Bonding and attachment of Australian Aboriginal children



In New South Wales, Australia, there is an increasing emphasis in the children's court on bonding and attachment assessments to determine whether or not a child remains with their carers. Aboriginal children and young people are over nine times more likely than other children and young people to be in out-of-home care. There is a paucity of information on culturally appropriate assessments of Aboriginal children in relation to bonding and attachment. Most assessments on the Australian indigenous families are based on the dominant Australian community's perception of what constitutes competent parenting. The question arises as to whether we are making psychologically and ethically sound decisions about whether or not a child remains with their Aboriginal carers based on evidence that is culturally appropriate for Western families but culturally inappropriate for the indigenous families. It is argued that the core hypotheses of attachment theory such as caregiver sensitivity, competence and secure base have to be based on the Australian Aboriginal people's cultural values. The aims of this paper are to explore the current practice on the bonding and attachment assessment of Aboriginal children using a dynamic eco-systemic approach in the assessment of bonding and attachment of the indigenous people, with an emphasis on the historical, cultural and spiritual contexts. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.