Girls and Children: Stages of Institutional Violence 4e - Deaths in care


Deaths of Indigenous girls in ‘care’

A group of staunch Aboriginal women carry a banner with the words 'Don't be sorry do sorry' printed across an Aboriginal flag. Two of the women have their fists raised in the air. They are marching in a protest and other people can be seen walking with them.

[imagecaption] GMAR rally – #Apology10, Gadigal Country (Sydney), 2018. Photo: Charandev Singh. [/imagecaption]


Girls have died in shocking circumstances while under the care of child protective services in Australia and Canada.

  • Madeline Downman (17 years old) was found hanging in a residential facility operated by the Department of Children and Families in the Northern Territory. In the four years prior to her death, she repeatedly asked to leave state care and return home. The circumstances surrounding her death illustrate the intersecting traumas of the youth justice and child protection systems.
  •  Savannah Hall (3 years old) died two years after entering the care of a foster family. A coroner ruled that the cause of her death was ‘undetermined’. Prior to her death her biological mother, who had herself been in foster care as a child, repeatedly raised concerns about the cruel treatment her daughter was experiencing in foster care.

There are also instances of Indigenous girls dying in circumstances where child protective services placed them in the care of family members who were not equipped to provide them with adequate care; despite warning signs, protective services then failed to intervene. An 8 year old girl died from dehydration in the West Australian desert in 2012 in these circumstances, as did Deborah Melville, a 12 year old, who died in Darwin in harrowing conditions of neglect in 2007.



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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.