The discursive construction of ‘good parenting’ in Australia’s statutory child protection system

Impacts on First Nations families & ways to disrupt the discourse



First Nations peoples, Australia, child protection, discourse, parenting, social work, community control


Indigenous children’s overrepresentation within Australia’s child protection system indicates the need for a critical and structurally-based understanding of the factors which contribute to disproportionate rates of child removal for First Nations families. A systematic literature review suggests Attachment Theory, the international human rights framework and neoliberal ‘risk’ management as contributing to the discursive reproduction of racist and colonial norms which have the impact of devaluing Indigenous childrearing practices and overlooking structural disadvantage. Subsequently, the article applies a discourse analysis to problematise how Australia’s child protection system exists as a symbolic panopticon reinforcing settler-colonial pedagogy, regulation, surveillance and legitimation over Indigenous peoples through Western discourses of ‘good parenting’. In turn, the supporting and funding of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, the reconstructing of child protection assessment and care plans, as well as decolonising individual practice are posited as potential strategies to disrupt racist and colonial discourses in favour of Indigenous parenting knowledges.


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Undergraduate and Post graduate Student papers