Caring for kids in Aboriginal Families
Know your rights – know the law
Are you an Aboriginal grandparent, aunty, uncle, cousin or other
relative who is:
• looking after young kids?
• worried about a child’s safety or welfare? or
• has been stopped from seeing the kids?
Family law and care and protection law can help.
Family law deals with:
separation or divorce and
arrangements for kids and property when married and de facto couples separate.
You can also use family law to try to have children in your family live with or spend
time with you.
Care and protection law is about protecting children. It is used when the Department of
Community Services (DoCS) thinks kids need protection from neglect or abuse,
including sexual abuse.
Are you being stopped from seeing the kids in your family?
If it is because of conflict in the family, use family law to do something about it.
It’s important to try to sort it out by:
talking with the family or
trying mediation (also called family dispute resolution).
If this works you can have a:
verbal agreement, or
written agreement signed by everyone (this is called a parenting plan).
Can’t sort it out? Talk to a lawyer
If mediation doesn’t work, talk to a lawyer about what to do next. For example, you can
discuss going to court.
If you go to court, there will be another chance to try to sort it out. If you still can’t
agree, a judge will decide what would be in the children’s best interests.
Have you been caring for the kids and the parents want them back?
If you have been looking after the kids and the parents want them back you will have to
use family law. You should talk to a lawyer about how to do this.
You can ask the court for an order that the children live with you.
If you already have an order that the children should live with you, the parents
will have to go back to court to ask for those orders to be changed.
Worried about the kids’ safety or welfare where they are living?
You have 2 choices. Talk to a lawyer if you are not sure which one is best.
Choice 1: Use care and protection law
You can make a confidential report to DoCS by calling the DoCS Helpline on 132 111.
If the situation is urgent, DoCS can take the children to a safe place straight away. If
DoCS thinks they shouldn’t go back home, it will ask the Children’s Court to decide
where the children should live.
You can tell DoCS you want the children to live with you. DoCS will assess you to
make sure they will be safe with you.
Choice 2 - Use family law
Another option is to use family law before DoCS gets involved to try to have the
children live with you. You should get legal advice first.
What can you do if DoCs is already involved?
If the case is already in the Children’s Court, you can ask to become involved in the
case. This is called becoming a party to the court proceedings. If the court lets you
become a party, it will listen to
Can you get financial help if you’re looking after the kids?
If you are caring for children there are a number of payments you may be entitled to. It
will depend on your situation.
You can find out about government payments by visiting a Family Assistance
Office in any Medicare or Centrelink office, or by calling 136 150.
You can find out if DoCS can help with things like food, clothing, and other
costs by calling (02) 9716 2222.
You may be able to get child support from the child’s parents. This is a
complicated process so you should get more information by calling the Child
Support Agency on 131 272 or go to www.csa.gov.au
Legal Aid NSW has specialist lawyers who can also help you with child support
questions. Call (02) 9633 9916 or 1800 451 784.
Where to get legal and other help
Legal Aid NSW has specialist Aboriginal family law and care and protection lawyers.
Call 4732 3077 for more information or to make an appointment.
Aboriginal mediators, family dispute resolution
How do I get legal aid?
You will need to fill in a form which asks you questions about your personal and
financial situation. Legal Aid NSW will also look at how strong
your case is and then let you know if a lawyer will represent you.
You can get this form from any Legal Aid NSW office.
To find your closest Legal Aid office call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or visit
LawAccess NSW can also help you with the form.
The provide free telephone legal help and referrals to your nearest Legal Aid NSW
office, Community Legal Centre, Aboriginal Legal Service, private lawyers and other
Call 1300 888 529 (or TTY 1300 889 529 if you are hearing/speech impaired) or visit
www.lawaccess. nsw.gov.au. You can ask to talk to an Aboriginal Customer Service
The Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line
Toll-free line staffed by Aboriginal women. Provides free legal advice to Aboriginal
women. Call 1800 639 784.
Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre
Community Legal Centre for Aboriginal women, children and young people living in
New South Wales. Provides free legal advice and referrals. Call 1800 686 587 or (02)
This brochure was produced by the Older Persons Legal & Education Program of Legal
Aid NSW. This Program provides help to older people in NSW. For more information
or to request a talk on this topic call (02) 9219 5000.
Copies of this brochure can be found at www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/pubsonline or email
email@example.com or call (02) 9219 5028.
This brochure gives basic information only and is not legal advice. You should see a
lawyer to get advice about your particular situation.