Permanency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families will have access to culturally appropriate Indigenous-specific and mainstream services and care.


Permanency planning occurs for all children in care and focuses on the child’s core need for stability and continuity of their relationships. This can be achieved through family reunification or through an alternative permanent care arrangement such as long-term out-of-home care placement or adoption. The first preference for permanency is for the child to be cared for by their family.

When working towards achieving permanency outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the department applies the five elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles to ensure Active Efforts are purposeful, thorough, active and timely.

Reunification is highly desirable for children and families if safe. The department critically considers the issues that prompted the placement and whether these concerns have been satisfactorily addressed and enough safety has been achieved through the parents’ actions and a safety and support network around the child.

The department works in partnership with the family during and after reunification to achieve safe, timely and sustainable reunification. Often, the family’s case will remain open during this time and should there be concerns, such as changes in a families’ circumstances, that affect a child’s ongoing safety then the department may need to intervene and return the child to care to ensure their safety.

Safe reunification is achieved when the child or young person can return to their parents for an extended period without returning to care.

Children who cannot be safely returned to their parents require stable, long term care. To achieve this, the department can make a recommendation to the Director of Child Protection Litigation to apply for a child protection order granting long-term guardianship of the child to another person.

Long-term child protection orders include:

  • long-term guardianship or permanent care order to a relative or another suitable person
  • long-term guardianship to the chief executive in an approved placement.

These orders continue until the child turns 18 years. A person who has a guardianship order has the authority for decisions about a child’s daily care and for decisions about their long-term welfare and development. Examples of guardianship type decisions are medical procedures and decisions about the child’s education or participating in a work experience program.

The department must review case plans for a child who is under long term guardianship to the chief executive every six months after the order is made to consider whether there is a better way of achieving permanency for the child.

permanent care order is an order made by the Childrens Court that gives responsibility for parenting a child to a person other than the child’s parents. This person becomes the child’s permanent guardian until the child reaches 18 years of age and are responsible for providing for the child’s care and upbringing. Where a permanent care order is granted, the department’s role becomes very limited and it no longer makes decisions about the child’s care and upbringing.

Adoption is an option for achieving legal permanency for a child who cannot be safely reunified with their parents or other family members. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, adoption is the last preference for achieving permanency in recognition that adoption, as provided for under the Adoption Act 2009 is not part of Aboriginal tradition or Island custom and as such should be considered only if there is no better available option.

Safe reunification for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children

Source: Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services.

  1. Data is for the year ending the reference date (12 months of data).
  2. Counts the number of children subject to a child protection order whilst in care that were reunified during the year and did not return to care within 6 or 12 months.
  1. Reunification: Family reunification occurs when it is determined that a child's safety, belonging and wellbeing needs can best be met by returning the child to the care of their parent or parents.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children on long-term guardianship orders to other persons or on a permanent care order

Source: Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services.

  1. Data is as at the reference date.
  2. Age group: Based on the age of the child as at the reference date.
  1. Long term guardianship to other persons: An order made under the Child Protection Act 1999 that grants long-term guardianship of the child to a suitable family member (other than a parent of the child), another suitable person nominated by the chief executive until the child’s 18th birthday.
  2. Permanent care order: A long term child protection order where a permanent guardian is legally appointed to a child. Only the office of the Director Child Protection Litigation (DCPL) can apply to revoke or vary a Permanent Care Order. Once a Permanent Care Order is made, the department has no further involvement with the child subject to the order unless the guardian or the child request a review of the case plan, or a complaint is made