20 Nov | Productivity Commission statistics highlight continuing Stolen Generation

Grandmothers Against Removals (NSW) has condemned what it calls a continuing Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children, citing shocking statistics in the Productivity Commission report, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage – Key Indicators 2014.

The report details a massive 436 per cent increase in “care and protection” orders on Indigenous children between 2004 – 2013. Overwhelmingly, children on such orders are living away from their parents in “out of home care”.

The report states (4.81):

“The rate per 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on care and protection orders increased from 11.3 per 1000 children at 30 June 2004 to 49.3 per 1000 children at 30 June 2013, the rate per 1000 non-Indigenous children increased from  2.6 per 1000 children at 30 June 2004 to 5.7 per 1000 children at 30 June 2013 leading to an increase in the gap, from 8.7 per 1000 children to 43.6 per 1000 children”.

While the Productivity Commission summary and news headlines focussed on appalling statistics such as a 48 per cent increase in hospitalisation for self-harm and a 57 per cent increase in incarceration, the shocking indicators on so called “Child Protection” were buried in the report.

Figures on Indigenous children in out of home care did not even make it into the body of the report, which is more than 600 pages long, only featuring in the appendix. These figures show the number of Aboriginal children in “out of home care” has increased from 5,059 on June 30 2004, to 13,914 on June 30 2013.

These figures also show that a decreasing proportion of these children are being placed with Aboriginal families.

Debra Swan is an Aboriginal grandmother who worked as a Child Protection officer in North West NSW for more than a decade. Recently, she quit her job due to deep concerns with the large-scale removals taking place:

I have seen the human face of these horrifying statistics, the children and families going through a continuation of the Stolen Generation. This is why we created Grandmothers Against Removals. We demand full Aboriginal control over the welfare of our children.”

These figures prove that the paternalistic approach of government is not only failing to deal with the social problems in our communities, it is actually creating them. They are still pushing an agenda of assimilation, creating more trauma and helplessness. Our children are being forcibly separated from their Aboriginal culture. We will fight to bring them back and help them heal. Self-determination is the only way forward”.

Padraic Gibson is a Senior Researcher with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS. He has worked on a number of cases that have successfully returned Indigenous children to their parents:

So many negative indicators in this report are an indictment of government policy, but no statistics compare to the rapidly escalating, mass removal of Aboriginal children from their homes”.

The report shows the devastating impact of a decade of punitive, assimilationist policies, pioneered by John Howard, but driven by all levels of government, both Liberal and Labor. At the same time as Aboriginal controlled services have been defunded and dismantled, bureaucracies controlling Aboriginal lives such as ‘child protection’, income management and police and prisons have received massive funding increases.”

The statistics show clearly that Aboriginal children are mostly removed for ‘neglect’ or ‘emotional abuse’. I have seen first hand how these judgements are made on a racist basis, or arise directly from the extreme poverty faced by families.”

Grandmothers Against Removals are planning to march on Parliament House in Canberra on February 13, 2015, to mark seven years since Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations.

For comment contact:

Debra Swan 0401 955 405

Padraic Gibson 0415 800 586