Child protection workers said the situation in Australia’s Northern territory was so bad that international aid was needed.
The workers called for organisations such as Oxfam or the Red Cross to deliver basic foods to make sure children got enough to eat.
The shocking plight of the Aboriginal children came to light as evidence in a government inquiry set up by the Northern Territory government, to strengthen the child protection system.
It came amid a string of disturbing claims, including that children in cut-off communities are left to wander around alone at night, or are left when their parents go on drinking sessions.
The allegation that children are starving, or ‘failing to thrive’, were made at the inquiry in Darwin by child protection staff from the Northern Territory, the Independent newspaper reported. They said that the amount of resources given over to native communities is ‘grossly inadequate’ and children failing to thrive are a familiar sight.
The Darwin-based child protection team of four welfare workers and four Aboriginal community workers looks after 14,000 people. That lack of staff, alongside a ‘fly-in, fly-out approach’, results in ‘little more than superficial child protection responses,’ the inquiry was told. The team called for specialist child protection workers to be based in Aboriginal communities, and for more support for parents, including parenting classes for schoolchildren from the age of 13.
Asking for urgent help for the starving children, the workers said: “This could simply be a foreign aid (Red Cross, Oxfam, etc) type feeding programme that does nothing more than deliver essential food to starving children while other programmes address the underlying issues of poor parenting, poverty, overcrowding, violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling etc.”
Child protection workers also said they had to deal with an incredible volume of paperwork, saying: "We spend more time sitting at a computer than we do with our clients and their families."
The government inquiry, which is due to report in September heard that it is ‘normal’ for Aboriginal children to be left to wander alone at night or to be put in the care of ‘reluctant’ extended family members.
Social worker Dan Baschiera told the inquiry he had seen child protection workers straight out of college and training ‘burn up’ after a few months working in Aboriginal welfare. He said the Northern Territory government was starving the child protection system of funds.