“Unfortunately, very quickly, I learned that the reasons why we see over-representation of Aboriginal people in the prison system, and why there's over-representation in the hospital system, are exactly the same with the child protection system.”
Ten times the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as non-Indigenous children are in care systems, with disastrous consequences for individuals, families and communities.
As a Research Associate, with the University’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, Mr Cantley is seeking a better way, one which works with Indigenous culture, rather than shying away from it.
“I've been talking to a lot of people over the past 18 months – practitioners and researchers, as well as people who have lived experience of being in the system,” he says.
“And the biggest thing that's coming out of those conversations is that we must take into account culture as a protective factor in terms of child protection matters.”
Fracturing an Aboriginal child’s connection to that culture by plunging them into an incomprehensible and alien world can lead to a trauma with lifelong effects.
Mr Cantley is looking at ways of maintaining a connection to culture, connection to country, but most importantly, connection to family in ways which also keep children safe.