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Coroner finds Indigenous teenager who died while in care had her human rights violated – Te Ao Māori News

WARNING: This story contains references to a deceased Aboriginal person and distressing material, including references to suicide and self-harm.

A coroner has found Victoria's Department of Families, Equity and Housing violated the human rights of an Indigenous teenager who later died while in care.

The girl Wemba Wemba, aged 17, took her own life in July 2021 while living in a public residence at an Anglicare residential unit in Bendigo.

Several reports were made to child protective services regarding his welfare, starting when he was 22 months old.

At age 13, she was removed from her family by the state.

She revealed that she had been the victim of physical and sexual violence, which was reported to the police.

From 2017 to 2021, the girl known as XY was placed in seven different placements, for periods ranging from two weeks to a year.

She was recorded to have suffered from eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

The coroner, who investigated whether XY received culturally competent care and the role of housing instability, case management and risk assessment in his death, released his findings Wednesday.

Victorian coroner Simon McGregor found the teenager was disconnected from her culture and community support while in state care.

XY had expressed a need for a healthy relationship with his mother and contact with his siblings, but this was denied.

McGregor said the Department of Families, Equity and Housing (DFFH) violated the teenager's human rights by failing to consider her wishes.

“The department had a procedural obligation to give due consideration to XY’s human rights, which included hearing his voice and giving due consideration to his views,” he wrote in the report.

“Without these obligations, his Charter rights would be meaningless. »

He stressed the importance of listening and giving autonomy and choices to children in care.

He referred to a letter XY wrote to the DFFH in December 2020.

“I am writing this letter out of frustration because I do not feel like I am validated, supported or cared for properly by your services,” the 16-year-old wrote.

“I identify as a proud Wemba Wemba woman and would like the associated support for a young Indigenous woman to receive additional care.

“It’s a human right.”

XY expressed feelings of isolation and disconnection from his community and requested the opportunity to connect to culture or spend time with his elders.

The coroner concluded that by ignoring his concerns, DFFH had breached his human rights.

It went further to identify systemic issues, such as racism, which impact safeguarding policies and thus hinder the self-determination of Indigenous children in care.

He said systemic issues, including racism and inadequate consideration of cultural safety, meant policies to protect Indigenous children did not align with the principle of self-determination.

Mr McGregor also highlighted that the services provided at XY were not tailored to the needs and vulnerabilities of Aboriginal children.

The report made 17 recommendations, including several for the DFFH, including a recommendation to review policies on cultural protection and connections for Indigenous children.

It also recommended that the DFFH transfer all Indigenous children in care to community-controlled Indigenous organizations and that all child protection workers receive cultural and anti-racist training.

Australian helplines:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

13SON 13 92 76

New Zealand helplines

0800 376 633 – Youth Line

0800 543 354 – Aotearoa Lifeline

0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) – Suicide helpline

0800 942 8787 – What's new Helpline for children and young people

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