Many children and youths worldwide lack access to a safe, nurturing, and permanent family home. An estimated 18 million kids worldwide have been separated from their biological parents (Carson et al., 2018). For example, in Australia, there are about 40,000 children who have been separated from their parents for more than two years and are unlikely to return (Smyth et al., 2017). In Australia, away from the home healthcare system, most of these kids relocate several times, hence missing a stable area to call home and maturing alongside their families. Most affected children are in the aboriginal community, who find it hard to be accepted by the non-indigenous.
Efforts have to be made for children to feel safe, have healthy relationships, and have a sense of permanence. Children’s access to a normal upbringing is deprived of them in many circumstances, and adoption can provide a solution. Unfortunately, trauma survivors sometimes don’t have the resources they need to recuperate from their experiences early or later in adulthood. This paper aims to discuss the challenges aboriginal children face within Australia and identify various activism by social workers to address the problem. It also aims at pointing out various social justice issues framed by the media, social practice, and beyond.
Challenges Faced by Aboriginal Children
Aboriginal children living in homes that were separated forcefully are likely to experience transgenerational trauma. Several historical events are believed to have resulted in one or more of these for Aboriginal children. For example, among the most heinous government practices, the Stolen Generation was the expulsion of Indigenous children of mixed ancestry to convert them to “white” inhabitants (Whittaker et al., 2018). In addition, these traumas could result from domestic violence in subjected to them at their homes. For example, in 2018, 16% of Indigenous persons above 15 had suffered or been threatened with physical harm in the preceding 12 months (Whittaker et al., 2018). Finally, aboriginal children may be exposed to secondary trauma due to witnessing their parents’ past traumatic experiences due to forced separation.
Indigenous children who were taken from their homes and placed in missions were subjected to bodily and mental torture. The grief these children contributed to the cause of violence. “Children who are taken from their families and institutionalized will learn to be cruel. Children who their parents have beaten are likely to beat their children” (Korff, 2019). Other research indicates that the impacts of domestic abuse can trigger an intense stress reaction before a kid is born since alterations in the mother’s central nervous system affect the fetus’s brain, resulting in later elevated stress levels and behavioral disorders in the child.
Aboriginal children are also facing terrible school habits like decreased school attendance. Overall, when children skip classes, grades are directly affected, affecting their entire academic performance. According to a study on student performance, poor attendance accounts for 20% of the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal children (Baxter & Meyers 2016). Indigenous students in distant locations lack access to learning at the same rate as a youth in non-indigenous. They frequently have to commute miles or may be required to depart home to finish their secondary education. They can live in neighborhoods where English is a second dialect and with fewer incentives to continue education due to a lack of career opportunities and a scarcity of individuals with a high school diploma.
Another challenge facing Aboriginal children is the lack of access to quality health services. Children are entitled to “the highest achievable standard of health and services for the treatment and rehabilitation of health.” One of the most comprehensive international human rights instruments, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), states that children have this privilege in Article 24 (Munro et al., 2018). With decreased or no access to quality health, children are at risk of developing diseases that affect their physical, emotional, or social well-being. Aboriginal children in Australia face a disease load 2.3 times greater than non-Indigenous.
In Australia, there were 284 years lost owing to early mortality or sickness per 1,000 Native population. Chronic illnesses accounted for 64% of Aboriginal Australians’ overall disease burden. Heart diseases, mental illness and alcohol use disorders, malignancies, renal failure, diabetes, eyesight and loss of hearing, and certain musculoskeletal, lung, cognitive, and congenital ailments are included in this category (Munro et al., 2018). Long-term illness can affect children’s overall growth and development, making them weak in schools.
Role of Social Workers in Addressing the Challenges
Social workers can engage in several activities that can help address issues about aboriginal children and the challenges they encounter. Parental support systems, intense family counseling, and community resolution emphasize domestic abuse and substance use (Featherstone et al., 2018). For instance, in addressing traumatized children who have been forcefully separated from their families, social workers can call psychotherapy within the aboriginal communities. Psychotherapy program offers mentorship and counseling services solely to Indigenous children in their early life and school-aged years between the ages of three and twelve.
To preserve cultural significance and allow access to the resources for Aboriginal residents, the psychotherapy program needs to be conducted and advised by an Indigenous counselor. For the families and children that benefit from the program, the Aboriginal counselor’s mentoring style ensures that the program is offered in a culturally powerful way and that linkages to culture are maintained. Even more importantly, it helps non-Aboriginal personnel better know how to interact with the group significantly.
School culture and management is an essential strategy that social works can foster in helping Aboriginals acquire formal literacy. For example, Coleman et al. (2021) discovered that a friendly school environment that encouraged connections with kids and community members and a school environment of great expectations and transparency were critical to performance in schools representing underprivileged areas. In addition, researchers have found that the nature of a school’s culture has a significant role in the effectiveness of remedies and initiatives to improve student performance.
Aboriginal leaders and scholars in Australia emphasize the significance of creating an equitable and healthy school environment clear of racism. According to Coleman et al. (2021), good leadership culture in the schools and high-quality instructors is crucial to establishing a learning environment that kids want. The need to improve the educational results of Aboriginal children who are underachieving is critical. Incentives such as promising a road trip to students whose class performances have improved should be adopted. Notably, enhancement of academic skills is the focus of numerous additional support initiatives in Australia.
Social workers should provide local children, students, employers, and community organizations with education and information to motivate them to collaborate with marginalized groups to promote awareness (Aggleton et al., 2019). There are programs like Reading Recovery for struggling first graders that provide supplemental English language instruction and homework clubs, and individualized literacy and numeracy support. Additionally, leaders should advocate setting up schools around the community to facilitate reach to the children.
An emphasis on better quality health data should be put in place by social workers. Although data collection is burdened, a greater focus on ensuring that more accurate information about Australia’s indigenous people’s health should be invested. In addition, health policies presiding over the health and medical research of aboriginal children should be enacted. Several approaches, such as the involuntary participation of indigenous peoples and organizations in the research process and the subsequent evaluation and study findings, can be set.
Social Justice Issues in Media and Social Practices
The core aspect of social fairness is that all humans have inborn value, and nobody is more or less valued than another, concerning legislation, the constitution, etc. Climate change is a central social justice, and its effects can be seen worldwide, ranging from hurricanes, storms, and bushfires. We can see the danger that climate change presents to our existence as a species more than ever. It is important to note, however, that climate change can also provide social issues.
As a result, it can burden the planet’s biological and ecological resources and impair human health. Despite the overwhelming facts, many people around the world remain in denial. As a result, climatic change has become a political problem that divides people. More than a million acres of land have been burned, and people have been forced to flee their homes due to wildfires caused by climate change’s scorching and dry weather (Featherstone et al., 2018). Extreme weather events have cost a lot of damages worldwide, causing the economic decline.
The use of renewable energy, improved infrastructure, and drought-resistant crops is necessary to combat climate change. Then there is the issue of social remedies, which have been mostly ignored. Moreover, Social workers must work together with engineers, public health officials, and geographers to ensure that new inventions benefit the most marginalized people. Finally, what science cannot answer must be handled through creative social change initiatives using participatory and community-engaged strategies to solve challenges together.
Racial discrimination is another significant social justice issue impacting the media, businesses, and our daily lives. There are constant protests and riots to demonstrate the seriousness of minorities’ challenges in countries like the United States. People who have been the victims of oppression and racial injustice have suffered long-term consequences of their mental and physical health and socioeconomic, political, and economic status (Featherstone et al., 2018). For example, black and Native populations were disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in higher rates of infection, severe illness, and mortality, and significant economic implications. Existing inequities in health outcomes, healthcare access, education, job opportunities, and socioeconomic standing are at the root of these disparities.
Movements for the liberation of Black people should be formed by social workers who establish local power to intervene when violence is perpetrated on Black families to prevent racial abuse. It is important to champion the spread of awareness by educating people about the background and culture of racism by offering information and resources (Featherstone et al., 2018). For fear of persecution or being wrongly judged, many victims of discrimination choose to keep silent. The management here fails because they either ignore or reduce the seriousness of any remarks or behavior that were made that were discriminatory.
Another social justice issue that calls for attention and needs addressing is the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ population includes people of various races, ethnicities, ages, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. People who identify as LGBTQ have unique health care needs. Increased incidence of depression, suicide, unemployment, and substance misuse, and sexually transmitted infections. Patients of all sexual orientations and gender identities deserve the same high-quality, culturally sensitive health care as everyone else. They require clinicians to be aware of their specific health concerns and know how to refer and counsel them appropriately. It should be treated with the same respect and dignity as the rest of society.
Social workers should foster the integration of LGBTQ topics in the curriculum at different school levels. Students can better grasp the world around them if their teachers incorporate LGBTQ-inclusive curricula into their lessons. Furthermore, schools should be welcoming and safe for LGBTQ students; workshops and career development can assist. Finally, to guarantee that schools are safe and courteous, effective professionalism can train employees to deal with harassment and bullying.
Given the above context, social workers play a crucial role in ensuring that human rights are followed regardless of race or ethnicity. Through various activism and movements, social workers can advocate for equality of service delivery to minority communities.
Activists and campaigners have a considerable impact on the current emphasis on social justice. At the same time, administration, such as the state, non-profit agencies, foundations, or ministries within the bureaucracy, is typically responsible for implementing social justice legislation. As a result, political circumstances impact how equality plays a role in the actions of the day’s government and administrators. Many government programs, such as wealth and revenue redistribution or government subsidies, or authorized harassment against advantaged groups such as fines or taxes or purges, might be used to achieve social justice. It is usual to find social justice projects in socialist and communist countries and left-leaning political parties in democratic countries.
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