australia. Just over half of the children and young people who completed this question found settling in ‘quite easy’ or ‘very easy’. A further 38 per cent found settling in ‘okay’.41

In 2017, the University of Melbourne and eight community organisations and government agencies including the Centre for Multicultural Youth conducted the Multicultural Youth Australia Census. In September-October 2017, 1,920 young people aged 15-25 from refugee and migrant backgrounds took part in the survey. Almost two-thirds of the participants were female and 18.8% of participants were from WA.42 This survey found that:43

  • nearly three-quarters of multicultural young people participated in civic activities, much of which was on a volunteer basis
  • just over half said they feel like they belong to an ethnic community
  • one-third had participated in arts, cultural, music or sports activities in the last year
  • almost half of multicultural young people had experienced some form of discrimination or unfair treatment in the last 12 months.

For more information on children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and their connections to community and culture refer to the following resources:

Centre for Multicultural Youth 2014, Migrant and refugee young people negotiating adolescence in Australia, Centre for Multicultural Youth.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2016, Children and Young People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds Speak Out, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Office of Multicultural Interests 2009, Not drowning, waving: Culturally and linguistically diverse young people at risk in Western Australia, WA Government.

Endnotes

  1. Noble-Carr D et al 2014, Improving practice: The importance of connections in establishing positive identity and meaning in the lives of vulnerable young people, Children and Youth Services Review, Vol 47, No 3.
  2. Lenzi M et al 2013, Neighborhood social connectedness and adolescent civic engagement: An integrative model, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol 34.
  3. Foster CE 2017, Connectedness to family, school, peers, and community in socially vulnerable adolescents, Children and Youth Services Review, Vol 81.
  4. Lenzi M et al 2013, Neighborhood social connectedness and adolescent civic engagement: An integrative model, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol 34.
  5. United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commission, United Nations Conventions on the rights of the child, Article 12, United Nations.
  6. Robinson S et al 2014, In the picture: understanding belonging and connection for young people with cognitive disability in regional communities through photorich research: final report, Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University.
  7. Wyn J et al 2018, Multicultural Youth Australia Census Status Report 2017/18, Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne, p. 17-20.
  8. Morandini J et al 2015, Minority stress and community connectedness among gay, lesbian and bisexual Australians: a comparison of rural and metropolitan localities, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol 39, No 3.
  9. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2011, Speaking out about wellbeing: Aboriginal children and young people speak out about culture and identity, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  10. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2015, “Listen to Us” Using the views of WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to improve policy and service delivery, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  11. The definition of ‘cultural activities’ in this survey is relatively narrow and does not include some activities within community based groups (for example, attending religious activities).
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2012, 49010DO006_201204 Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, 2012 – Western Australia, Table 2: Children's participation in selected organised cultural activities, Selected characteristics, ABS.
  13. Allen K et al 2014, Social Media Use and Social Connectedness in Adolescents: The Positives and the Potential Pitfalls, The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Vol 31, No 1.
  14. Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 2013, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media, 4.2 Use of Social Networking Sites, Australian Government.
  15. Ibid, p. 37.
  16. Ibid, p. 40.
  17. Grieve R et al 2013, Face-to-face or Facebook: Can social connectedness be derived online? Computers in Human Behavior, Vol 29 No 3.
  18. Wu Y et al 2016, A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Social Connectedness and Mental Health with Internet Technology Use, Adolescent Research Review, Vol 1, No 2.
  19. Tandoc E et al 2015, Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?, Science Direct, Vol 43 p 139-146.
  20. Wu Y et al 2016, A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Social Connectedness and Mental Health with Internet Technology Use, Adolescent Research Review, Vol 1, No 2.
  21. Thomas J et al 2018, Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2018, RMIT University.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Gee G et al 2014, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing, in Dudgeon P et al (eds) 2014, Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice – Second edition, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research/Kulunga Research Network, p. 61.
  24. Commonwealth Government 2013, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, Commonwealth Government, p. 9.
  25. Dockery AM 2011, Traditional culture and the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians: an analysis of the 2008 NATSISS, Curtin University.
  26. Zubrick SR et al 2014, Social Determinants of Social and Emotional Wellbeing in Dudgeon P et al (eds) 2014, Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice – Second edition, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research/Kulunga Research Network, p. 104.
  27. Bamblett M 2006, Self-determination and Culture as Protective Factors for Aboriginal Children, Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal, No 16.
  28. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2011, Speaking out about wellbeing: Aboriginal children and young people speak out about culture and identity, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  29. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Indigenous Australian Languages [website].
  30. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2011, Speaking out about wellbeing: Aboriginal children and young people speak out about culture and identity, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  31. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, Australia, 2014–15, Table 7.3 Selected characteristics, by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 years, ABS.
  32. Ibid.
  33. WA Office of Multicultural Interests 2009, Not drowning, waving: Culturally and linguistically diverse young people at risk in Western Australia, p. 17.
  34. Centre for Multicultural Youth 2014, Migrant and refugee young people negotiating adolescence in Australia, Centre for Multicultural Youth.
  35. Francis S and Cornfoot S 2007, Multicultural Youth in Australia: Settlement and Transition, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.
  36. Centre for Multicultural Youth 2014, Migrant and refugee young people negotiating adolescence in Australia, Centre for Multicultural Youth.
  37. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, Census of Population and Housing, 2016, TableBuilder – Dataset 2016 Census – Cultural Diversity, ABS.
  38. .id the population experts, Western Australia Community Profile – Language Spoken at Home [website], sourced from the ABS 2016 Census.
  39. WA Office of Multicultural Interests 2009, Not drowning, waving: Culturally and linguistically diverse young people at risk in Western Australia, p. 5.
  40. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2016, Children and Young People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds Speak Out, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  41. Ibid, p. 17.
  42. Wyn J et al 2018, Multicultural Youth Australia Census Status Report 2017/18, Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne, p. viii.
  43. Ibid, p. viii.
Measure: Know how to get help

In addition to feeling a connection to culture and community, children need relationships with adults that are stable, caring and supportive, enabling them to ask for help if they have any worries or concerns. It is also important that children aged 6 to 11 years know how to access help and support from available programs and services.

Emotional and health concerns have the potential to impact children’s behaviours, relationships and ability to learn. Gaining support when facing challenges facilitates social and emotional development.1 However, research shows that children and young people are often hesitant to ask for help.2,3,4

Help may be informal, through quality relationships with adults including parents, neighbours and teachers or through formal systems such as school psychologists or Kids Helpline.5

No data exists on the number or proportion of WA children aged 6 to 11 years who know how to get help to respond to emotional or health issues.

National School Opinion Survey

Teachers can be a good source of support for primary school students.

In the 2016 National School Opinion Survey,6 70 per cent of participating Year 5 to Year 6 students in WA government schools either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I can talk to my teachers about my concerns”. Seventeen per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while 11 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.7

National School Opinion Survey, 2016: Proportion of Year 5 and Year 6 WA government school students saying they can talk to teachers about their concerns

Source: National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA [unpublished]

There is limited data on how Aboriginal children in WA access help when they need it. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) which collects information on a range of demographic, social, environmental and economic characteristics. The last survey was in 2014-15.

The survey asked whether the participants aged 15 years and over were able to get support in time of crisis from outside their home. They found that 93.2 per cent of Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 years around Australia were able to get support in time of crisis from outside the household. This question was not included in the children’s survey.8

No data is available on children who come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background or children who identify as LGBTI.

The Commissioner’s Speaking Out Survey, scheduled for release in early 2020, will provide some further data on the experiences and opinions of WA’s children and young people regarding whether they know how to get help if they have any concerns or worries.

Endnotes

  1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2015, Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13, Center for Child Development, Harvard University.
  2. Oh E et al 2015, Professional help seeking for young children with mental health problems, Australian Journal of Psychology, Vol 67, No 3.
  3. Rickwood DJ et al 2007, When and how do young people seek professional help for mental health problems? Medical Journal of Australia, Vol 187 No 7.
  4. Lubman D et al 2014, Bridging the gap: Educating family members from migrant communities about seeking help for depression, anxiety and substance misuse in young people, Beyond Blue.
  5. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2015, Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13, Center for Child Development, Harvard University.
  6. All WA government schools are required to administer parent, student and staff National School Opinion Surveys (NSOS) at least every two years, commencing in 2014. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was responsible for the development and implementation of the NSOS. The WA Department of Education and individual schools can add additional questions to the survey. In WA, the first complete (although non-mandatory) implementation of the survey was conducted in government schools in 2016. The next survey was conducted in 2018. The data should be interpreted with caution as the survey is relatively new and there is a consequent lack of an agreed baseline for results.
  7. National School Opinion Survey 2016, custom report prepared by WA Department of Education for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA [unpublished]
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15, Data Item List, ABS.
Children in care

At 30 June 2018 there were approximately 1,560 children aged five to nine years in care in WA, more than half (56.7%) of whom were Aboriginal.1

A connection to culture and community and access to support is even more essential for children in care than other children. Feeling part of a culture, community or neighbourhood can be very challenging for children in care as they are often living in an environment separate from their family. It can also be difficult for children in care, who are highly vulnerable, to access help when they have any concerns or worries.

It is important that all children in care are able to feel connected to their community and culture, however, it is essential for Aboriginal children, as culture is particularly critical for their identity and wellbeing, and can be difficult to maintain in the child protection system.2 Furthermore, Aboriginal children are significantly overrepresented in the child protection system and are more likely to have permanent placements away from their family and community.3

There are a number of mechanisms that are designed to support Aboriginal children’s connection to culture while in care. These include compliance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle and having a cultural support plan, which is a measure under Standard 10 of the National Standards in Out-of-Home Care.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) consists of five inter-related elements: prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection. For further information on the ATSICPP and how it can be implemented in practice refer to the SNAICC guide to support implementation.

There is limited data on the experiences of cultural connection for WA Aboriginal children aged 6 to 11 years in out-of-home care.

There is currently no nationally agreed measure to report on whether children have been placed into care in line with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.4 Action 1.3 of the Fourth Action Plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children is to develop a nationally consistent approach to measuring the application of the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP). Progress towards this action, particularly in WA, will be monitored and reported through the Indicators of wellbeing.

AIHW report on the proportion of Aboriginal children aged 0 to 17 years in out-of-home care placed with extended family or other Aboriginal caregivers (representing compliance with the Placement component of the ATSICPP). In 2017, 67.6 per cent of Aboriginal children around Australia were placed with extended family or other Aboriginal carers.5

The Department of Communities 2015-16 Outcomes Framework report similarly shows that in 2015-16, 66 per cent of WA Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care were placed with extended family or Aboriginal caregivers in accordance with the first three priorities of the Placement hierarchy.6 There has been no further reporting on this measure.

A review of the WA Department of Communities’ permanency planning policy, practice guidance and related training is underway and due for completion in 2019. One goal of the review is to improve adherence to the five elements of the ATSICPP.7

A cultural support plan is another tool to ensure that Aboriginal children in care remain connected to their culture and country. All Aboriginal children and young people in care are required to have a cultural support plan that outlines how they will be safely supported to maintain contact with their family, friends, community and culture.8

The Department of Communities 2015-16 Outcomes Framework report shows that in 2015-16, 80.2 per cent of WA Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care had a cultural support plan.9 At 30 June 2018, 76.9 per cent of WA Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care had a documented care plan, which includes the cultural support plan.10

That is, almost 20 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care in WA did not have a cultural support plan even though it is a Departmental requirement, and this result has not improved over the past two years.

Furthermore, a national survey of children and young people aged 10 to 18 years in out-of-home care found that of the 374 Aboriginal children and young people who responded that a cultural support plan was relevant to them, only 17.9 per cent knew if they had a cultural support plan.11

For more information on Aboriginal children in care and their connection to culture refer to:

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, University of Melbourne and Griffith University 2018, The Family Matters Report 2018, Measuring trends to turn the tide on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care in Australia, Family Matters.

For further information on WA children in out-of-home care and the ATSICPP refer to the Safe in the home Indicator  to be published with the Safe and supported domain.

There is no data available on whether WA children in care feel sufficiently connected to their culture or community.

The Department of Communities 2015-16 Outcomes Framework report does state that in 2015-16, 83.3 per cent of WA children in care reported that they were encouraged to do things with other people like sport, hobbies or cultural activities.12 The proportion of Aboriginal children (85.4%) who were encouraged to participate in these activities was slightly higher than the non-Aboriginal children (81.6%). It should be noted that this does not measure whether the children actually participated in these activities.

Feeling supported by the adults in their daily lives and knowing how to access additional support are also key issues for children in care.

In 2016 the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA explored whether children and young people in care know how to speak up about issues or concerns, and the enabling factors and barriers to raising concerns about issues that affect them. A total of 96 WA children and young people participated in the consultation.13

The children and young people in this consultation nominated their carer, case worker and friends as people they would speak to if they were worried or unhappy about something in their life. They also note that if their concerns are not addressed by the people they confide in, this often reduces their confidence or desire to raise issues in the future.14

Children and young people rarely make official complaints directly; most complaints received by government agencies in relation to children are made on behalf of the child or young person by a parent or another adult.15

In this consultation, strong themes emerged on the barriers to speaking up that many children and young people in care face, including:

  • fear of the consequences
  • being told not to speak up
  • not knowing how to or not having the words to articulate concerns
  • not having anyone to speak to or anyone who would listen
  • fear of not being believed
  • isolation and lack of privacy
  • a lack of confidence or feeling scared
  • shame
  • an imbalance of power.

This highlights how important it is that children and young people in care understand their rights to voice their concerns, are informed on who they can talk to and how they can access help, feel confident and have access to people and services to support them.

In 2018 CREATE Foundation conducted a national survey of children and young people in care where respondents16 were asked “how concerned they felt carers, caseworkers, birth parents, other family members (not living with them), and their friends were in achieving what was best for them.” They found that most of the participants felt that their carers had a high level of concern for them, while they felt their caseworker had less concern, which CREATE noted was disappointing.17

There is no reliable data on the proportion of WA children in care who feel that are supported or know how to get help and support.

Endnotes

  1. Department of Communities 2019, 2017-18 Annual Report, Child Protection Activity Performance Report 2017-2018, WA Government.
  2. Krakouer J et al 2018, “We Live and Breathe Through Culture”: Conceptualising Cultural Connection for Indigenous Australian Children in Out-of home Care, Australian Social Work, Vol 71 No 3.
  3. Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) 2019, Child Protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, Indicator Quick Reference Guide: National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children – outlines that Placement of Indigenous children (compliance) has no data and that an indicator is still to be developed.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018, National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children: Indicator 5.2 Placement of Indigenous Children, AIHW.
  6. Refer to the Australian Institute of Family Studies 2016 paper, Enhancing the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle for an outline of the Placement hierarchy.
  7. Department of Communities 2018, 2017-18 Annual Report, WA Government, p. 50.
  8. Department of Social Services 2009, An outline of National Standards for out-of-home care, National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, p. 12.
  9. Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2016, Outcomes Framework for Children in Out-of-Home Care 2015-16 Baseline Indicator Report, WA Government, p. 14.
  10. Information provided by the Department of Communities to the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  11. McDowall, JJ 2019, Out of Home Care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of national standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 66.
  12. Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2016, Outcomes Framework for Children in Out-of-Home Care 2015-16 Baseline Indicator Report, WA Government, p. 18.
  13. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2016, Speaking Out About Raising Concerns in Care, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  14. Ibid, p. 9.
  15. Commissioner for Children and Young People, Complaints Monitoring Survey Report 2015, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 3.
  16. The survey included 99 children and young people in WA (from a WA population sample size of 1,953). The CREATE report outlines considerable difficulty in recruiting children and young people to participate in the survey and they note that the final samples were not random and the data produced cannot be considered technically ‘representative’. However, they do note that the samples produced were close to the population for age, sex and Aboriginal status. Refer McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation for more information on methodology.
  17. McDowall JJ 2018, Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards, CREATE Foundation, p. 45.
Children with disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Ageing and Carers data collection reports that approximately 23,700 WA children (7.5%) aged five to 14 years have a reported disability.1,2

Children with disability can find it challenging to feel connected to their community and to feel able to ask for help for any concerns or worries.

People with disability, including children and young people, often experience social exclusion and barriers to meaningful participation in the community.3 For some, this can be the nature of their support needs, however more frequently it is a culture of low expectations, lack of opportunity, inaccessible processes and social and cultural barriers.4

There has been limited research on WA children with disability and their experiences of feeling connected to their community and whether they know how to get help for any concerns or worries.

In 2013 the Commissioner for Children and Young People consulted with 233 WA children and young people with disability asking them questions about their lives. In this consultation the children and young people highlighted a lack of access to activities such as playing in sport or participating in groups and some felt they did not get enough support to participate fully in school. However, a number of children and young people also reported they were connected and felt part of their community.5

No further data is available on whether WA children aged 6 to 11 years with disability feel connected to their culture and community or are able to get the support they need for any emotional or other issues.

All children, regardless of the range of their abilities, must be seen as active and valued citizens who have the right to participate in community life to its full extent. This includes their ability to be a part of their community and get help on health and emotional worries when they need it.

Endnotes

  1. ABS uses the following definition of disability: ‘In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICFDH) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions… In this survey, a person has a disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.’ Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Glossary.
  2. Estimate is to be to be used with caution as it has a relative standard error of between 25 and 50 per cent. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015: Western Australia, Table 1.1 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015 estimate, and Table 1.3 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015, proportion of persons.
  3. National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, SHUT OUT: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia: National Disability Strategy Consultation Report, Australian Government.
  4. Simmons C and Robinson S 2014, Strengthening Participation of Children and Young People with Disability in Advocacy, Children with Disability Australia.
  5. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2013, Speaking out about disability: The views of WA children and young people with disability, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA
Policy implications

Connection to culture, community and support is critical for the wellbeing of children and young people.

Through the Commissioner’s consultations with children and young people across WA, some clear messages have been highlighted about connection to community and culture. Many children and young people said they wanted adults and the broader community to acknowledge the things that were important to them.

Aboriginal children noted that connection to their culture and values were critical to their wellbeing. This included learning about their culture, spending time with their family and listening to stories. A key aspect of Aboriginal peoples’ identity is the deep spiritual connection with the land and their connection to their community.1

Culturally and linguistically diverse children and young people explained how learning English was critical to their sense of belonging and that their family and friends were very important to them. They also wanted more widespread understanding about cultural difference and more culturally appropriate service delivery.2

Other children and young people expressed the need for individualised acknowledgement. They said they wanted to feel personally valued and appreciated.

Many children and young people who have participated in the Commissioner’s various consultations have identified sport, exercise and fitness as among the things that mattered most to them. They also discussed some of the barriers to getting involved in sporting activities that happened outside of school, including transportation, financial costs, inadequate facilities and equipment, a lack of role models, geographic isolation, parental restrictions and study.3

Communities which thrive provide opportunities for children aged 6 to 11 years to be active and connected in a way that builds supportive relationships and develops their sense of self. Some key policy strategies include:4

  • policies and programs which improve and promote access to community-based recreational or cultural activities for children and young people
  • supporting all children and their parents, including those with disability and living in regional or remote areas, to overcome barriers to participation in playgroups, organised sport and other activities
  • the creation of more community-based environments that provide space for safe unstructured outdoor play

There are many organisations that provide opportunities for children and young people to feel connected to their culture and community and offer support if they need it. These include schools, councils and community-based sporting and other groups. These organisations should be encouraged to be inclusive and accessible for all children and young people, including those with disability, with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who are LGBTI and Aboriginal children.

Health services and programs, including mental health services, also need to be accessible and visible to children if they need help.

It is also vital that children have supportive relationships and feel confident to ask for help if they have any emotional worries or health concerns. Emerging international research highlights that many of the most vulnerable children and young people in a community do not receive the help they need from intensive support services. Rather, the majority of children and young people who do receive intensive support services are not those in greatest need.5 However, many vulnerable children and young people do receive more informal assistance and support from civil society and the broader community.6

The broader community, including families, neighbours, school staff and other local community members, play a significant role in supporting vulnerable children and young people, both to mitigate the need for service intervention early on and later if children and young people fall through gaps in the service system.

Research into resilience also highlights the importance of having at least one stable, caring and supportive relationship between a child and the important adults in his or her life.7 Opportunities to participate in cultural and community activities that enable them to build relationships with people outside of their immediate family are therefore important.

Being acknowledged and respected within culture and community is linked to cultural safety which can be defined as ‘an environment that is safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening’.8

Cultural safety in health services is about providing quality health care that fits with the cultural values and norms of the person accessing the service, which may differ from the practitioner’s own and/or the dominant culture.9

There remains an ongoing need for a range of holistic Aboriginal-led health and wellbeing programs that draw from, and help to foster, strong cultural connections better supporting Aboriginal families and their children. There also needs to be greater focus on developing the Aboriginal workforce across all settings and the entire service continuum to a level that more adequately reflects the proportion of Aboriginal children and young people who require a program or service.

Ensuring services are culturally safe and inclusive of diversity is important for all children, but especially for Aboriginal children, children who are culturally and linguistically diverse, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) children and children and young people with a disability. Children and young people are more likely to ask for help and access available services if they are respectful and culturally safe places.10,11

Data gaps

No data exists on the number or proportion of WA children aged 6 to 11 years who feel connected to community and culture or know how to get help to respond to emotional or health issues.

Questions on connections to community, culture and support are included in the WA Children and Young People Speaking Out Survey which will provide further information on children and young people’s perspectives.

Endnotes

  1. Dudgeon P et al 2014, Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research/Kulunga Research Network, p. 5.
  2. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2016, Children and Young People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds Speak Out, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  3. Commissioner for Children and Young People Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, Policy Brief March 2018: Recreation, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  4. Preventative Health Taskforce 2008, Australia: The Healthiest Country by 2020: A discussion paper prepared by the National Preventative Health Taskforce, Australian Government.
  5. Little M et al 2015, Bringing Everything I Am Into One Place, Dartington Social Research Unit and Lankelly Chase, p. 50-51.
  6. Little M 2017, Conference paper: Relational Social Policy - Implications for Policy and Evidence, Evidence for impact: International and local perspectives on improving outcomes for children and young people, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.
  7. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2015, Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper 13, Center for Child Development, Harvard University.
  8. Cited in Williams R 2008, Cultural safety; what does it mean for our work practice? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol 23 No 2, pp. 213-214 from Eckermann A et al 1994, Binan Goonj: bridging cultures in Aboriginal health, University of New England Press.
  9. Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) 2018, Cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people: A background paper to inform work on child safe organisations, ARHC.
  10. Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA), Cultural Safety – Factsheet, AIDA.
  11. National LGBTI Health Alliance 2013, LGBTI Cultural Competency Framework - Including LGBTI people in mental health and suicide prevention organisations, National LGBTI Health Alliance.
Further resources

For further information on connections to culture, community and support refer to the following resources: