An Aboriginal woman living in Alice Springs says the NT government had ‘no right’ to remove children from her care.
Sitting under a shady tree in her front yard, Rose (not her real name) speaks quietly, but does not falter.
“They’re taking a lot of kids from us,” she said.
“Early days too, they took them away.”
Rose has brought up a number of children in Alice Springs, some of them are now grown up with kids of their own.
“They’re all my [family]…I grew them up,” she said.
“Their mothers and fathers [are] drinking, that’s why I look after those kids.”
But in 2013, authorities removed two children who were under her care and placed them on temporary protection orders.
The grounds for removal were later overruled but it would be over a year before the children were returned.
“They were taken away for no reason, in cold blood,” Rose said.
“They had no right, those people working for the government…I was growing them up, growing up those little kids.”
The number of Aboriginal children on care and protection orders has risen significantly in the last decade.
In the Northern Territory the numbers have more than tripled since the year 2000.
Nationally, the upward trend is the same.
Figures released in a recent Productivity Commission reportshow an increase of close to four per cent in the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on care and protection orders in the last decade.
Researcher and activist Paddy Gibson said the numbers are at crisis level and reflect a new Stolen Generation.
“When you ask Aboriginal communities what their legal problems are, they talk about the new Stolen Generation and the fact that children are being taken,” he said.
“At the moment, every single year, one thousand extra Aboriginal kids are being put into the system and that’s just going to keep happening unless something changes.”
Mr Gibson, a senior researcher with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, says the high numbers of Aboriginal kids in care reflect a culture of discrimination by child protection authorities.
“You see it time and time again…things like travelling with children, having relatives come to stay, these things are held against Aboriginal families,” he said.
“It’s well documented in a lot of studies of Aboriginal child rearing practices that children have got more autonomy…there’s not so much active supervision and direction of play, that’s held against families.
Aboriginal family practices are essentially held to be degenerate and disruptive.”
Awareness of the rising rates of Indigenous children in out of home care has gained traction this week with protesters gathering at Federal Parliament in Canberra.
The group Grandmothers against Removals (GMAR) say they want ‘a national reunification scheme for children and their families and an independent review of the welfare policies driving Indigenous children’s removal from families’.
Last year GMAR struck a deal with the NSW Department of Community Services to look at ways the numbers can be reduced.
Today, GMAR spokesperson and former child protection worker, Deborah Swan, told the ABC’s Life Matters programthat despite a policy that Indigenous children should be placed within their own culture and community, extended family were being overlooked.
“Grandmothers feel that they have responsibilities and obligations in relation to their grandchildren and the department is just ripping that responsibility away,” she said.
“Grandmothers put their hand up…and they were bypassed, overlooked.”
In Alice Springs, Rose is looking after the children that were recently returned to her care, but she remains angry at what she and her family were put through.
“It was no good, I was really sad,” she said.
“I was always worrying for those kids, who was going to look after them, who was going to teach them culture?
We want the kids to come back so we can teach them [two way learning] and they can go to school… it’s really important for us,” she said.