Abstract: This article reviews the use of the term ‘best interests’ as it is commonly used in Australian child protection systems and its application in Indigenous contexts. In 2010–11 there were some 12,358 Indigenous children in out-of-home care in Australia, representing 32.85% of the total number of Australian children in care. In this review, I carefully consider, in the context of a rights discourse, the many influences, historical and present day, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that have contributed to this situation. While the ‘family’ has traditionally been considered a private sphere in which the state rarely intervenes, I seek to investigate why the nation state has increased surveillance of and intervention into Indigenous families. The article concludes with a reflection on how the nation state, and its agents via child protection authorities, can take stock of the present situation to consider more meaningful ways of supporting Indigenous mothers, families and communities to raise their children in safety.