Aboriginal teenager who died in care ‘needed cultural connection’

August 24, 2023
Dunghutti-Tharawal teenager George Campbell
Dunghutti-Tharawal teenager George Campbell. Photo: National Justice Project/Facebook

The family of Dunghutti-Tharawal teenager George Campbell, who died in March 2018 while in the care of the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), are calling for urgent changes and accountability.

NSW Coroner Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan found that George Campbell “required culturally appropriate, careful and intensive supervision if he was to have a reasonable chance of successfully achieving some measure of stability in adult life”.

The family said they were disappointed that no charges were laid. Karen Campbell said if her son had been allowed to interact with family “maybe things would be different today”.

“A lot more needs to be done. We need our own services and our own people looking after our kids, not the colonial system of out-of-home-care.

“We need some accountability for George, because the Minister and their people should have taken proper care of George. It is a terrible thing to have happened, it shouldn’t happen to any mother.” 

Advocates from the National Justice Project (NJP), a human rights law firm representing George Campbell’s family, agree that more needs to be done.

The NJP’s George Newhouse called on DCJ to “improve cultural safety” and devote human and financial resources to secure culturally-safe care for the 6661 First Nations children in its care.

“Every effort should be made to support First Nations families and reduce the numbers of First Nations children in care.”

“Services to Aboriginal children should be provided by independent First Nations organisations as it is obvious that DCJ cannot do its job,” Newhouse added.

Family is Culture, released in 2019, found that the out-of-home care system administered by the DCJ lacks cultural competency and trauma-informed approaches. It made 125 recommendations to address the problems.

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